Albertans Love their Headwaters

Canmore – A new poll released today highlights the important connections between headwater ecosystems in Alberta and the communities downstream, such as Edmonton, that depend on the clean water they provide.

Conducted by the research group NRG for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), the poll found that 83 percent of Edmonton residents favour protecting the Bighorn area — a headwater region of mountains, foothills and boreal woodlands where the majority of water that flows into the provincial capital originates.

Of those polled, 77 percent agreed that commercial use of public land should not be allowed wherever it threatens the Bighorn’s wildlife habitat and clean water resources, and 79 percent said they would like to see the Bighorn region’s sensitive ecosystems protected in land-use plans.

The poll also found that nearly 7 in 10 residents of Metro Edmonton were aware that their water comes from the North Saskatchewan River, which begins its flow from mountain glaciers near the Continental Divide.

“The North Saskatchewan River starts in Banff National Park,” says Stephen Legault, Y2Y Program Director for the Crown, Alberta and NWT, “but the Bighorn is where it gets almost all its water from. Bighorn water finds its way into every tap in the Capital Region. Taking care of those headwaters means clean water for all Edmonton and area residents.”

In the same poll, 88 percent of residents in Drayton Valley, Rocky Mountain House, Nordegg and rural Clearwater County favour protecting important habitat in the region, and 68 percent favour protecting the Bighorn as a wildland park.

“The Bighorn is the closest mountain region to Edmonton,” says Dr. Hilary Young, Y2Y Program Coordinator for Alberta. “Calgarians have Kananaskis Country, and a lot of that is protected for headwater conservation and recreation. Edmonton deserves the same opportunity. We believe that for Edmonton to be able to count on the Bighorn as a source for clean, clear water in the future, the region should be protected with a core wildland park and a series of provincial parks and public land use zones.”

The poll reached out to 400 residents in Metro Edmonton and 200 residents of rural areas east of Edmonton, in the North Saskatchewan watershed.

Feature image from Stephen Legault.

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