Alberta’s Heritage of Wildlife & Headwaters Up for Grabs

December 27, 2013

John Weaver, Senior Conservation Scientist with WCS-Canada, warns that the Alberta government’s draft Regional Plan for the South Saskatchewan, which would establish new Wildland Parks in about a quarter of the area, will be inadequate to conserving its vulnerable fish and wildlife populations and sources of precious water that are cherished by southern Albertans.

When the famous naturalist and guide Andy Russell led hunters and summer visitors on horseback through southwest Alberta during 1930s-1950s, the country was wild, the waters clean and full of native trout, and wildlife roamed the mountains in security.

But over the past 50 years, expanding resource extraction and associated roads have penetrated most of these remote valleys. Once-abundant populations have been diminished, habitat security has been breached, connectivity has been fractured, and genetic integrity compromised.

The Alberta government is developing strategic direction for managing land and natural resources in various regions across the province. Last month, it released the draft Regional Plan for the South Saskatchewan.

Unfortunately, the draft Plan falls far short of protecting vulnerable fish and wildlife populations and headwater sources of precious water that are cherished by southern Albertans.

As senior scientist for Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, I assessed the conservation value of Crown lands in southwest Alberta in a recent report entitled “Protecting and Connecting Headwater Havens.” It focused on a suite of iconic species – bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bear, wolverine, mountain goat and bighorn sheep.

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