Bighorn Country

Bighorn Country - Where the Boreal Meets the Rockies
Located in west-central Alberta, Bighorn Country rests astride that magical zone where the Boreal meets the Rocky Mountains.  It is Alberta’s best remaining opportunity to protect a wilderness example of this.  Here the Boreal is a biological mixing bowl where a wide variety of plants and animals from the Arctic, Boreal, Rocky Mountains, Parkland and Plains regions come in contact with each other.  In the Bighorn, this unique range of biological diversity includes everything from the powerful Grizzly Bear and shy Lynx to the threatened Canadian Toad, the Great Grey Owl and the tiny Calliope and Rufous Humming birds. 

Through a coalition of local, national and international groups, Sierra Club of Canada’s goal is the establishment of Bighorn Country as a 7,000 km2 conservation area to ensure the protection of this outstanding wildland and its ecological integrity.  This includes the preservation of a 5,134 km2 Wildland Park within it.  Over 1,410 km2 of the proposed park falls within this intriguing part of the Boreal, or as it is known at a more detailed scale, the Foothills portion of the Boreal.  Bighorn Country, consisting of Boreal and Rocky Mountains, is large enough to allow the continuation of natural processes and the protection of far-ranging wildlife such as Grizzly Bears, Wolves and Wapiti (American Elk). 

Bighorn Country at a Glance

Special Values:

  • Key for assisting in the recovery of Alberta’s grizzly bears, wolverines, bull trout and most southern herd of woodland caribou.
  • One of only two sizable, Foothills wildlands remaining in Alberta. 
  • Largest of four “biological hotspots” remaining without legislated park protection in Alberta’s portion of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y).(1)
  • The headwaters of six rivers.
  • First Nations’ use spanning the time from numerous pre-historic sites to present-day traditional uses.

Major Threats:
Resource extraction, primarily clearcut logging and oil and gas activity.

Key Opportunities:

  • Establishment is part of an environmentally sustainable future for the larger region.
  • Approaching provincial centennial in 2005.
  • Growing citizen-support for watershed protection and continued support for endangered and threatened species.
  • Opposition of regional residents and tourism businesses to resource extraction moving in.

A mere 1.5% of the Foothills portion of Alberta’s Boreal is protected.


Updates, to Help or Find Out More: See our coalition’s Bighorn Country website


(1) The other three “biological hotspots” are:
· Castle (a focus of the Sierra Club of Canada’s Prairie Chapter);
· Mountain Park (also a Sierra Club of Canada campaign); and
· Little Smoky (includes Mountain Shadows Wildland).

For more on Y2Y, visit


Tall white bog orchid (Habenaria dilatata) photo and landscape photo © Robin White/Fotolex

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