Science guides policies and actions in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes

When Albertans think about the Rocky Mountains, we inherently think of the wild, rugged mountain landscape that always leaves us wanting more. Hiking those rigid mountain peaks, jumping into those cold glacial lakes, and waking up to fresh mountain air are some of the greatest pleasures Alberta’s Rocky Mountains offer visitors and residents alike.

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Alberta Parks: Castle Area

Not only are Alberta’s Rocky Mountains home to Canada’s most visited national parks, Banff and Jasper, but there is also a significant amount of provincial land located within the eastern slopes – places like Willmore Wilderness Park, the newly created Castle Mountain Park, and the Big Horn area.

Alberta’s eastern slopes have significant cultural, recreational, economic, and ecological value. They are home to Indigenous peoples, industries such as forestry and tourism, and a vast array of species like the endangered whitepark pine (Pinus albicaulis), bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), and westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi).

Alberta Environment and Parks’ Office of the Chief Scientist has commissioned a series of scientific reviews of ecological responses to human disturbances, including climate change, in three provincial areas of Alberta’s eastern slopes. These disturbances include the use of motorized vehicles on trails and roads, forestry, climate change, fire suppression, hunting and fishing, and grazing.

This series of three reports used geospatial data, monitoring data, and published studies to understand the impact and ecological responses of various human-influenced stressors occurring in the eastern slopes. Stressors included fire regime, forestry harvesting, linear disturbance (trails, roads, pipelines, railways, and transmission lines), climate change, fire suppression, hunting and fishing, and grazing.

All three reports provide suggestions to enhance the viability of ecosystem services and endangered species, and are intended to inform land use management decisions and implementation plans. The latest report entitled, Land Use, Climate Change and Ecological Responses in the Upper North Saskatchewan and Red Deer River Basins: A Scientific Assessment, is focused on the Upper North Saskatchewan and Upper Red Deer River Basins and provides a synthesis of scientific knowledge for informing land use decisions considered as part of the development of the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Those interested in accessing these reports can find the links below.

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