- The Primrose-Lakeland area covers approximately 6,000 km2 east of Lac La Biche and overlaps the 1.3 million-acre Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.
- Portions of the Range that have already been seriously fragmented by oil and gas activity are excluded from the Area of Concern.
- Within the Primrose-Lakeland area, 5,400 km2 has no legislated protection.
Township and Range map: JPG | PDF
Natural Subregions map: JPG | PDF
- Lakeland lies within the Central Mixedwood Sub-region of the Boreal Forest Region.
- Lakeland in total represents 0.32% of the total Central Mixedwood Subregion (Al-Pac’s FMA covers approximately one-third of the subregion), which occupies about one-quarter of Alberta.
- Lakeland is the province’s only significant protected area within this subregion.
- Varies between 500 and 850 m above sea level.
- Approximately 82 percent of the Provincial Park and PRA is covered by terrestrial ecosystems; the remaining 18 percent is water.
- Marked by the retreating glaciers of the Pleistocene Age as well as by recent erosion and deposition, the varied terrain encompasses steep ravines, ridges, open slopes, hummocks, bogs and peatlands, marshland, gently undulating terrain, upland areas, and major river valleys with relatively flat floodplains.
- The most abundant landform is moraine, made up of material deposited by glaciers.
- Sand dunes are rare: a small field located between Touchwood and Seibert Lakes is protected from wind erosion by jackpine forests but is extremely vulnerable to disturbance, especially if vegetation cover is removed. The Sand River subglacial channel was initiated by fast-flowing meltwater that cut through glacial ice to the underlying material and into bedrock. Eventually, the valley filled in with approximately 80 meters of sandy material through which the Sand River now flows.
- Lakeland is located on the height of land between the Athabasca and the Churchill rivers.
- The area is drained to the east by the Beaver and the Sand rivers, two tributaries that join the Churchill River and eventually drain to the Hudson’s Bay. The Beaver River drainage includes the Sand River sub-basin.
- The Provincial Park and PRA contain 12 major lakes valued for their commercial, domestic, and recreational fisheries. The area is drained by both the Beaver River and Athabasca River basins, the latter being the second-largest drainage basin in Alberta and containing 5 of the 12 lakes.
Environmentally Significant Areas
- Primrose-Lakeland contains several provincially significant areas, comprising 16% of its area, including the Lakeland Diversity Area, Sand River, Wolf Lake and a number of old-growth forest areas.
- The Lakeland Diversity Area is one of the most diverse upland-lake complexes in the Central Mixedwood Boreal Forest of Alberta.
- A significant portion of the Lakeland area has been designated Provincially Significant Woodland Caribou Habitat and is part of the Primrose caribou herd’s range.
- A further 16% of the Primrose-Lakeland area is designated internationally significant, including the Lakeland Provincial Park and Recreation Area, as well as a slice along the Saskatchewan border, stretching between Primrose and Scheltens Lakes.
Biodiversity and Ecosystems
- The varied terrain of the area supports a wide range of flora species, including 18 species of orchids; aspen, spruce, pine, balsam poplar, paper birch, black spruce, and tamarack; old-growth forests; and willow and sedge communities.
- Terrestrial ecosystems cover approximately 30 percent of the land area of the Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Area. The ten terrestrial ecosystems found in the Lakeland area are Jack pine forest; complex of Jack pine and black spruce or aspen forest; aspen forest; mixed white spruce-aspen forest; white spruce-fir forest; black spruce forest; bog-fen complex; fen; willow wetland complex; and stream channel.
- Lakeland supports hundreds of vascular plants, thousands of non-vascular species (lichens, mosses, fungi), thousands of insect species, almost 200 bird species, 41 different mammal species, one reptile species, and four amphibian species.
- Wildlife includes a variety of ungulates, including the provincially endangered woodland caribou; a number of carnivores, including wolf, lynx, and weasel; at least 15 species of furbearers; both cold-water and warm-water fish species, as well as a number of rare aquatic species; and tiger salamanders, Dakota toads, and chorus frogs.
- Wetlands in the area consist primarily of black spruce bogs with communities of willow and sedges.
- For more information, see An Ecological Study of the Potential for Biodiversity Conservation in and near the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, Alberta (pdf 7300KB).
Environmentally Sensitive Areas
- The Jack pine/bearberry/lichen ecosystem on sandy dunes is highly sensitive to trail development. The lichen cover is easily disturbed and crushed by trampling. This ecosystem covers only 336 ha in the Park and PRA, but offers potential habitat for woodland caribou.
- Old-growth forest is one of the unique features in Lakeland and requires a high level of protection, especially with respect to logging. Some plants and animals are restricted to or highly dependent on these forests.
- Bogs and fens are highly susceptible to OHV traffic and to construction, both of which result in surface disturbance and an altered hydrologic regime. The rare pitcher plant occurs in this habitat.
- Mature stands of white spruce/balsam fir and Jack pine forest are important habitats for most species recorded in the area. These habitats are also among the most attractive from a commercial forestry and recreational standpoint. Jack pine forest on very dry sites is characterized by a well-developed cover of ground and epiphytic lichens and may therefore provide important habitat for woodland caribou.
- Aspen forest provides important ungulate habitat and is the most likely ecosystem to be affected by cattle-grazing leases.
- Lakes in the area provide breeding and nesting habitat for birds such as great blue herons, loons, and common terns. Water-based human activities could lead to decreased reproductive success or colony abandonment.
Beaches and Lakes
- More than 200 lakes in the region offer opportunities for recreation and education.
- Most of the province’s quality beaches are found in the Lakeland area, with long sandy beaches lining portions of the many lakes – the best beaches are at Touchwood and Pinehurst Lakes.
- The western portion of Lakeland contains a complex of lakes created by melting glacial ice mixed with till, gravel, and other glacial debris. These “ablation till lakes” are characterized by irregular shorelines and lake bottom contours with till shores, few beaches, and shallow to steep treed shorelines. They are relatively undisturbed and have no recreational facilities.
- While aspen and spruce dominate many stands, pine, balsam poplar and paper birch are mixed throughout. On wetter, poorly drained sites, black spruce and tamarack are common.
- Of key interest are the old-growth spruce-fir forests. Sixty-five percent of all Lakeland’s old-growth forest is within the Provincal Recreation Area; in the PRA, almost half of all the white spruce old-growth has been logged.
- Shrubs and understory include red osier dogwood, bearberry, blueberry, bog cranberry, wintergreen, strawberry, fireweed, feather moss, prickly rose, dewberry, alder, roses, Saskatoon and several willow species. Willow communities are found along intermittent and continuous flowing stream channels and marshy lakeshores.
- Pitcher plant, uncommon in Alberta, was found during a 1991 field study. Other rare species, if they exist in the area, are most likely to occur in wetter areas such as fens or bogs. More recently, botanists have observed elephant head, touch-me-not, and striped coralroot, all uncommon plants, as well as the rare meadow bitter cress. Lakeland also contains several spectacular fern communities.
- Eighteen species of orchids can be found in Lakeland, including two rare species, white adder’s-mouth (Malaxis monophyllos) and bog adder’s-mouth (Malaxis paludosa).
- Ungulates: Moose, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and woodland caribou occur in the area. Of these, white-tailed deer and moose are the most abundant and widespread.
- Caribou: The provincially endangered woodland caribou that occur in the Lakeland area likely constitute part of a herd centered in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range and the extensive peatland complex southwest of Winefred Lake.
- Furbearers: At least 15 species of furbearers have been recorded in the area, including red fox, snowshoe hare, red and flying squirrel, beaver, muskrat, and river otter.
- Carnivores: Wolf, coyote, red fox, lynx, fisher, marten, otter, mink, and weasel occur within the region.
- Other mammals include the black bear, Arctic shrew, silver-haired bat, and porcupine.
- Birds: Over 200 bird species live within the Lakeland area, including many important neotropical migrant birds such as the rare and declining Connecticut warbler and the old-growth-dependent Blackburnian warbler.
- Twenty warbler species have been identified in Lakeland, 19 of which breed in the area.
- Cormorants, red-necked and western grebes, pelicans, pileated woodpeckers, northern pygmy owls and great grey owls, and turkey vultures can also be seen in the area.
- The wetlands of the region provide stable breeding habitats for a number of colonial nesting and sensitive bird species such as the great blue heron, common tern, common loon, osprey, and bald eagle. These wetlands are also significant for moulting and spring and fall staging.
- An active great blue heron colony on Pinehurst Lake and a large colony of common terns on Ironwood Lake were observed in 1991.
- Fish - Touchwood and Pinehurst Lakes provide the large, deep, and well-oxygenated waters for cold-water fish species such as lake whitefish, cisco, and lake trout. Seibert, Jackson, Kinnaird, Ironwood, Blackett, and McGuffin Lakes support warm-water species such as walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, and burbot. The area also supports a number of rare aquatic species: logperch may inhabit some of the lakes; freshwater crayfish in Alberta are restricted almost entirely to the Sand and Beaver River drainages; and a large and unusual species of Unionid clam inhabits the Sand River.
- Amphibians include tiger salamanders, Dakota toads, and chorus frogs.
- The present-day Papaschase Cree Band seeks the traditional land around Elinor Lake (still Crown land) to perpetually preserve their sacred land: they have an active interest in claiming this land as per their abrogated rights under Treaty 6. To fully explore the human cultural aspect of the Lakeland region is to deal directly with the Papaschase Band and all of its historical and unresolved issues.
- Sacred First Nations sites at the east end of Beaver Lake need protection. The Lakeland region has more than 50 prehistoric sites related to early activities of humans in the area since the last ice age. The shores of Lac La Biche and the Caslan-Hylo sandhills are particularly important archaeologically.
- “Potential exists in the Lakeland area for uncovering archaeological findings of provincial, if not national, significance. Artifacts have been found at one site in the Touchwood Lake area. Further study is required which may shed light on movements of early hunters and gatherers in the region” (Lakeland Foundation Document, Alberta Recreation and Parks, June 1991).
- The Lac La Biche Mission represents the early settlement and religious development of northern Alberta and has been designated as both a Provincial and National Historic Site.
- There is local interest in developing and interpreting the Portage La Biche fur trade route, which was used by such famous persons as David Thompson and Peter Fidler during the late eighteenth century. There are also several fur trade post sites on the shores of Lac La Biche.
- The region contains a rich cultural mosaic: First Nations, Lebanese, French Canadian, Ukrainian, and European cultures are part of the local social and economic community.