From November 23, 2018 to February 15, 2019, the Government of Alberta consulted with Albertans on the Bighorn Country proposal, a mix of parks and public lands that would conserve important natural landscapes while encouraging economic, recreation and tourism opportunities. Further consultation on recreation and land management planning will be initiated if the proposal proceeds.
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 and irrigation for agriculture along the way.
breaking news about the bighorn
On November 23, 2018, the Government of Alberta announced a proposal to create a series of protected areas and parks known as Bighorn Country.
The Bighorn Country proposal advances long-standing conservation priorities in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes, including enhanced protection for headwaters, preservation of wildlife habitat and advancing towards Canada 1 targets of 17% protected lands by 2020.
Additionally, the plan allows for better management of human impacts on the landscape while still fostering recreation and tourism opportunities. 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.
Albertans asked and the government answered. You showed your support for greater protections for the Bighorn and your voices have been heard — thank you!
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, paddling, 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, Tsuut'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.
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 provide 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.
What can you do?
Here are a few things you can do to help protect Alberta headwaters and share your support for greater protection of the Bighorn.
You can review the full proposal here to learn more about the plan and check out maps for the proposed Bighorn Country.
Sign up for updates on headwaters conservation in the province.
Speak up! Follow us on social media, and like, comment and share our news stories. Remember to use #loveyourheadwaters when you do.