TD Forests: Crowsnest Pass
Lusicich, Crowsnest Pass, AB (Photo by NCC)
In the Crowsnest Pass area of southwestern Alberta, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) 260-acre (106-hectare) Lusicich property is a forested haven for wide-ranging carnivores. Crowsnest Pass, the area of lowest elevation passing through the Rockies in southern Canada, is a critical wildlife corridor. Due to the rareness of its size and the quality of its Douglas fir forests, the Lusicich property is integral in piecing together the last bits of wilderness in this landscape.
The Canadian Rocky Mountains can be said to represent the southernmost extent of true wilderness remaining in North America, yet even this is a wilderness divided. The division comes as a result of ever-increasing residential and industrial development that slices through this mountainous landscape, severing wildlife corridors and fragmenting crucial habitat for many species, including wide-ranging carnivores such as grizzly bear and grey wolf.
Diversity begets diversity
At Crowsnest Pass, elevations range from 1,113 metres at the Crowsnest River, to 2,804 metres at the mountain peaks. The region is characterized by a rapid ecological transition from prairies to alpine. This compressed environmental gradient, and the influence of the Chinook winds, result in a rich diversity of flora and fauna. The vegetation is a mosaic of grasslands and of deciduous and conifer woodlands; it hosts a wide variety of rare plant species.
Many small mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians of ecological importance are found in this area. Crowsnest Pass is a critical area for overwintering elk and deer, and provides habitat for important wildlife species such as grizzly bear, gray wolf and cougar.
Crowsnest Pass is an essential wildlife passage through a chain of north-south mountains and valleys in the Canadian Rockies. The land ownership in the Pass is predominately private, surrounded north and south by crown lands and a chain of protected areas: Kananaskis and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to the north, and Waterton Lakes National Park to the south.
The Pass is bisected by the Crowsnest Pass Transportation Corridor which consists of both a major highway and a major railway line. These dividing lines, along with ongoing development along the highway, constitute a major threat to the functionality of north-south movement for wide-ranging carnivores. Immediate conservation action where opportunities remain is a necessity. The Lusicich property is a critical piece of the conservation picture, helping to facilitate wildlife movement, and protecting vulnerable populations from genetic isolation.
Supporters of the project
The Lusicich property has been conserved by NCC thanks to the generous support of the TD Bank Group through the TD Forests Program, and the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program.