CPAWS Northern Alberta, in collaboration with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, is working to help you Love Your Headwaters and achieve protection for the Bighorn Backcountry
Alberta is fortunate to have an abundant fresh water source that begins on the eastern side of the iconic Rocky Mountains. Rain and melt from glaciers, and snow gather in the Rockies and foothills and feed streams, creeks, and rivers that continue to travel downstream bringing fresh water to our homes and communities.
We so often take this incredible landscape and the water it provides for granted. Intact, forested headwaters landscapes are essential to our wellbeing, however Alberta has protected less than half of its headwaters.
CPAWS Northern Alberta, in collaboration with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, is working to help you Love Your Headwaters , and achieve protection for the Bighorn Backcountry.
The Bighorn Backcountry is one of Alberta’s last intact pieces of wilderness. The expansive region just west of Rocky Mountain House, over 6,700 square- kilometers in size, is composed of mountains, foothills, plains, rivers and lakes. The stunning area is the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River, and provides water to over 1 million people living downstream in communities such as Edmonton, Drayton Valley, Fort Saskatchewan, and more.
CPAWS Northern Alberta wants to protect the Bighorn as The Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park with additional provincial parks east of the Forestry Trunk Road. The provincial parks east of the Forestry Trunk Road have been chosen based on a collaborative case study for protected areas design and evaluation that considered forestry and conservation values. These areas represent one of many configurations of representative conservation options outside the Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park and help Alberta achieve protection of an increased proportion of its foothills.
We invite you to learn more below, and Speak Up for the Bighorn!
Headwaters are the source of water for rivers. In Alberta, many of our rivers originate at glaciers, however, glacier melt often contributes only a small portion of the water. The Saskatchewan Glacier, in Banff National Park, contributes only 2% of the water in the North Saskatchewan River.
The remaining water flow comes from precipitation that falls in the surrounding area and is drained into the river by way of streams, creeks, and other smaller waterways. This is how the Bighorn Backcountry provides 88% of the water that ends up flowing into the North Saskatchewan River.
Intact forests play a crucial part in water drainage. Vegetation, such as trees, shrubs and grasses, help control our water in three ways.
The Bighorn Backcountry provides downstream communities with fresh, safe, and secure drinking water, while providing the perfect home to some of our most iconic and threatened species. The Bighorn is prime habitat for grizzly bears, wolverines, bighorn sheep, bull trout, and whitebark and limber pine. Learn more
Just as beautiful and exciting as nearby Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Bighorn provides stunning recreational opportunities including hiking, camping, climbing, horse-riding, fishing, and hunting.
The Bighorn is also of significance to indigenous nations due to its cultural, spiritual, and livelihood values. It is a particularly important landscape for the Wesley Band of the Ĩyãħé Nakoda (Stoney) First Nations, whose members reside on the Big Horn Reserve west of Nordegg. It also has significance for the Niisitapi (Blackfoot), Cree, Ktunaxa (Kootenay), and Secwepemc (Shuswap) nations. The Bighorn includes portions of Treaty 6, Treaty 7, and Treaty 8 lands, and straddles Zones 3 and 4 of the Métis Nation of Alberta.
Alberta’s headwaters landscapes are diminishing despite their importance. Poor management of the Bighorn means that its sensitive habitats are faced with recreation such as from off-highway vehicle (OHV) use or random camping, that can be destructive when done irresponsibly. The east side of the Bighorn is criss-crossed with both regulated and unregulated trails OHV trails that unfortunately show evidence of stream damage.
Coal mining threatens the quantity and quality of the water in the Bighorn, as does the forestry that exists in the high conservation value foothills areas east of the current Public Land Use Zone.
CPAWS is encouraging Albertans to Love Your Headwaters. We hope that by educating the public, we are inspiring them to ask the government to protect their headwaters. Look for our Staff and Volunteers at public events in the Capital region, or ask us to speak at an event, school, or gathering. firstname.lastname@example.org.
CPAWS uses scientific evidence in our decision making processes. We have been collecting and providing evidence of the Bighorn’s importance to the government. Additionally, our technical team has been mapping high conservation value areas within our headwaters region to identify the best candidate protected areas east of the Forestry Trunk Road.
Protection of the Bighorn through the designation of a Wildland Provincial Park and a series of provincial parks would preserve this last intact wilderness, and improve habitat connectivity for the species that call it home.
We need YOU to Speak Up for its protection. Sign the petition
Share your love for the Bighorn: Follow us on Social Media or use #LoveYourHeadwaters
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