Request for input on recreational use in the Bighorn Backcountry

 

Calling all members: help us help you!

The Province of Alberta is currently developing a comprehensive land management plan for the North Saskatchewan River Watershed, a 6,717 square km area of the Rocky Mountains called the Bighorn Backcountry that borders Jasper and Banff National Parks. Many of our members, especially those who live in Alberta, recreate here. This area is well-known for ice climbs like Two O’Clock Falls, Owen Creek gorge, Allstones Creek, Crescent Falls and Kitty Hawk; backcountry camping at Michelle Lakes, Lake of the Falls / Landslide Lake, Farley Lake-Hummingbird Pass, and Pinto Lake; sport climbing at Kootenay Plains and Mount Stelfox; and hundreds of awe-inspiring day hikes including  Siffleur Falls, Kinglet Lake, Cline River Canyon, and Coral Canyon.

 The Bighorn Backcountry between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Image from Alberta Wilderness Association.

The Bighorn Backcountry between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Image from Alberta Wilderness Association.

What we need from you

If you recreate in the Bighorn, the ACC would like your help in mapping your favourite alpine destinations (summer and winter) in the region. With this knowledge, we can highlight the importance of these areas for self-propelled pursuits to provincial planners and work with them to ensure continued responsible access and environmental sustainability.

We will require names of places that can be identified on a map, and/or GPS coordinates or tracks from places that are important to you in the Bighorn Backcountry. Please restrict your contributions to locations falling within the Bighorn Backcountry PLUZ and the adjacent White Goat and Siffleur Wilderness Areas (map below). A georeferenced PDF map of the area of interest can be found by clicking the button below:

How we will use this information

We will create a map showing significant mountaineering objectives, popular rock and ice climbing areas, hiking and skiing routes, and backcountry campsites used by our members.  We will not name individual contributors of data.  In most cases, multiple individual contributions will be agglomerated to point data or polygons on the map.  The map will be used by the ACC to provide specific, quantifiable input to the public consultation and recreation planning process arising from the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Please click the button below to submit your contributions.

Alternatively, you may email your contributions to your section A&E representative.

The deadline to contribute to this cause is December 15, 2017.

Read below to learn more about the issue and how to help.


 Kendra Stritch ice climbing on Kitty Hawk, Bighhorn Backcountry. Photo by Rafal Andronowski, The Alpine Start.

Kendra Stritch ice climbing on Kitty Hawk, Bighhorn Backcountry. Photo by Rafal Andronowski, The Alpine Start.

The issue

The Province of Alberta is in the process of developing the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan (NSRP), a comprehensive land management plan for the North Saskatchewan River watershed. The NSRP may lead to increased legal protection of the mountainous headwater region, known as the Bighorn Backcountry, to meet biodiversity conservation goals and protect the headwater ecosystems of the North Saskatchewan River in a relatively intact natural state. The Alpine Club of Canada acknowledges the high degree of vulnerability of mountain ecosystems and species to direct human impact and the effects of climate change, and is in full support of efforts made by the Province of Alberta to increase conservation of mountain ecosystems.

The proposed NSRP may potentially affect access for recreational use in the Bighorn Backcountry, where many of our Albertan section members practice low impact, self-propelled recreation. It may also affect access for other user groups who recreate in the Bighorn. At this time, the ACC is seeking to document our member’s use of the area so that we can contribute positively and concretely to any future consultation processes about recreation in the Bighorn.

 The Kootenay Plains area of the Bighorn Backcountry. Photo by Adam Linnard, supplied by Love Your Headwaters.

The Kootenay Plains area of the Bighorn Backcountry. Photo by Adam Linnard, supplied by Love Your Headwaters.

Currently, recreation in the Bighorn Backcountry is regulated within the policies and guidelines of five separate public land use zones (PLUZ). A standing committee with representatives from diverse stakeholder groups works in collaboration with Alberta Environment and Parks to oversee monitoring and management of recreational access in the Bighorn. The ACC respects the work of this committee and the dedication of volunteers who have established and maintained trails throughout the region. The ACC is supportive of a continued collaborative approach to recreation management in the Bighorn that is respectful of the needs of different user groups while addressing the critical imperative to increase protection of Canadian mountain ecosystems as wilderness areas.

Knowing what areas of the Bighorn Backcountry are important to our members will help us be well prepared to respond to any proposed changes to access in the area, and to work in collaboration with other user groups to sustainably manage recreation in the Bighorn. If you are a user of the Bighorn Backcountry please let us know where you hike, climb or ski and make any comments/concerns regarding access or environmental sustainability known to us.

What we need from you

Help us create a comprehensive map by providing names of places that can be identified on a map, and/or GPS coordinates or tracks from places that are important to you in the Bighorn Backcountry. Please restrict your contributions to locations falling within the Bighorn Backcountry PLUZ and the adjacent White Goat and Sifleur Wilderness Areas. A georeferenced PDF map of the area of interest can be found by clicking the button below:

Alternatively, you may email your contributions to your section A&E representative.

Deadline to submit: December 15, 2017.


What do we believe in?

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As Canada’s only national mountaineering organization, The Alpine Club of Canada promotes mountaineering while being committed to conservation of mountain environments. On behalf of our 14,000 members, we advocate for self-propelled, low impact public access to wilderness areas and climbing locations when such access can be maintained without undue degradation of the alpine environment.

We firmly believe that access to mountain environments is essential to the full development of the human spirit. We also recognize the fundamental value to all recreationists of experiencing and accessing wilderness environments. We support conservation efforts that ensure that present and future generations will be able to explore Canada’s incredible backcountry in ecologically sustainable ways.

How do we do this?

We strongly believe that access is best achieved through respectful collaboration, information sharing, and open dialogue. Through our 22 sections located across the country, we work in close collaboration with government, private landowners, and other user groups to develop access management plans and agreements that ensure responsible use of climbing and backcountry areas by our members. We ask all our members to set an example by respecting access agreements and by leaving no trace.

We encourage all our members to be stewards of the mountains. We promote responsible & sustainable recreational use of wilderness areas that is respectful of the UIAA Kathmandu Declaration on Mountain Activities and the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.

Visit our Access and Environment section for more information about the ACC’s environmental values and ongoing projects.


 
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