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Cameron Hills is an AWA Area of Concern in the far northwestern corner of Alberta.

Cameron Hills is known for its distinctive geological feature, the striking and unique glacial flutings that are carved into the land surface. Remote and rugged, Cameron Hills is important habitat for moose, black bear, and a variety of birds.

    • Introduction
    • Concerns
    • Features
    • History
    • Management
    • Archive
    • Other Areas

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    Cameron Hills, an AWA Area of Concern in the far northwestern corner of Alberta, is known for its distinctive geological feature, the striking and unique glacial flutings that are carved into the land surface. Remote and rugged, Cameron Hills is important habitat for moose, black bear, and a variety of birds.

    Cameron Hills (C. Wallis)

    Vision

    • AWA would like to see Cameron Hills designated as a Wildland Provincial Park based on the model used to establish Hay Zama Wildland Provincial Park.

    Status

    • Although designated as a provincial Environmentally Significant Area, Cameron Hills does not currently have protected status.
    • Although woodland caribou are known to range in this area, their populations are not being monitored here (Alberta Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan, 2005). Their population status in the area is therefore unknown. The woodland caribou is an endangered species – monitoring should be taking place in Bistcho/Cameron Hills.
    • This area needs to be maintained in order to support the natural habitat of numerous, diverse native species.
    • Potential timber harvesting may negatively impact woodland caribou and the permafrost layer underlying the coniferous trees.
    • The sale of oil and gas leases and the resultant development in, and access to, the region, is a concern in the Cameron Hills area.
    • AWA would like to see Cameron Hills designated as a Wildland Provincial Park in order to preserve the wilderness character of the area.

    Area

    • Cameron Hills lies partly in the Boreal Subarctic Natural Subregion and partly in the Lower Boreal Highlands Natural Subregion.
    • Cameron Hills is approximately 309 km2 in size and is often paired for management purposes with Bistcho, another unprotected Environmentally Significant Area in northwestern Alberta.
    • Cameron Hills is underlain by oil and gas reserves. The petroleum industry has been active in the area for many years.

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    Township and Range map: JPG | PDF

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    Natural Subregions map:  JPG | PDF

    Watershed

    • The area contains lakes that are good waterfowl production sites.
    • Water in the area flows into the Hay River Basin and eventually into the Mackenzie River and Arctic Ocean.

    Environmentally Significant Areas

    • Cameron Hills is considered a nationally Environmentally Significant Area. The area was given this designation because of its very large glacial flutings, which are among the best examples of this topographical feature in the province.

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    ESA map:  JPG | PDF

    Vegetation

    • Aspen/balsam or poplar/white spruce forests grow in Cameron Hills in the Boreal Highlands. In better-drained areas, jack pine or lodgepole pine hybrids are present.
    • Native plants found in Cameron Hills include bluebells, twinflower, common yarrow, marsh ragwort, sheathed sedge, cotton grass, bulrush, bog cranberry, hairy wild rye, Rocky Mountain fescue, yellow pond lily, wild black currant, and quillwort.

    Wildlife

    • The Bistcho Lake/Cameron Hills area is important habitat for the endangered woodland caribou.
    • Local birds includes bald eagles, osprey, herring gulls, and Bonaparte’s Gulls.
    • Moose and black bear are common in the area.

    Cultural Heritage

    • The local First Nation is known as the Dene Tha’.
    • The Bistcho Lake Reserve and Jackfish Point Reserve both lie along the shore of Bistcho Lake. Grave sites in both reserves are protected.
    • Currently, there are no permanent residents in this area.
    • The 1994 Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills Draft Resource Management Plan calls for the location and protection of former communities, grave sites, and other historical features.

    Geology

    • Cameron Hills is notable for its glacial flutings – straight parallel grooves in glacial till, separated by what are essentially elongated drumlins. The direction of these grooves indicates the direction that the glacial ice was flowing. The glacial flutings in this area are one of the best examples of this topographical feature in the province.

    March 2005

    The Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills boreal caribou study was initiated in the Northwest Territories. The study area was extended south into Alberta due to the free movement of collared animals between the two jurisdictions. In the NWT, the Cameron Hills has past and existing oil and gas activities, and represents an important area to investigate interactions between boreal caribou and industrial developments.

    March 29, 2002

    Paramount Resources’ gas processing plant at Cameron Hills comes on production.

    1997

    AWA recommends that Cameron Hills be preserved as a representative wildland in the “Environmentally Significant Areas of Alberta” report prepared by Sweetgrass Consultants for the Resource Data Division, Alberta Environmental Protection.

    1994

    The Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills Draft Resource Management Plan is released.

    Late 1980s

    Concerns arise about the impact of land use and timber harvesting on woodland caribou and permafrost in the Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills area.

    Early 1980s

    Fires change the nature of the northern caribou range, and oil and gas development damages some areas of permafrost.

    Mid 1950s

    Oil and gas exploration efforts are underway in the Cameron Hills.

    Cameron Hills is managed under the Bistcho Lake / Cameron Hills Draft Resource Management Plan (April 1994).  The purpose of the plan is to protect permafrost, woodland caribou, landforms, vegetation, and fish, as well as other wildlife and climatic features. Sustainable Resource Development is responsible for ensuring that the plan is enacted, and agencies like Fish and Wildlife act in a consultation role.

    • The 1994 Draft Resource Management Plan lists a number of concerns and commitments (pp. 7-19 and Appendix B) – research is needed to see if these concerns have been addressed and the commitments carried out. Some of the commitments are as follows:
      • Completing a fisheries and lakeshore management plan;
      • Protecting trapping and fishing cabins;
      • Recording local knowledge and involving stakeholders;
      • Protecting rare / threatened / endangered species;
      • Reclaiming disturbed areas, with the exception of the developed oil field;
      • Using “dog legs” and minimal impact construction to reduce issues with line of sight;
      • Locating critical habitat and creating wildlife maps;
      • Preventing the construction of any new fishing lodges (one in existence);
      • Restricting use of access trails by motorized vehicles during periods of warm temperatures;
      • Continued monitoring of fish populations in Bistcho Lake;
      • Protecting forest from fire, disease, and insects;
      • Managing the sustainable harvesting of timber;
      • Protecting historical resources;
      • Protecting permafrost;
      • Ensuring that industry is aware of the special status of the area when mineral licenses and leases are sold; in addition, special operating conditions will apply to exploration and development;
      • Encouraging a limited amount of tourism;
      • Protecting water quality and quantity.
    • Cameron Hills lies within the Alberta Bison Management Area. This 40,000-km2 area was designated in 1995 for the protection of the Hay-Zama bison herd.
    • Other key directives and programs related to the Cameron Hills area are as follows:
      • Alberta Woodland Caribou Recovery Plan (Fish and Wildlife, 2005);
      • Procedural Guide for Petroleum and Natural Gas Activity on Caribou Range (Information Letter 91-17, 1991);
      • Tourism 2000: A Vision for the Future (Government of Alberta, Alberta Tourism, 1991);
      • Wetland Management in the Settled Area of Alberta – An Interim Policy (1993);
      • Special Places 2000 Program;
      • Seizing Opportunity, Alberta’s New Economic Development Strategy (1993);
      • Forest Conservation Strategy (written 1994, approved 1997).
We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
- Wallace Stegner
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