21,781 letters and petition signatures have been delivered to the office of Alberta’s minister of environment and parks in support of turning the Bighorn Backcountry into a Wildland Provincial Park.
In a release, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) say they’ve collected messages of support from Albertans from all sectors and generations.
“Parks are vital because they embody both the recreation and environmental values of our members,” says Brad Clute from Mountain Equipment Co-op. “Parks also provide maintained infrastructure such as huts, trails and campgrounds that inherently remove barriers and enable activity for all, regardless of skill level or experience. For these reasons, MEC is pleased to support the Government of Alberta and the proposed creation of the Bighorn Wildland Park.”
“As a fly fisherman, I feel incredibly lucky to have the Bighorn right out my back door,” says Perry Hallgren, angler and supporter. “There are rivers and creeks out here that people fly from around the world to visit. It seems crazy to me that an area that offers world renowned opportunities for backcountry experiences should have a major coal mine built within it. This is why I support the protection of the Bighorn.”
In March, the Alberta government sent out a press release asking Albertans to provide input on how land in the North Saskatchewan Region will be used and managed. The letters encouraging the decision to turn Bighorn in to a Wildland Provincial park came in response to the call for input.
Alberta Environment and Parks has acknowledged the lobbying of Y2Y and CPAWS but has not made any announcements regarding the future of the Bighorn Backcountry.
However, Jason Nixon, MLA for Rimbey - Rocky Mountain House - Sundre said he obtained a leaked memo from January 16 which essentially says the province has made its decision.
“The biggest concern that we’ve noticed is that there’s been a public consultation process that was supposedly being undertaken by the government, but then we were able to obtain some leaked documents that basically indicate the government has already decided they want to make that area into a Wild Land Park,” says Nixon.
The Bighorn is roughly 90 kilometres west of Rocky Mountain house, between Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. It hosts a large variety of recreational activities including camping, OHV and snowmobile use, hiking, fishing, hunting and cycling. All of these could be restricted if the area is deemed a provincial park.
However, Y2Y says the designation will help protect all life in the area.
“If designated, wildland provincial park protection will provide better protection of sensitive, so far undisturbed, habitat for vulnerable species such as grizzlies, bighorn sheep and bull trout and prevent extractive industry, including mining and forestry.”
For now, all groups are waiting for an announcement from the provincial government.
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