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Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve, at the southern tip of Kananaskis Country, is like nowhere else in Alberta.

AWA’s vision for Plateau Mountain is that it remains protected to preserve its natural heritage in an undisturbed state, by phasing out oil and gas and eliminating any threats to its Ecological Reserve designation. AWA is a volunteer steward of Plateau Mountain and works with Alberta Environment and Parks staff as well as the operators of the oil and gas operations towards the best possible conservation of this remarkable mountain ecosystem. AWA’s Fact Sheet has more details and a map of the area.

    • Introduction
    • History
    • Archive
    • Other Areas

    PlateauMountain_map_150px

    Its broad wind-swept summit supports a remarkable variety of wildflowers and geological features, with stunning vistas across the mountains and foothills.

    Status

    • Plateau Mountain was established as an Ecological Reserve in December 1991.
    • Ecological Reserves are representative or special natural landscapes and features of the province, which are protected as examples of functioning ecosystems, as gene pools for research, and for education and heritage appreciation purposes.
    • Ecological Reserves provide limited opportunities for outdoor recreation and environmental tourism, where they are compatible with the protection objective.
    • AWA has been a Volunteer Steward for Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve since November 2001.
     20160417_junction_hill_looking_at_plateau_mountain_2_ajohancsik

    Plateau Mountain is the flat-topped mountain in the distance, as seen from Junction Hill in Kananaskis Country, April 2016. Photo Credit A. Johancsik

    Area

    • Plateau Mountain is a small provincial Ecological Reserve located within AWA’s Kananaskis Area of Concern.

    Natural Region

    • Plateau Mountain is located in the Rocky Mountain Natural Region.

    Geology

    • Periglacial landscapes are associated with cold climates, active frost processes and permafrost. Testament to the immense power of water to shatter rock as it freezes and thaws, the range and quality of these periglacial features at Plateau Mountain is unmatched anywhere else in Alberta.
    • Significant features are:
      • Ice caves, with pillars of ice, ice sheets and crystals. These caves are closed to public access because of their fragility.
      • Active permafrost, and relic permafrost to a depth of nearly 100 metres.
      • Patterned ground, which includes a diverse selection of sorted stone circles, polygons and stripes, caused by a variety of periglacial processes. Cold, underground water, which is less dense than the surrounding water, rises towards the surface pushing rocks and soil with it. Larger rocks become sorted and appear at the surface.
      • Felsenmeer, or ‘rock sea’, a layer of angular rocks caused by frost-shattering, covering a large proportion of the14 km2, flat-topped summit.
    20050900_plateau_mountain1_ndouglas

    Rock Sea on Plateau Mountain. Photo Credit N. Douglas

     

    20151107_plateau_mtn_stewarrdship_colson (30)

    Animal tracks in the snow, November 2015. Photo Credit C. Olson

    Wildlife

    • A range of bird species has been recorded, including rosy finch, horned lark and white-tailed ptarmigan. Golden eagles regularly pass over the area on their spring and fall migrations along the front ranges of the Rockies.
    • Plateau Mountain is home to a number of mammals typical of alpine and subalpine areas, including hoary marmot, pika and a small flock of bighorn sheep.
    • More than 500 species of plant are found in or near the Reserve, including a number of rare plants such as alpine fleabane and flame-coloured lousewort.
    • List of Plants
    • List of Animals
    20051023_plateau_mtn_bald_eagle_CHansen

    A bald eagle flies over Plateau Mountain in 2005. Photo Credit C. Hansen

    June 2016

    AWA staff and volunteers lead a stewardship trip to Plateau Mountain to remove garbage, document changes from the previous year, and enjoy spectacular scenery.

    2015

    AWA takes three stewardship trips into Plateau Mountain. In October, evidence of OHV tracks is noted beyond the boundary sign. A separate visit in October confirms there was no signage at the locked gate indicating that it is an Ecological Reserve. In November, AWA returns to place signs, pick up trash, and eliminate illegal camp sites. In each visit, abundant evidence of wildlife is noted.

    April 2013

    Suncor sells a large proportion of its gas business – including the Savanna and Sullivan fields – to  Centrica (Direct Energy) and Qatar Petroleum International (QPI). The implications for those two fields (which include infrastructure throughout southern Kananaskis Country) remain unclear. Both fields are currently shut in, following the closure of Devon’s Coleman gas plant in 2012. This could even see the closure of the one remaining gas well on top of Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve.

    2012

    Gas production at Plateau Mountain, and the entire Savanna field, is shut in indefinitely due to the closure of Devon’s Coleman gas plant.

    May 2009

    The University of Calgary’s Stuart Harris publishes a report, Climate Change and Permafrost Stability in the Eastern Canadian Cordillera: the Results of 33 Years of Measurements. Harris studied the depth of permafrost – the permanently frozen layer below ground – at a series of sites, including Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve. Some of Harris’ findings are surprisingly counter-intuitive. Average surface temperatures at Plateau Mountain have actually decreased – by 0.49 degrees – over 31 years. And whereas in 1977 you would have had to dig 22 metres to reach the permafrost layer, by 2007 that frozen layer had increased until it was just 13 metres below the surface.

    November 2001

    Alberta Wilderness Association becomes a Volunteer Steward

    January 2000

    Management Plan for Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve is published.

    March, 1993

    Terms of Reference for Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve Management Plan approved by Ecological Reserves Steering Committee

    1991

    Plateau Mountain is upgraded from a Natural Area to an Ecological Reserve, due in part to a cooperative relationship between AWA and Husky Energy.

    November 1984

    The Ecological Reserve Steering Committee submits a report proposing the designation of Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve along with 13 other sites.

    1977

    Kananaskis Country is established, but entire area not given park protection.  57% has no type of park protection.  The province’s 1986 integrated resource management plan specifies the objective for Kananaskis Country as “to preserve the environmental and aesthetic quality of Kananaskis Country and create recreational development that is expressive of the unique natural quality.”

    1971

    Plateau Mountain Natural Area established around the ice cave.

    1968 – 1971

    Plateau Mountain Ice Cave identified as a fragile and unique feature requiring protection.

    1950s

    Husky Energy Inc. operated wells on Plateau Mountain.

    Older

    • Evidence suggests that during the last Ice Age, Plateau Mountain was a Nunatuk (an Inuit word for a mountain protruding through the ice), and remained relatively ice-free.
    • Traditional activities on Plateau Mountain include hunting, trapping and wilderness travel.

    June 28, 2016

    Plateau Mountain: AWA Stewardship Report June ’16

    AWA is a Volunteer Steward of Plateau Mountain, an Ecological Reserve in Kananaskis Country. AWA…

    Read more »

    November 7, 2015

    Plateau Mountain: AWA Stewardship Report Nov ’15

    AWA is a Volunteer Steward of Plateau Mountain, an Ecological Reserve in Kananaskis Country. AWA…

    Read more »

    October 30, 2015

    Plateau Mountain: AWA Stewardship Report Oct ’15 (2)

    AWA is a Volunteer Steward of Plateau Mountain, an Ecological Reserve in Kananaskis Country. AWA…

    Read more »

Wilderness is not – and should not be – a past and vanishing force in life. It is, as far as anyone can see into the future in our rapidly changing and uncertain world, an abiding value.
- George Marshall
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