Bighorn Wildland: The missing piece

If you look at a map of Banff and Jasper National Parks, it’s easy to spot the Bighorn region. It’s the missing puzzle piece between these two large protected areas. 

The Bighorn is 6,717 square-kilometres of mountains, foothills, grasslands, rivers and lakes along the Eastern Slopes of the province — just a little bigger than Banff National Park.

This area lies west of Rocky Mountain House, and three hours southwest of Edmonton. It forms the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River, which ultimately runs through Edmonton and into Saskatchewan, providing drinking water to hundreds of communities along the way.

breaking news about the bighorn

On Nov. 23, 2018, the Government of Alberta announced a proposal to create a series of protected areas and parks known as Bighorn Country.

Albertans asked and the government answered. You showed your support for creating protection in the Bighorn and your voices have been heard — thank you!

This is a massive step in the right direction — there will be a place for all Albertans with this Bighorn Country system — as well as a place for wildlife. Now is time to rejoice, but our work isn’t done yet. The Government needs to hear from Albertans that there is support for the Bighorn Country proposal - the future of the Bighorn as a reflection of what Albertans value depends on you!

We encourage you to take action to thank the Government, learn about the plan and submit your feedback. Fill out the survey according to your values, but if you are seeking help on filling it out, please follow our survey guide here. Submissions can be made until Jan. 31.


one of the last tracts of intact wilderness in Alberta

The same landscape that provides fresh clean drinking water to downstream communities provides high-quality habitat to Alberta’s most iconic and troubled species, like grizzly bears, wolverines, bighorn sheep, bull trout, and whitebark and limber pine. 

The area is just as beautiful as nearby national parks, but attracts a fraction of the tourists. You can find amazing opportunities for hiking, camping, climbing, hunting, fishing, and horseback riding.

The Bighorn also includes many sites that are important to different Indigenous nations because of their cultural, spiritual, and livelihood values. It is a particularly important landscape for the Ĩyãħé Nakoda (Stoney) First Nations, whose members reside on the Big Horn Reserve west of Nordegg, but also has significance to Niisitapi (Blackfoot), Cree, Tsuu T'ina, 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.


the bighorn is threatened by resource development and inappropriate motorized recreation

Metallurgical coal mining in the Bighorn is a serious threat and affects the flow and cleanliness of nearby rivers and water. The east end of the Bighorn is crisscrossed with forestry access roads, OHV trails — both regulated and unregulated — and seismic lines. 

Forestry is not currently permitted within the existing Public Land Use Zones of the Bighorn, but some forestry companies have forest management agreements with the Province on neighbouring land with high conservation value.

Protection would improve habitat connectivity for the animals who need it and help prevent future destruction of the land.  


the Bighorn should be protected as a Wildland Provincial Park, with a series of adjacent Provincial Parks

We are working hard to inform the public and decision-makers about the Bighorn region’s significance and the need to protect the source of our drinking water. We are urging the Government of Alberta to designate a Wildland Park with boundaries based on science that make sense for wildlife and human needs.

It is also important that high-conservation value areas east of the Forestry Trunk Road are protected to safeguard the sensitive lands within the North Saskatchewan River watershed and the species that depend on them.

Support our efforts to protect one in four glasses of Alberta’s drinking water by signing our petition. Our map represents one configuration of protected areas that could accomplish these conservation goals.

WHAT IS A WILDLAND PROVINCIAL PARK?

A Wildland Provincial Park designation would support hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and other land-based job and recreation opportunities. It would also protect the landscape from extractive industries and providing a viable framework for managing recreation.

If the Bighorn became a Wildland Provincial Park, the designation would also open the door to co-management with Indigenous nations that would support sustainable economic opportunities and reconciliation.

 Water flows through Bighorn Creek at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, which would be surrounded by the proposed Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park. Photo credit: Stephen Legault.

Water flows through Bighorn Creek at the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, which would be surrounded by the proposed Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park. Photo credit: Stephen Legault.


What can you do?

There are many things you can do to help protect Alberta headwaters.

  • Review the Bighorn Country proposal and submit your comments to the Government until Jan. 31, 2019.

  • Call Premier Rachel Notley and Minister Shannon Phillips to thank the government for taking steps to protect the Bighorn.

  • Sign up for updates on headwaters conservation in the province.


SIGN THE PETITION

Dear Premier Rachel Notley and Minister Shannon Phillips,

I urge you to protect the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River by designating the Bighorn region west of the Forestry Trunk Road as a Wildland Park. This designation would allow Albertans to continue to visit and recreate responsibly in the area, but would prevent industrial disturbance to our precious headwaters. Please also protect high-conservation value areas east of the Forestry Trunk Road to safeguard the sensitive lands within the North Saskatchewan River watershed and the species that depend on them.

Signed,

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(optional) Leave a message for Premier Notley, Minister Phillips, or tell us what you love about the Bighorn. We may use your comments in future campaigns to promote protection of the region.