2003 Bighorn Wildland (Book)
Nestled along the Eastern Slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains lie 4000 sq km of superb wilderness. The magnificent sweeping vistas encompass wildflower meadows, lush forested valleys and grassy ridges that contrast dramatically with snow-covered mountains. These wildlands are home to a rich tapestry of life. Wild horses roam freely with elk, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears; wolves call across wide valleys, harlequin ducks float down pristine streams and eagles hunt along the ridges. Within such a large landscape animal life can be elusive to the casual visitor, but the Bighorn will reveal its secrets to those with patience.
Since the early 1970s I have been keenly aware of the treasure we have so close at hand in the unspoiled, wild and beautiful Bighorn Wildland. This is, perhaps, because I have had the privilege of experiencing wilderness in other parts of the world both similar and vastly different from Alberta’s Eastern Slopes Rockies. My travels abroad suggest that in other countries this magnificent piece of wilderness would be recognized for its natural values and therefore coveted and protected. The words of American wilderness writer Michael Frome, in his book Battle for Wilderness, express some of the frustration I feel over the lack of official interest in and understanding of the value of Alberta’s wilderness: “How much wilderness does it take to fulfill the needs of civilization? That really isn’t the key question. What counts more is whether each succeeding generation must settle for an increasingly degraded world and know the experience of the past from books and pictures only. Must the future be satisfied with mediocrity because nothing better will be known?”
For more than thirty years Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA), other conservation groups, area outfitters and many members of the general public have fought for legislated protection of the Bighorn Wildland. They have worked for many years with the government in order to fulfill this dream. Despite sustained, scientifically sound and eloquent oral and written representations, our wish to have this exceptionally special place afforded real protection has not been achieved. Recent decisions legally open much of the Bighorn Wildland to offroad vehicle and helicopter-assisted recreation, and there is increasing pressure to develop its petroleum reserves. In addition, there have been recent increases in drilling, logging and off-road vehicle recreation just outside its boundaries. All of this makes the ecological integrity of the area increasingly precarious. Will the Bighorn’s future be one of continued splendour or of degradation?
This book has been designed and written to tell the story of the Bighorn Wildland. It is also an invitation to become more personally involved in its destiny. I hope that this book will create an impetus for action on behalf of the Bighorn so that future generations will be able to experience it as we do now.