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With rolling foothills located along the front ranges of the Rockies and home to endangered caribou, the Little Smoky is a critical piece of Alberta’s largely unprotected foothills landscape.

AWA believes the Little Smoky requires science-based management of industrial impacts on public lands to support the recovery of at risk native species including endangered Woodland caribou.

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

    Little Smoky embodies a significant portion of Alberta’s Upper and Lower Foothills Natural Subregions, and offers an array of habitats for various at risk species including endangered Woodland caribou, Arctic grayling and threatened grizzly bear populations. Due to minimal protection, widespread industrialization throughout Little Smoky has left the landscape dissected and degraded.

    AWA’s Little Smoky area of concern JPGPDF MAP© AWA FILES

    Little Smoky is located east of Jasper National Park and Willmore Wilderness along the front ranges of the Rockies. It includes important features such as the Donald Creek drainage, Middle Berland River,  the entire Little Smoky boreal caribou range, and the winter range of the A La Peche mountain caribou.

    The area supports the Little Smoky and the A La Peche caribou herds that have been designated as provincially and nationally threatened. Resident populations of caribou are declining due to the lack of designated range protection and the extensive cumulative impacts of industrial activities.


    The Little Smoky area includes several small designated protected areas. The remaining area is largely unprotected public lands that after years of multiple use need a science based management plan to help restore the lands and protect critical habitat for wildlife.

    William A. Switzer Provincial Park was designated in 1958 and the following three areas were designated under the Special Places 2000 process: Wildhay Glacial Cascades Natural Area, Pinto Creek Canyon Natural Area and Rock Lake-Solomon Creek Wildland Park (Alberta Parks 2001).


    Under the Eastern Slopes Policy, the majority of Little Smoky has been designated as a Multiple Use Zone. The ‘official’ primary goal of this zone is to allow the utilization of the full range of resources available to the area with particular emphasis of maintaining the integrity of watersheds and environmental conditions. This zone is accessible to public and industrial use within the management framework of the Berland Sub-regional Integrated Resource Plan and the Fox Creek-Knight Subregional Integrated Resource Plan. Every winter since 2005/6, the Alberta government has killed most of the region’s wolves as a bandaid measure to stabilize caribou populations, while allowing extensive ongoing surface disturbance from industry to continue, which is the root cause of woodland caribou population decline.

    Protected areas within Little Smoky are managed based on their legislative status. William A. Switzer Provincial Park is managed under the Provincial Parks Act, with intentions to: “preserve natural heritage of provincial significance or higher, while supporting outdoor recreation, heritage tourism, and natural heritage appreciation activities that depend upon and are compatible with environmental protection” (Alberta Parks 2001).

    The protected areas of Wildhay Glacial Cascades Natural Area and Pinto Creek Canyon Natural Area are managed under the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act with the intent to “preserve and protect sites of local significance and provide opportunities for low impact nature based recreation and nature appreciation activities” (Alberta Parks 2001).

    Finally, Rock Lake-Solomon Creek Wildland Park is protected and managed under the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act with the intent to “to preserve and protect natural heritage, where visitors can experience solitude and non-consumptive, nature-based wilderness opportunities” (Alberta Parks 2001).


    AWA believes that in order to sustainably manage the Little Smoky for future generations, we must:

    • Formally designate core caribou habitat, in particular old growth forest stands, as a protected area within Upper and Lower Foothills Subregions of Little Smoky.
    • Defer any new industrial development within the ranges of the Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou herds until enforceable caribou range plans are in place, which would reduce the level of linear disturbances due to industrial development and achieve the minimum habitat required for caribou survival and recovery.
    • Attain designated protection for the Solomon Valley and Wildhay River area located adjacent to the Rock Lake-Solomon Creek Wildland Park.


    AWA’s Little Smoky Area of Concern is approximately 7,200 km2. It is located within the Foothills east of Jasper National Park and just northwest of the town of Hinton, and can be accessed from Highway 40 which crosses the southwestern part of Little Smoky.

    20101117_Little_Smoky_TR_v3_small.jpg  AWA’s Little Smoky Area of Concern: JPG | PDF MAP: © AWA


    The Little Smoky contains the Berland, Wildhay, and Little Smoky Rivers which are tributaries of the Athabasca River and the Peace River respectively.


    Rocky Mountains and Foothills within the Little Smoky largely consist of a series of subparallel, northwest trending ridges composed of folded and faulted sedimentary strata. The composition of the bedrock is variable from Cretaceous strata composed of sandstone, shale, and coal, to older Triassic and Paleozoic formations composed of limestone, dolomite, gypsum, and quartzite (Alberta Research Council 1972).

    Environmentally Significant Areas

    There are several areas that are environmentally significant, containing critical habitat for caribou, moose, elk, Athabasca rainbow trout, bull trout and Arctic grayling. Currently, the Little Smoky area has four legislated protected areas covering 6% of its area:

    Wildhay Glacial Cascades Natural Area
    • 25 km2 in size
    • A unique landscape, part of the Upper Foothills that developed from a glacier passing over the area over 10,000 years ago
    • Straddles the lower Wildhay River valley and offers a convoluted terrain with narrow sharp topped ridges shaped by glacial deposits, and includes various upland and wetland habitats
    • Wildhay River traverses the centre of the natural area

    Pinto Creek Canyon Natural Area
    • 12.32 km2
    • Geographically defined by a deep canyon eroded by Pinto Creek throughout the sandstone hills. Canyon walls are characterized by cliffs and hoodoos. The cliffs consist of loose sandstone and rocky outcrops that provide habitat for a resident mountain goat population, surrounded by a forested plateau.

    William A. Switzer Provincial Park
    • 62.67 km2
    • The area contains five lakes including Jarvis Creek, one of the most relatively intact and productive river valley habitats in Alberta’s foothills
    • Unique and high plant diversity within this area

    Rock Lake-Solomon Creek Wildland Park
    • 347 km2
    • Area includes diverse natural regions including alpine, subalpine and montane Subregions of the Rocky Mountain Natural region as well as the upper Foothills region
    • Rock Lake area is a significant wildlife movement corridor
    • Habitat supports elk, deer, bighorn sheep, moose, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars and wolves

    Environmentally Significant Areas map: PNG | PDF MAP: © AWA

    Natural Region

    Little Smoky encompasses the Rocky Mountains and Foothills Natural Regions of Alberta. At a smaller scale, Little Smoky represents the Subalpine Subregion, but is mostly comprised of the Upper and Lower Foothill Subregions, which are significantly underrepresented in Alberta’s protected network.

    20101117_Little_Smoky_NSR_v3_small.jpg  Natural Subregions map of Little Smoky:  JPG | PDF MAP: © AWA


    Vegetation information source: Alberta Parks 2015

    Subalpine: dominated by coniferous forests consisting of Engelmann spruce, fir, larch, and lodgepole pine. Understory vegetation consists of false azalea, white-flowered rhododendron, grouseberry, tall bilberry and five-leaved bramble

    Upper Foothills: Lodgepole pine and black spruce forest cover the elevated ridges. Depending on moisture content of a forest stand, understory shrubs can vary widely from Labrador tea, bog cranberry, green alder, tall bilberry, Canada buffaloberry, juniper, bearberry or hairy wild rye.

    Lower Foothills: Characterized by diverse forest stands composed of aspen, lodgepole pine, white spruce and balsam poplar. Drier areas are dominated by black spruce and lodgepole pine stands where bearberry, bog cranberry, hairy wild rye, low-bush cranberry, green alder, prickly rose, wild sarsaparilla, dewberry and marsh reedgrass are common in the understory. Bearberry, blueberry or Canada buffaloberry, bracted honeysuckle, willows, and wild currants are most common in the understory of moister mixedwood stands containing aspen, white spruce and lodgepole pine. Old growth stands with heavy ground lichen growth are commonly populated by black spruce and tamarack and can be located in bogs or fens. Calypso orchids and uncommon ferns partially compose the unique and high plant diversity within this area.


    Little Smoky provides important habitat for many wildlife species. Landscapes are populated by many mammals and ungulates such as elk, moose, mule deer, white tailed deer, caribou, black bear, grizzly bears, wolves, lynx and beaver. The watersheds of Little Smoky are equally diverse with many fish species including bull trout, Athabasca rainbow trout, Northern pike, mountain whitefish and Arctic grayling.

    Provincially, the wild spaces of Little Smoky harbor many unique wildlife ranges. The cliffs and rocky outcrops of the Pinto Creek canyon are home to a population of canyon dwelling mountain goats, which are the only known population outside of the Rocky Mountain Natural Region. The Little Smoky River originates in peat bog wetland which creates cool and productive waters which are ideal for Arctic grayling populations, and resulted in this being one of Alberta’s last remaining ‘very high density’ Arctic grayling populations.

    The landscapes of Little Smoky are located within the “Recovery Zone” for threatened grizzly bear populations, which is habitat that is intended to support the recovery of this threatened species, placing limits on linear disturbances (Government of Alberta 2016).

    The Foothills forests of Little Smoky are critical habitat for populations of Woodland caribou. The Little Smoky and the A La Peche herds both have ranges throughout the area, particularly within old growth stands, and utilize different forested areas depending on their life stage.

    Little Smoky Herd: (also see our Caribou pages)

    • Boreal ecotype of Woodland caribou, last boreal population in eastern slopes of Alberta
    • Non-migratory, herd’s range is exclusively within Little Smoky year round
    • Different habitats in Little Smoky support different life stages of the herd
    • Last estimate places the herd size at 110 individuals (2017 DNA method)
    • Herd requires large intact old forest stands, which helpsto minimize predation, with a tendency to avoid stands less than 1000 ha in size
    • 99% of current Little Smoky herd range is considered disturbed by anthropogenic and natural footprints, including the federal buffer of 500 meters of an industrial development
    • 1% of herd’s habitat is considered undisturbed (Alberta Government 2017)

    A La Peche Herd:

    • Mountain ecotype of Woodland caribou, one of Alberta’s most southerly mountain caribou populations
    • Estimated to be over 100 individuals (Alberta Government, 2017)
    • Herd migrates between mountainous summer range in Willmore Wilderness Area and Jasper National Park, to Little Smoky foothills as winter range
    • Industrial activities within Little Smoky foothills have inhibited the herd’s migration and increased mortality, contributing to their population decline
    • 12 percent of herd’s winter range habitat is considered undisturbed


    Every winter since 2005/6, the Alberta government has killed most of the region’s wolves as a drastic measure to stabilize caribou populations, while industrial surface disturbances continue and is the , root cause of declining Little Smoky-A La Peche caribou., Cutblocks, poorly reclaimed seismic lines and well pads stimulate deer, moose and wolf populations, and creates easy access to caribou by wolves. Industrial surface disturbances rob caribou of their ability to avoid overlap with the predators and other ugulates.


    Recreation throughout Little Smoky includes hiking, canoeing, fishing, camping, and motorized recreation. There are relatively high ungulate hunting permit levels because of the intensive government wolf cull program.

    Cumulative Effects

    Little Smoky has been extensively disturbed from industrial developments including industrial scale clearcut logging and oil and gas extraction. Exploration and development has rendered these lands degraded and highly fragmented.

    Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou herds have been designated as provincially and nationally threatened, yet there are no protected areas designated within the Little Smoky caribou range or the A La Peche winter range. Forestry tenures cover 100% of the Little Smoky caribou range and the A La Peche winter range. Petroleum and natural gas tenures have been issued over 95% and 97% of the A La Peche herd’s winter range and the Little Smoky caribou range respectively. With so much industrial development occurring within critical caribou habitat, much stronger habitat protection and restoration is needed in order to save these caribou populations .

    Linear disturbances map of Little Smoky PNG  PDF


    Main threats from industrial activity include:

    • increased access via roads and corridors;
    • fragmentation of habitat from roads and cuts;
    • increased predation;
    • road kills;
    • noise and general disturbance;
    • habitat degradation;
    • habitat avoidance;
    • loss of habitat; and
    • decreased habitat function.

    Implementing SARA-compliant caribou range plans will reduce industrial activity in critical caribou habitat. Strict limits on total surface disturbances and a mandatory multi-sector infrastructure use program are needed. Reclamation of sites within Little Smoky affected by seismic lines and/or abandoned wells would offer a renewed capacity to support biodiversity within the area, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities (Alberta government 2017).

    Oil and Gas
    Extensive petroleum and gas exploration and development has created significant surface disturbances within caribou ranges, creating a reduction in habitat quality, quantity, and limiting herd access to suitable habitat. More recently within Little Smoky, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has created environmental concerns pertaining to extensive new surface disturbances, local water use, water contamination risks and toxic waste spills. New technology to better manage waste water and help reduce the likelihood of environmental contamination may help.

    Industrial scale clearcut logging
    Industrial scale clearcut logging operations within Little Smoky have resulted in habitat fragmentation and loss by means of access roads and clear-cuts. Old growth forest stands are imperative to caribou survival, as both the Little Smoky and A La Peche herds rely on large contiguous forested areas for protection, diet, and various life stages. With continuous forestry activities within caribou range, populations are in decline by means of habitat deterioration, increased predation and hindered access to vital food sources.

    Forestry companies operating in the Little Smoky include:

    • Alberta Newsprint Company;
    • Foothills Forest Products;
    • West Fraser Hinton; and
    • Canadian Forest Products (CANFOR).

    AWA believes solutions are within reach to promote the preservation and protection of vital caribou habitat while supporting economic development that respects sensitive wildlife. Companies that hold tenures within Little Smoky could adhere to cooperative harvesting outside of caribou ranges to promote caribou population growth. The Alberta government has required forestry deferral in some core habitat areas for Little Smoky and A La Peche herds until Caribou range plans are completed. Unsustainable surge clearcuts for mountain pine beetle should end. Harvesting deferrals are only a temporary solution for caribou survival; designating long-term core protected areas within caribou range are needed. Forest habitat restoration within Little Smoky could create jobs for the forestry industry.
    AWA believes Solomon Valley/ Wildhay River area should be immediately protected from logging.


    Traditional low impact recreation within Little Smoky includes trapping, fishing and trail riding.

    In recent history, roads and corridors for industrial access have led to increased motorized recreational activities in sensitive areas. Off-highway vehicles are widely used on these seismic lines, and hamper regenerative processes. Continuous compaction, physical damage and active vegetation clearing have important implications for the quality of caribou habitat (Pigeon et al 2017 ).


    In July, AWA urges the federal government to greatly strengthen habitat protection in its proposed recovery strategy in order to save the species. Meaningful habitat measures for Athabasca rainbow trout would also greatly benefit valued bull trout and arctic grayling in those watersheds.


    In November, AWA begins serving as an ENGO representative on the provincial government’s west central caribou sub-regional planning task force, which focuses on the two caribou ranges in the Kakwa/Upper Smoky region, just northwest of Little Smoky. AWA believes collaborative efforts are key to achieving enforceable land-use sub-regional plans to ensure the survival and recovery of caribou, multi-species conservation and thriving communities.

    In August, Athabasca rainbow trout receive a long overdue Endangered designation under SARA, which requires critical habitat designation and a recovery plan outlining how the critical habitat will be protected. Also in August, The Western Arctic bull trout found in Upper Athabasca and Upper Peace waters, including in the Little Smoky, receive a Special Concern SARA listing, which requires a federal management plan but not necessarily habitat protection. AWA later urges the federal government to greatly strengthen habitat protection in its proposed recovery strategy in order to save the species. Meaningful habitat measures for Athabasca rainbow trout will also greatly benefit valued bull trout and arctic grayling in those watersheds.


    In October, AWA, in conjunction with the Harmony Foundation and the David Suzuki Foundation, releases a commissioned report on how woodland caribou recovery can occur simultaneously alongside economic activity. The report, conducted by natural resource economist Dr. Thomas Michael Power, found that a caribou restoration economy is a feasible solution to maintaining economical activity while promoting the restoration of critical habitat. AWA believes these results are applicable to many different types of landscapes within Alberta that host caribou ranges.

    On April 30, the Canadian government releases the first report under section 63 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), updating the public on at-risk species protection as required by that law. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) found that, outside of some protected areas, provinces and territories have largely failed to protect almost all of boreal caribou critical habitat.

    On March 19, Alberta’s Environment Minister requests federal funding and more time to complete range plans. The Minister also states that Alberta is “suspending” consideration of potential Northwest protected areas until socio-economic impacts can be determined. These are the same areas that the government’s appointed consultant identified in a May 2016 report as having minimal negative economic impacts.

    On March 15, a letter to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Minister from six environmental groups, including AWA, is seeking assurance that conservation agreements provided for in section 11 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) will not be misused to mask provincial inaction.

    On February 28, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada states that she is assessing whether critical habitat of boreal caribou is effectively protected by the laws of Alberta, and should she determine that any portion of critical habitat is unprotected, will publish a report in April 2018 on steps being taken to protect that critical habitat, and will recommend that the federal Cabinet (Governor in Council) to make a safety net order. This would extend protections provided under the Species At Risk Act to caribou habitat on provincial lands.


    On January 12, AWA comments on Alberta’s draft provincial range plan, and states that it does more to increase the risk of caribou extinction for the foreseeable future – by allowing more critical habitat in caribou home ranges to be destroyed – than it does to work towards recovering thriving caribou populations.

    On December 19, the Alberta government’s draft provincial Woodland caribou range plan is released for public comment. The draft released allows unspecified new industrial disturbance in caribou critical habitat, and marks further delays in range-specific plans and actions. While advancing some positive principles, the government continues to delay necessary actions to achieve caribou home ranges of at least 65% undisturbed habitat, the absolute minimum required for caribou to sustain themselves.

    On November 28, a letter is delivered to all Alberta MLAs noting the dire situation of caribou and requesting their support to recover this iconic species. Supporters of Alberta’s endangered caribou delivers hundreds of postcards to the steps of the Alberta Legislature today, asking Premier Notley to protect the habitat that these iconic wildlife need. The “Quarters for Caribou” event, organized by Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA), comes after Alberta misses its 5-year deadline for producing caribou range plans in October 2017.

    On October 31, the federal government reports that the quality of caribou habitat continues to decline across Canada.

    In a separate release, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature and Alberta Wilderness Association identify critical habitat destruction “hot spots” in the ranges of threatened caribou in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. The groups call on the three provincial governments to convene Indigenous and stakeholder groups to develop range plans that protect critical caribou habitat. No province or territory has fully met the timeline established in the Recovery Strategy for the development of range plans, due on October 5, 2017.

    On August 2, AWA calls for overdue disturbance limits within the Little Smoky caribou range, as the Alberta government permits extensive new fracking wells and roads by Junpiter Resources in relatively undisturbed caribou habitat.


    On December 17, Alberta government issues a request for proposals to build and manage a fenced compound in the Little Smoky caribou range for captive females and calves in hopes to recover and increase resident caribou population. AWA urges Alberta government to prioritize the restriction of new surface disturbances in caribou range instead.

    On November 23, Alberta’s department of Energy extends its “use it or lose it” deadlines for drilling requirements for industry operators within every Alberta caribou range until March 2019. AWA welcomes this step to support caribou recovery, and requests that stringent limits on new surface disturbance in caribou ranges also be adopted soon.

    On October 1, the Alberta government announces a pilot restoration program in Little Smoky to restore 70 linear kilometers of legacy seismic lines. It also announces a caribou habitat research and restoration partnership funded in part by the oil and gas industry and Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta. AWA welcomes this partnership that will implement a key positive element of the draft June 2016 Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou range plan.

    On September 30, Alberta Energy announces an interim restriction has been placed on the sale of mineral rights within all caribou ranges in Alberta. The restriction applies to petroleum and natural gas, oil sands, coal and metallic and industrial mineral rights. The AWA is pleased to learn of this action with hope that it reflects the petroleum industry’s commitment to restoring Alberta’s Woodland caribou populations.

    On June 8, Alberta releases its draft Little Smoky-A La Peche caribou range plan for public consultation. This is Alberta’s first draft plan under the 2012 federal boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy. Although the draft plan is better than what the previous government was considering, it allows more forest to be removed and fragmented in the next 5 years, because it would re-start some logging and would allow unspecified new energy disturbance to continue. In ranges with such high current disturbance levels, this plan will likely extend the dependence on the massive existing annual wolf kill. The plan also proposes to construct a 100 square kilometer fenced zoo for wild caribou, which is a backwards step for wildlife and wilderness conservation.


    On August 4, AWA discovers that no new energy rights within any Alberta caribou ranges are scheduled for future sales. Two in-range licenses covering 24 km2, which had been posted for the August 19 rights auction, have since been withdrawn by Alberta Energy. AWA recognizes the importance of these lease sale withdrawals and urges the Alberta government to defer all new energy leasing within caribou ranges, until strong habitat-recovery range plans are in place to ensure survival of Alberta’s endangered caribou.

    On June 17, a letter addressing Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks from 10 Alberta conservation organizations, including the AWA, ask to meet with the Minister to discuss solutions to long standing issues in the Little Smoky Upper Peace-Upper Athabasca region. This area is the last refuge of Athabasca rainbow trout, arctic grayling, bull trout and woodland caribou in the lower foothills ecoregion of Alberta, and is under great industrial pressure.

    On April 28, the Alberta government plans another major auction of new oil and gas leases on 35,600 hectares (356 km2) of endangered mountain and boreal woodland caribou habitat, without rules to reduce surface disturbance below current excessive levels. The AWA asks all Alberta’s political party leaders to commit to defer energy lease sales in endangered caribou ranges until effective rules to protect the herds are in place.

    On March 21, Alberta’s lack of cumulative effects management is revealed in Shell’s recent application to use up to 5 million m3 per year of lake water for oil and gas fracking operations in west central Alberta. The AWA asks that the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) deny Duvernay Play-Based Regulation applications until concerns about significant water and land impacts in the Little Smoky River watershed, where the water use would occur, are resolved.

    On February 19, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) oil and gas operators in west central Alberta to stop operations if their fracking or wastewater disposal activities cause earthquakes of magnitude 4 or greater. AER also increases requirements for companies’ earthquake monitoring and response plans. The AWA welcomes this move to better manage some of the risks that intensive fracking activity poses to Alberta’s foothills, and asks for better monitoring of environmental risks.


    In December, the Alberta government’s Little Smoky-A La Peche range planning multi-sector advisory group has its last meeting without producing any recommendations. Instead, the government continues scenario discussions with forestry and energy industries only, excluding indigenous communities, environmental organizations and municipalities.

    On December 1, a study reveals that Alberta government’s extensive wolf kill program in the Little Smoky caribou range in west central Alberta has barely stabilized the caribou populations, while habitat disturbance that stimulates high wolf predation grows. The AWA calls on the Alberta government to commit in its upcoming range plans to reduce the heavy energy and forestry industry disturbance that is the root cause of caribou decline.

    On October 14, AWA urges Alberta government to locate new logging outside of caribou ranges in west central Alberta to aid in habitat and population recovery, and would be economically viable for FMA holders.


    On December 5, AWA echoes local hunter/angler concerns that extensive new clearcuts and roads are destroying more caribou critical habitat in Little Smoky-A La Peche ranges. These new disturbances undermine the chances for caribou to recover to naturally sustaining populations in the future.

    In August, the Alberta government begins a multi-sector advisory group process for the Little Smoky-A La Peche range plans. AWA is one of the environmental delegates in this process.

    On July 25, the government of Alberta extends deferral to include forestry activity in Little Smoky caribou range. This deferral includes approximately 35 percent of the Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area held by Alberta Newsprint Company (ANC). AWA praises this decision.

    On May 8, AWA requests that the Alberta government also defers forestry plan approvals and imminent logging in Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou ranges until Cabinet approves these range plans.

    On May 2, Alberta’s Energy Minister informs AWA that effective May 1, 2013, sales of all new mineral rights will be on a temporary hold across Little Smoky and A La Peche caribou ranges until Cabinet approves these range plans. AWA immediately issues a news release praising this decision.

    On February 6, AWA urges the Minister of Environment not to proceed with planned auctions of new energy dispositions in intact Little Smoky caribou range, noting that horizontal drilling technology could reduce the footprint of energy development. This violates the Alberta Government’s 2011 Woodland caribou policy that states the immediate priority is maintenance of habitat, followed by habitat restoration.

    On January 18, AWA denounces extensive new disturbance in the Little Smoky caribou range as violating the 2011 Alberta Woodland caribou policy. AWA visits and documents significant new road, well site and pipeline corridor disturbance within the last 5% intact area of the Little Smoky’s range.


    On April 20, AWA learns that from 2005 to 2012, the Alberta government’s Little Smoky wolf control this program has killed about 650 wolves. About 550 have been killed from shooting by helicopter, and about 100 have been killed by strychnine poisoning. The Little Smoky caribou herd population has been stable for several years at about 80 animals.


    On July 25, AWA submits comments to Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation in regards to the drafting of a management plan for William A. Switzer Provincial Park. In the submission AWA expresses the need for:

    • opportunities for effective consultation;
    • protection of environment of the highest calibre;
    • consideration of buffer zones and adjacent land uses;
    • preservation of historical and cultural values;
    • monitoring of recreation types and intensity;
    • education programs;
    • enforcement of the park rules;
    • careful planning with regards to necessary infrastructure development; and
    • environmentally sound mountain pine beetle strategies.

    On May 20, along with other ENGOs, AWA writes to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada’s (COSEWIC) Species Specialist requesting COSEWIC assess the status of the Little Smoky local population of Woodland caribou. The letter outlines that the Little Smoky herd is both particularly imperiled relative to the wider boreal population of Woodland caribou and is both geographically and genetically distinct from the boreal population.

    On January 24, a spokesperson for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD), reports that 90 new oil and gas well sites have been approved within the Little Smoky caribou range.


    On April 14, the department of Sustainable Resource Development institutes the Caribou Calf Project in another attempt to bolster the dwindling numbers of the Little Smoky herd. Ten pregnant females are captured and will be monitored in fenced pen until the calves are born and determined to be doing well.

    On January 24, AWA and partnering ENGOS issue a news release stating that the Alberta Government is breaking its own policy by allowing industrial use in the Little Smoky caribou range. Despite this, industrial use continues regardless of a 2004 assessment of the caribou habitat in Little Smoky published by logging companies and the Alberta government concluded that Little Smoky “…does not currently provide habitat conditions sufficient to maintain stable caribou population growth…”

    On January 17, under authorization from ASRD, an estimated 34 wolves are shot and killed. In what AWA considers a senseless and useless strategy when used in isolation, SRD is culling the pack to reduce the predation that is causing caribou mortality in Little Smoky. AWA recommends an immediate deferral of industrial activity in the caribou habitat instead.


    In December, AWA and seven other ENGOs file a petition under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) with the Minister of the Environment asking the federal government to take action for the sake of the Woodland caribou.

    In April, AWA, Canadian Parks and Wilderness and partnering ENGOS send a letter to Deputy Minister of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development requesting the deferral of logging rights in the Little Smoky and À La Peche caribou ranges until a range plan is developed.

    In March, Canfor defers plans to log and build roads in Little Smoky in light of the threatened Woodland caribou. Canfor will not abandon the area permanently. Logging will continue when the province implements its Woodland caribou Recovery Plan. This deferral is partly the result of pressure from companies that buy pulp from the Hinton mill.

    In February, the Suncor and Conoco Phillips pipeline through the range of the endangered Woodland caribou habitat will not be rerouted despite ongoing discussion with ENGOs. Conservation groups meet with SRD staff to discuss the caribou issue. Although SRD acknowledges the concerns about habitat fragmentation due to industry, industry is clearly given precedence.


    On November 30, a representative from Sustainable Resource Development confirms that Suncor/ConocoPhillips pipeline route has been approved and construction has started.

    On November 1, a news release announces the plan by Suncor and ConocoPhillips to build a pipeline through Little Smoky.

    In October, Alberta Woodland caribou Recovery Plan draft completed and submitted to Minister of Environment for review and recommendations. It recommends a moratorium be placed on new development in caribou range until full assessment is made of the effects on herds. Devon Canada Corporation announces to AWA their proposed sour gas pipeline and processing site in the Little Smoky area. AWA responds by expressing their opposition to the plan. AWA notes that “The Little Smoky range contains the highest level of industrial development including oil and gas and forestry, than any other caribou range in Alberta. As a result, the herd cannot afford to be disturbed any further, as it clearly cannot tolerate what disturbance already exists.”
    Finally, AWA expresses opposition to the Devon pipeline to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB). For the Board to consider the AWA’s opposing point of view, the pipeline must directly and adversely affect the legally recognized rights of AWA. The EUB refuses to recognize AWA’s opposition due to the fact that AWA did not demonstrate a legally recognized interest in the land on or near the proposed pipeline, nor were any individual members directly negatively affected.

    In September, AWA and other ENGOs meet with Suncor and ConocoPhillips to discuss the development of the 101 km-long gas pipeline through Little Smoky. Although the company plans to restore existing linear disturbance in the area as compensation, ENGOS work to reroute the pipeline and encourage industry to take the lead and set a higher standard of practice than the law provides

    On July 14, Enviroline reports that Weldwood of Canada is defending its Woodland caribou protection strategy despite criticism from environmental groups who want the company to cease logging operations in caribou habitat. AWA and other conservation organizations call for oil and gas and forestry activity to be stopped entirely wherever caribou are at risk.

    In July, Suncor/ConocoPhillips propose the construct a 101 km long sour gas pipeline through the home range of the Little Smoky caribou and A La Peche herds. Development is scheduled begin in December 2004.

    In May, the Alberta Woodland caribou Recovery Plan comes into effect.


    Alberta Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development from the Alberta Woodland caribou Recovery Team to write a recovery plan for Woodland caribou in the province.


    In July, AWA begins letter writing and market action campaign against Weldwood of Canada’s plan to log 15 km2 in the Solomon valley.


    Special Places 2000 leads to the designation of Pinto Creek Canyon Natural Area and Wildhay Glacial Cascades Natural Area in Alberta.


    Environmental groups (including AWA) launch “The Rescue Mission” campaign. It is a campaign to protect a total of 23,277 km2 extending from the far north to south of Alberta’s foothills.


    On January 12, meetings held between AWA, Black Cat Ranch, and concerned citizens with Weldwood Canada Ltd. to discuss logging plans within the Solomon Creek Valley in the Foothills.

    In March, Valleyview District Fish and Game Association (VDFGA) formalize a proposal for the creation of the Little Smoky Boreal Forest Primitive Area (500 km). This area would support sustainable industry practices, develop restrictions for corridor use along the Little Smoky River. The Little Smoky Boreal Forest Primitive Area would encompass areas within and outside boundaries of the Little Smoky caribou herd range.

    Berland Subregional Integrated Resource Draft Plan is released for review.


    Alberta Fish and Wildlife division releases the Provincial Caribou Recovery Plan- this study shows Woodland caribou were at “immediate risk of extirpation” as a result of habitat change related to logging and other industrial activities.


    In September, development of the Fox Creek –Knight Subregional Integrated Resource Plan begins.

    Berland Sub-regional Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is initiated. The purpose of the IRP is to promote the coordinated management of public land and resources within the area.


    In October, Solomon Creek is proposed as an ecological reserve – first identified in 1969 by members of the International Biological Program as an excellent example of upper foothills vegetation.


    In April, Resource Integration Committee (RIC) approves development of plan for Berland River-Fox creek Proposed Forest Management Agreement Area (FMA). Intent of regional plan is to provide direction for the management and the use of resources and public land in the area.


    Denison Mine Ltd. Undertakes coal exploration in the Rock Lake area.


    In August, Foothills Resource Allocation Study for Berland and Simmonette Planning Districts releases planning program to determine beneficial allocation of resource in Alberta’s Foothills Region on the basis of productivity and economic considerations.


    Solomon Creek is identified by members of the International Biological Program as an excellent example of upper foothills vegetation.


    William A. Switzer area is designated as a Provincial Park, but was initially named Entrance Provincial Park.

    March 18, 2015

    AWA Wilderness & Wildlife Defenders: Stop Energy Leasing in West Central Endangered Caribou Ranges

    You made a difference! On March 6, the Alberta government delayed extensive new energy rights…

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    March 8, 2015

    AWA Statement of Concern: Shell Application for Lake Water for Fracking in Little Smoky Duvernay Region

    AWA’s Statement of Concern to the Alberta Energy Regulator on Shell’s application to use up…

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    March 6, 2015

    AWA News Release: Postponed Major New Energy Lease Sales A Good Step for Endangered Alberta Mountain Caribou

    Today the Alberta government postponed a major auction of new oil and gas leases on…

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    March 5, 2015

    AWA News Release: Major New Energy Lease Sales Imminent in Endangered Alberta Caribou Habitat

    On March 11, the Alberta government plans a major auction of new oil and gas…

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    February 20, 2015

    AWA News Release: Alberta Steps Up Fracking-Caused Earthquake Oversight

    On February 19, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) ordered oil and gas operators in west…

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    February 5, 2015

    AWA Letter to Premier and AER on Fracking Earthquake and Ecological Risks in West Central Alberta

    AWA’s letter asks for effective cumulative effects management of serious and growing risks to water…

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    December 1, 2014

    AWA News Release: Alberta Wolf Kill Study – Root Cause of Caribou Decline Unchecked

    A study published in late November revealed the Alberta government’s extensive wolf kill program in…

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    November 3, 2014

    AWA News Release: Caribou Worse Off After 10 Years of Alberta Recovery Plan

    Ten years after Alberta’s 2004-2014 woodland caribou recovery plan began, habitat disturbance keeps increasing far…

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    October 14, 2014

    AWA News Release: Alberta Forestry Decimating Endangered West Central Caribou Habitat Despite Viable Alternatives

    Extensive logging is occurring within and adjacent to two endangered west central Alberta caribou ranges,…

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