Saturday, April 21, 2018
The Bow Building
500 Centre St SE, Calgary, AB

Public Lands In Alberta

Written on August 7, 2018, by

Have you ever been out for a nice drive in, say, the Eastern Slopes, and as you turn a corner you’re suddenly met with the stare of a cow? Or, have you been out hiking and up pops a sign that says “Public Land Use Zone Boundary,” and you weren’t quite sure what to make of it? Maybe you’ve seen a map and wondered who owns all that empty space between provincial and national parks. What do all these things have in common? They’re all a part of our system of public lands, sometimes known as Crown lands.

Grazing lease contact and rules

An example of some signage you’re likely to see if traveling through public lands.

The Basics

Public lands have a complicated history in Alberta and play an important role in land use and management. Because our province has yet to create a cohesive policy document for these areas, they can become a complex issue. With a few of the basics though, things become a little easier to understand.

Public lands in our province are split between two areas: green (forested) and white (settled). Combined, they represent 60% of Alberta, not including federal areas like reservations, military lands, and national parks. Uses include livestock grazing, industrial activities, recreation, camping, and agriculture. Alberta has 19 Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs) covering 11,200 square kilometres. The rules for public use differ depending on whether the land is under lease, license, or neither.

Their Importance

Why should we care about public lands? Mainly because they’re a public asset and it’s up to us to determine how to use and protect them. After all, 60% is a big number and we should know what’s happening with them.

Some of Alberta's public land.

Hiking Sage Creek with the Sweetgrass Hills of Montana in the background.

For years, the Alberta Wilderness Association has been asking for a protected areas network and public lands are a vital piece of this province-wide puzzle. Protected areas make up only 14.6% of Alberta and provincial parks account for a tiny 6.4% of this number while national parks make up the rest. What does this mean? Well, it means that within that 60% there’s a lot of unprotected, intact ecosystems that have a lot of value. Without proper rules and systems in place, they become vulnerable to all sorts of threats. As Albertans, these places are ours to explore, enjoy, and interact with wildlife and wildspaces.

Taking Action with Public Lands

The best thing we can do is educate ourselves about the land around us. By doing so, we become active participants in developing government policies and proper land management.

Some of you might remember the unprecedented move to sell 16,000 acres of public land to private interests known as “Potatogate.” Thankfully, this was stopped due to the efforts of concerned citizens but it highlights what could happen if we lose meaningful knowledge and don’t take action for what is ours. Consultation is important and it’s up to us to hold the government accountable in treating us as stakeholders.

In August, AWA is launching a campaign raising awareness about our public lands and wildspaces. Keep an eye our social media accounts to learn even more and in the meantime, watch our series of videos on YouTube. The more you know, the more you can do. And remember, if you missed our last C4W story, check out it here.

Castle Provincial Park: A Reason to Celebrate

Written on June 21, 2018, by

50 years is a long time and for AWA it has taken just that long to reach a milestone worth celebrating. Earlier last year, the Alberta government announced the creation of two new provincial parks protecting over 100,000 hectares of critical habitat. Those parks, the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park, are the focus of the second C4W Story, and we’re happy to say it’s good news.

A Part of our History

Since its founding in 1965 in Pincher Creek, AWA has made this area a priority. Known along with Waterton and Glacier Parks as the “Crown of the Continent,” Castle has immense ecological value. Now an area with some of the highest biodiversity in the province has the protection it needs.

Victoria Mountain in the Castle

Some hikers with Victoria Peak in the background.

Your Role

The story of Castle Parks shows the value of consistent advocacy, which can take time and resources to get results. 2018 was the 27th Climb for Wilderness, a period of more than half of AWA’s existence. Because of your support, we are able to keep causes like this on the minds of Albertans and our government. This year the Climb raised nearly $100,000. With this story, you can see the result of your generosity.

The Value of the Castle

But why is it worth protecting these areas? Protection for the Castle means that critical habitat for threatened flora and fauna is safe. Fauna like grizzly bears, westslope cutthroat trout, and wolverines along with flora such as the limber and whitebark pines. The parks also provide valuable wildlife corridors, a key part of AWA’s activities. These corridors ensure that species can safely travel between areas like Glacier National Park to other parts of their habitat in the Castle. As the home of the Oldman and South Saskatchewan River basins, this area is also a critical part of our headwaters.

Learn More

The Castle Parks are rich with life. Not only will their new status ensure they survive, but it also means that we get to enjoy them too. Low impact activities play a key role in the new parks and you can learn more about what they have to offer and the concerns that still exist. Castle now belongs to all of us and is ours to protect.


Caribou: How Your Climb Helps

Written on May 10, 2018, by

Caribou need our help and your Climb is playing a big role. Over the next few months, we’re going to point out some ways that Climb for Wilderness is helping to protect Alberta’s wildlife and wild spaces.

Caribou Today

Woodland Caribou are a species that were once found in two-thirds of our province but are now at risk of extinction. If you’ve ever had a chance to see them in the wild you know what a sight they are. It would be a tragedy to lose them. In fact, the last herd found in the US by way of BC were recently declared effectively extinct. We can’t let this happen again.

In Alberta there are two species of Woodland Caribou, Mountain and Boreal. We’ve known for decades that over-development has been reducing their habitat to critical levels. Now we’re at a breaking point.

The impressive antlers of bull caribou on display.

A bull in the Tonquin Valley. Credit: C. Campbell

Caribou are iconic creatures and not just because we see them every day on our quarters. They call old growth forest and peat bogs home, eating lichen off trees and finding it through the snow pack during winter. For centuries, they were able to avoid predators due to their amazing adaptation to parts of the forest other prey like moose and deer avoid. But now, this balance has been disturbed.

Healthy Caribou Healthy Communities

We sometimes see habitat and industry as conflicting goals. But with some careful thought and planning, our economy and caribou can co-exist. Seismic line restoration is just one example of how we can create opportunities that benefit both. Companies like Cenovus are leading the way in showing how this is possible and many others are following suit.

By working with community and industry partners, we hope to build on efforts like this. Your climb helps seek solutions for a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

How to Help

If you’d like to do more visit caribou4ever, a website we created with our partners to highlight this special issue. You can send a letter here to ask for the protection of caribou and then share it with your friends to spread your impact further. Still have questions? Visit the Q&A section for some quick facts.

27th Climb for Wilderness – A Resounding Celebration for Earth Day!

Written on April 21, 2018, by

Alberta Wilderness Association’s (AWA) 27th Climb for Wilderness once again exceeded expectations as climbers, volunteers, and supporters filled the stairwells of the iconic Bow Tower, courtesy of venue sponsor, Cenovus Energy Inc. Each step of the way, climbers showed support for wilderness and wildlife at the best Earth Day event in the west! More than 850 participants enjoyed the Earth Day fun.

Money raised for the event will power AWA’s efforts to inspire Albertans to care for and protect Alberta’s spectacular wildlife and wild spaces. Fundraising and donations are $92,000 and counting in support of AWA’s conservation work.

AWA Executive Director Christyann Olson shares her gratitude for every climber that came to the event today. “Earth Day, and this event, is so important because we see people from all ages and walks of life come together to support what we all have in common: our natural areas, wildlife habitat, and the legacy we leave for future generations. This event like so many Earth Day events is all about showing we care,” said Olson. “For 27 years we have depended on the untiring support of many; our 27th event t-shirt proudly recognizes both our corporate supporters as well as the endangered species we work to protect.”

“Whether it is families, or groups of friends, or teams of co-workers, it’s great to see people having fun with the unique challenge of climbing over 1200 stairs.” said Joanna Skrajny, AWA Conservation Specialist.

“The turnout and support is truly motivating,” said Nick Pink, AWA Conservation Specialist. “Many of the participants already know a lot about what we do at AWA but it’s also a great time to see some new faces and tell them a little bit about our work.”

Why We Climb: Freshwater Fish

Written on March 23, 2018, by

Alberta’s Fish Story

In the first of our series about why we climb, we’re telling the story of Alberta’s freshwater fish. Whether it’s a summer day by the side of a river or at the lake waiting for that coveted tug on a fishing line, or the satisfaction of cooking a meal you caught yourself while on a camping trip, fish play a big role in our lives outdoors.

For the Alberta Wilderness Association, our native fish species are important for a few other reasons as well. They indicate the health of our watersheds, as one of the first signs of stress in an ecosystem. Because of this, their loss helps warn us of other problems. They’re also the building block of many watersheds, acting as both predator and prey in our rivers and lakes.

Who’s in trouble?

When we think about Alberta’s wilderness, species at risk aren’t often the first things that come to mind. Instead, we tend to think of wide open spaces, endless trees, or an abundance of wildlife. Alberta’s fish tell a different story.

You might remember the critical situation facing Westslope Cutthroat Trout this past summer in Alberta. Already under stress from population loss, this species was pushed to the brink by extreme drought. As it turns out, this is only one part of a bigger story for our native fish species. Upwards of 10 species in Alberta are threatened and we need to take action to help them survive.

Westslope cutthroat trout in spawning habitat, 8 July 2012. These fish are part of a pure population introduced into Rawson Lake. Source: D. Mayhood

Under the surface, species are suffering because of habitat loss, over-fishing, and development. For example, did you know that Alberta is home to a distinct species of Rainbow Trout known as the Athabasca Rainbow Trout? The population is steadily decreasing and as a result it’s now endangered. As one of the few native Rainbow Trout species left in North America it’s a valuable link to our past. Other well known species like Bull Trout, Rocky Mountain Sculpin, Arctic Grayling, and Lake Sturgeon are also at risk of being lost forever.

What happens when you climb?

Thanks to efforts by the Alberta Wilderness Association and other conservation groups, steps are being taken to help ensure the survival of our native fish. When you Climb for Wilderness, you’re not only helping to give us the resources to continue these efforts but you’re also bringing visibility to these causes. On April 21st you’re not just Climbing for fun, you’re climbing for a cause as well. Register now and help our keep our fish swimming!

Learn more about Cutthroat Trout Here:

Learn more about species at risk here:



Climb for Wilderness 2018: Why We Climb

Written on February 23, 2018, by

Why do we climb?

As a new participant or even as a returning climber, you may be wondering what all your fundraising contributes to. When you Climb for Wilderness (C4W), all funds raised go directly towards the Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA). Our focus is on advocating for Alberta’s wild spaces and the wildlife that rely on them. With a committed staff of conservation specialists, volunteers, and board members, we rely on people like you to help protect some of our most treasured spaces and creatures.

What do we protect?

Chinchaga, Parkland Dunes, Castle Wilderness Area, caribou, trout, sage grouse, grizzlies; these are just some of the things that need our help. In the lead-up to the 2018 Climb, keep an eye on this space. We’re going to use it to tell some stories about all the ways your support helps us. These stories will come from our staff of conservation specialists who advocate for these areas all around Alberta. Their intimate knowledge and experience is a valuable resource for all of us to learn from.

Earth Day

C4W is Calgary’s biggest Earth Day event and the only one where you get to enjoy views from the top of one of Calgary’s most spectacular skyscrapers, the Bow. We believe that by teaching people to protect what’s in their own backyard, we open up their eyes to protection worldwide; so take the chance to celebrate and share our love for Alberta’s wild spaces and join us for C4W.

We want to hear from you

If there’s a story close to your heart, we want you to reach out to us. Tell us and all our followers why you’re participating in Climb for Wilderness and why you want people to know. Even better, tell us why you’ve joined the climb or your feelings about AWA and we’ll share your story with our followers. When we all work together and speak as one voice, we are a powerful force in protecting our environment.

How to reach us



2018 Climb for Wilderness Update

Written on February 13, 2018, by

Planning is well under way as we get ready for the 2018 Climb for Wilderness and there’s lots of news to report. Many of our supporters have returned and their generosity means everything. From a great venue – the Bow glass walled staircase to climb with great views all thew way to the top, free fruit at the finish and amazing fundraising prizes. There is something for everyone at this great Earth Day event.

Prizes are being confirmed daily which means those of you who are registered and raising funds are eligible. Keep an eye on the prize page and our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds to see all the exciting updates as we get closer to April 21st.

We can’t thank our faithful and new supporters enough. We hope when you win a prize you will remember to thank them too!

One of the great views from the top of the Bow.

The list of confirmed 2018 Climb for Wilderness supporters so far:

  • Patagonia Calgary
  • Brooks
  • Gord’s Running Store
  • Canadian Western Bank
  • Cenovus Energy – Venue sponsor
  • Earth Distributors
  • Higher Ground Cafe
  • Loblaws
  • WDX courier
  • The Hitmen
  • Alberta Prairie Railway
  • Ollia Macarons & Tea
  • Heritage Park
  • Calaway Park
  • Royal Tyrrell Museum
  • Steam Whistle Brewing
  • Telus Spark
  • The Calgary Flames
  • Westside Recreation Centre

This year we’re also making a big push on social media to spread the word as we try to take the Climb for Wilderness to new heights in 2018. You can help – when you register be sure to tell your friends and share our posts!

Highlights from the 2017 Climb for Wilderness

Written on June 1, 2017, by

Thanks to everyone that came to the 2017 Climb for Wilderness! Here’s some of our favourite moments:

20 month old Karina Eustace Wallis, walked up all 1188 steps, one at a time, with the odd break for a treat or a little chat while her mom, Lindsey Wallis and her dad, Kyle Eustace watched carefully and cheered her on.  Grandpa Cliff was nearby too.

Elek Szabo – 98 years young and strong emerges at the top of the 54th floor!

Our bear meeting and taking photos with climbers at the top!

Emma Hergott with proud grandparents Ed and MaryAlice.  Emma raised over $1300 for her climb!

Gord Hobbins of Gord’s Running Store and family and friend David Smith – faithful supporters of Climb for Wilderness.

Two thumbs up from our dear friend and supporter 100 years young Dr. Richard Guy who raised more than $6000 from his friends for his walk up the stairs.

Vanessa and Andrew who flew up the stairs in 10:28!


Abigail Hadden (third from left) and the friends she brought to climb with her.  Abigail has climbed every one of her 8 years and was our top fundraiser in her age category earning more than $1500 for Alberta Wilderness Association.


MLA Dr. David Swann and Vicki Reid of Cenovus welcoming folks to the new event.

8 year old Kailum Melnyk timed himself as he climbed up the stairs, an impressive 8 minutes, 28 seconds!

26th Climb for Wilderness – A Resounding Earth Day Celebration!

Written on April 22, 2017, by

Alberta Wilderness Association’s (AWA) 26th Climb for Wilderness surpassed expectations as climbers, volunteers and supporters filled the stairwells of the iconic Bow Building, courtesy of Cenovus Energy Inc. Each step of the way, climbers showed support for wilderness and wildlife at the best Earth Day event in the west! More than 800 participants from babies in backpacks, to outstanding athletes, seniors, and families enjoyed the Earth Day fun.

Participants from every age and walk of life supported the event today. Two of our young climbers – Abigail, 7, and Emma, 6 – were very successful in fundraising through bottle drives, social media posts, family and friends. Abigail told us, “I have climbed at this event every year, starting in a backpack with my mom.” She added, “It is important that I can hike, find hidden waterfalls and know that wildlife have safe places to live.”  An undeniably wise and inspiring role model is Dr. Richard Guy, who at 100 years young is a faithful supporter and climbed all 1,188 stairs one step at a time. Proceeds for the event are expected to top $80,000 in support of AWA’s conservation work.

AWA Executive Director Christyann Olson shares her gratitude for every climber that came to the event today. “From a child’s wonder to a senior’s wisdom, we know caring for our wild spaces, wildlife habitat and the legacy we leave is vitally important. This event like so many Earth Day events is all about showing we care,” said Olson. “We depend on the untiring support of many; our 26th event t-shirt proudly recognizes both our corporate supporters as well as the endangered species we work to protect.”

“Teams of people representing their company, their family, or their loved ones helped to make the day special and memorable” said Joanna Skrajny, AWA Conservation Specialist. “The stairwells were filled with conversation and the chance to celebrate Wild Alberta. 2017 promises great progress for protection of wild places and safe habitat and the chance to climb the stairs for wilderness once more.”


For more information:

Joanna Skrajny, Conservation Specialist,  AWA    403 483-4683
Christyann Olson, Executive Director, AWA          403 863-2412


The Climb is this Weekend

Written on April 20, 2017, by

We are all set to fill the stairwells on Earth Day, April 22.  The 26th Climb for Wilderness in support of Alberta’s wilderness and wildlife will be held at the beautiful, iconic, energy-efficient Bow Building in the heart of Calgary courtesy of Cenovus Energy.

When you climb the stairs on April 22, you are helping to make a difference in some of Alberta’s least protected regions, such as our grasslands and wild prairies, as well as for the wildlife that depend on healthy habitat, including grizzly bears and endangered caribou.

The climb to the top of the Bow Building consists of 1,188 stairs and 54 floors. Climbers of all ages and abilities are invited to climb anytime between 8:30 am and noon on Saturday, April 22. Climbing will take an average climber 25 minutes to complete, with information about conservation work in Alberta guiding you up the stairwells.

At the top, climbers will be greeted with majestic views and a great suite of activities including live music, activities for kids, mascot Smoky the Bear, a premiere showing of  images of Wild Alberta captured on screen by Alberta photographers, as well as coffee and treats for purchase from Visionary Catering. Outstanding prizes are available for top fundraisers and fastest climbers.

Confirmed dignitaries in attendance include:

  • 100 year young climber Dr. Richard Guy
  • MLA Dr. David Swann, Leader of the Liberal Party of Alberta
  • MLA Dave Rodney, PC Opposition House Leader
  • NDP MLA  Graham Sucha
  • US Consul General Tom Palaia

Climbers should register in advance of arriving at the Bow Building at A detailed FAQ section is provided at the same website.

Climb for Wilderness is known as one of the very best Earth Day events. Earth Day is about taking time to celebrate where we live, the outstanding natural resources we have in Alberta and the people who make a difference to the wilderness legacy we will leave.

Richard Guy

Centenarian and Climber – Dr. Richard Guy

See related videos:

​ Centenarian Climbs for Wilderness

​ Abigail’s Story about Climb for Wilderness

Thanks to corporate supporters

Cenovus Energy
Gord’s Running Store
Canadian Western Bank
WDX Courier
Visionary Catering
Alberta Prairie Railway
Group 933
Kananaskis Delta Hotel
Calaway Park
Royal Tyrrell Museum
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site
Westside Recreation
Albino Muppet Photography
Higher Ground Café
Steam Whistle Brewing
Telus Spark
​The Calgary Fla​mes

and all
Volunteers and Climbers
for making this an
Earth Day event.

Thanks to all those
​climbing and
representing their
school, church,
business, family or
in memory of
someone special

Amber Shurb-Beach
Anytime Fitness
Anytime Fitness Silverado
Astute Environmental
Athena Environmental Consultants Ltd.
Alberta Wilderness Association
Banded Peak
Bear Country Inn, Wanham
Brennan Family
Build Studio
Calgary Transit Team CT
Connect Charter School
CrossFit Pyro
Dillon Consulting Limited
Fifth Avenue Place Chiropractic and Massage Therapy
Free Life Photography
Graham Construction & Engineering LP
Grbavac Family
Justin Havre & Associates
Livestock Water Recycling Inc.
Madeleine d’Houet
Mantra Wellness Centre
Mountain Equipment Co-op
MZED Immigration Consulting Services, Inc.
Peak Consulting Ltd.
Plc pacu
Queen Elizabeth School
Team Wilton
Team CT Calgary Transit
Unitarian Church of Calgary
University of Calgary
Wild Rose Brewery Ltd
Wildwood Dental
Zeidler BKDI Architects

and the friends and family climbing

In memory of
Amber Shurb-Beach


Registration Open Dec 18, 2017

Registration Closed Apr 21, 2018

Event Day Apr 21, 2018


Registration Desk 8:00am

Climb 8:30am - 11:30am

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