The ecological importance of the Central Purcell Mountains
Hikers in the Central Purcell Mountains, BC (Photo by Pat Morrow)
The Purcell Mountains are located in southeastern British Columbia. This ancient and rugged mountain range sits to the west of the communities of Invermere, Kimberley and Cranbrook, and are a subrange of the Columbia Mountains.
The central region of this range, in particular, supports a substantial area of fully functioning ecosystems and a diversity of habitats. As well as intact and functioning networks of mature and old-growth forests, this region also supports extensive and diverse freshwater systems and alpine habitats.
This biologically rich mountainous landscape contains an important ungulate winter range as well as mapped critical habitat for whitebark pine and the southern mountain caribou population. Both of these species are listed as endangered and threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. Significant wildlife found in these mountains includes:
- grizzly bear
- mountain goat
- western toad
- northern goshawk peregrine falcon
- westslope cutthroat trout
Lake of the Hanging Glacier, Jumbo Valley, BC (Photo by Lucas Jmief)
Fresh water is a significant factor in this landscape. Rivers, creeks, wetlands and lakes, and riparian (streamside) habitats link landscapes. They, in turn provide corridors for animal and plant movement, sediment transport and nutrient transport, and are particularly important for small mammals and birds. Protecting healthy forests and streamside vegetation helps to maintain seasonal water-flow leverls, during highs, lows and storm surges. It also helps to buffer water temperatures and maintains water quality, which are required for aquatic species at risk like westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout.
Existing protected lands in the Central Purcells includes the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Protected Area and Provincial Park and Bugaboo Provincial Park. The Ktunaxa Nation is currently seeking to establish an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in the lands immediately north of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, an area that holds both ecological and cultural significance. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been honoured to assist the Ktunaxa in their efforts to protect these sacred lands.