One of Alberta's Last Remaining Wilderness Gems Desperately in Need of Protection

Extreme trail erosion, due to high water levels and unsustainable levels of motorized recreational activity, has preempted the closure of some parts of the Bighorn Backcountry to motorized users. Current levels of damage and degradation are so extreme it is hard to imagine the trails will be usable for the 2012 season.

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) has been working to protect the Bighorn Backcountry, an area of nearly pristine wilderness, for over 40 years. The Bighorn provides important habitat to a myriad of provincial species, including the Threatened grizzly bear, and significant bull trout habitat Alberta’s provincial fish. It also contains the forested headwaters of some of Alberta’s most important rivers, supplying clean water to thousands of downstream users.

“AWA has been asking these areas be closed to motorized recreation for over 10 years. The low-lying river valleys and floodplains just can’t sustain such heavy impacts,” says Madeline Wilson, AWA conservation specialist. “Although we commend the government for taking the necessary steps and closing parts of the Hummingbird trail network, it’s disappointing that conditions were allowed to become so bad before the trail system was closed.”

Each summer AWA performs an annual trail monitoring study within the Hummingbird area of the Bighorn Wildland to document the visible affects of both motorized and non-motorized recreational activities upon the landscape. This July marked the projects 8th year, but never before have conditions been so severely damaged. 

“There is really no way any sort of off-highway vehicle (OHV) could get in there, even if the trails weren’t closed. The deepest sink hole we documented was 1.65 metres deep. Even on foot the trail was a challenge, let alone horses of OHVs,” says Wilson.

AWA will continue our monitoring work in the future, and advocating that the Bighorn Backcountry remain permanently closed to all OHVs. It is in need of formal protection to ensure future generations of Albertans have the opportunity to experience and appreciate this remarkable area.

For more information:

                Madeline Wilson, AWA conservation specialist (403) 283-2025