Stewardship Sites

ANPC is involved in many conservation activities in an effort to do our part in conserving the native plants and ecosystems of Alberta, including acting as volunteer stewards for several important sites. We are also affiliated with the Stewards of Alberta’s Protected Areas Association (SAPAA), and encourage members to view all parks and protected areas in Alberta eligible for stewardship on their website:

Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park


Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park is 174 sq. km and is an excellent representative of the Northern Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountain Region. It is situated 105 km southwest of Edson (Hwy 47) or 59 km southeast of Hinton (Hwy 40), next to Jasper National Park. The Park can be divided into several sub-areas: Cardinal Divide, Tripoli Ridge, Whitehorse Creek, Cardinal River Headwaters and the Cadomin Cave.

Ecological Significance

A wide range of alpine and subalpine plants and wildlife are found here, as well as many unusual geological features. In particular, the Cardinal Divide is a wide alpine ridge along the continental divide. To the north, the McLeod – Athabasca Rivers drain to the Arctic Ocean. To the south, the Cardinal – North Saskatchewan Rivers drain into the Hudson’s Bay. This area is one of the few remote alpine locations that can be reached by road in Alberta, with fantastic views from the parking lot at 2000 m. From here, a hike to the east takes you up to the top of a broad, sweeping ridge and spectacular views. Or walk west to the base of Tripoli Ridge over dry, white mountain avens meadows, past moist snow melt channels with dazzling wildflower blooms from mid to end of July.

Tripoli Ridge forms the mountain backbone of the Wildland Park. It includes Tripoli, Prospect, and Cheviot Mountains and their upper eastern slopes above tree line. Following along the base of these slopes you are walking through some of the most extensive alpine and subalpine meadows in Alberta.

The Whitehorse Creek area includes a small campsite huddled beneath large boulders. At the west end of the campsite is a horse and hiking trail that follows along the scenic, fast-flowing Whitehorse Creek. This old traditional trail leads through the heart of the Wildland Park, and into Jasper National Park, over Fiddle Pass.

Cardinal River Headwaters, just outside the south boundary of the Wildland Park, is an enclosed valley with alpine tundra vegetation and striking geological formations. The higher slopes of the upper Headwaters are within the Wildland Park, but the main valley is just outside the south boundary. At present, there is an off-highway vehicle access corridor up to (but not beyond) the Cardinal Falls, near the head of the valley. The 13 km seismic trail to the Falls had been so severely eroded by off-highway vehicle use that a hardened trail to the tree-line was built in 2002, which unfortunately has led to even more impact. Due to the fragility of the valley and the occurrence of many rare plants, this is an area that the Alberta Native Plant Council is actively lobbying to have added to the Whitehorse Wildland Park.

Cadomin Cave is one of the few known locations in the province for hibernating bats. Disturbance of a hibernating bat causes it to use up extra energy. Even a single disturbance may be enough to cause its death. In recent years, a lethal disease, (white nose syndrome) has wiped out several populations of bats, so in order to prevent this deadly disease from being introduced by human visitors, the Cadomin Cave is now permanently closed to the public. Please help by observing this restriction to preserve these species at risk.


Over 250 plant species have been documented as occurring in the Wildland Park area. Of these, a striking number are rare, and/or have unusual distributions. Several are isolated (disjunct) populations, separated from the main range of their species. This suggests that part of this area may have been unglaciated during the last Wisconsin Ice Age, providing a ‘glacial refugium’, where plants and animals could survive. There may be similarly disjunct insect species; at least one disjunct butterfly species has been described here. Although the theory that the site is a glacial refugium remains controversial, the important point is that this is a highly significant area, providing habitat for an unusual diversity of rare species.

The alpine tundra is a very harsh environment, where plants have to survive freezing temperatures and strong winds year round. What appears from a distance as a barren rock field, is home to many small plants such as white mountain dryas and saxifrages. These grow very slowly and it may be many decades before they flower. If the soil is eroded, it takes a very long time before they recover, if at all. Even moving small rocks disturbs their microhabitat and therefore the practice of building small decorative or memorial cairns is strongly discouraged. At tree line, you can see the small stunted trees (known as krumholz or ‘crippled wood’ in German). These may be well over 100 years old, so wood for an evening’s campfire may not be replaced in your children’s lifetime.


Small groups of bighorn sheep roam the area, as well as elk, moose and mule deer. The alpine meadows and valleys are prime grizzly habitat, especially in the pre-berry season, and the Wildland Park was formed in part to protect important wildlife corridors between Jasper National Park and the Foothills. Visitors should adopt ‘Bear Beware’ precautionary measures as recent studies with radio-collared grizzly bears have confirmed that the WWP is favourite area for them. Wolves and cougar are also present, but rarely seen. Hoary marmots and pikas may be found among the rocks. You can often see bold golden-mantled ground squirrels and least chipmunks at the Divide parking lot (thanks for not feeding them).

History and Stewardship Information

The ANPC has been a steward of this park since 1991 through the efforts of dedicated volunteers such as Alison Dinwoodie, Dorothy Fabijan, Carole Dodd, Kristen Andersen and others. Stewardship has involved several site visits to identify concerns, reporting to Alberta Parks, regular attendance to annual trails meetings, regular engagement with the mine and regulators involved in land-use planning, and ongoing efforts to promote education about the area’s conservation value.

More recently the ANPC have formally joined forces with the Cardinal Divide Conservation Coalition, a group of biologists, botanists, park stewards and environmental organizations invested in the ecological integrity of the region. In addition to the ANPC, there are members from Plant Watch Alberta, Alberta Wilderness Association, and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association – Northern Alberta. With support from the Alberta Conservation Association, this group hosted a Bioblitz in the Park from July 14-16, 2023. This subbed as the 2023 Botany Alberta event, inclusive of many types of biologists and ecologists to document the full range of biodiversity within the park’s ecosystems. Over 1,700 observations were recorded of 423 species by 28 participants. This included 251 plant species. You can view and further identify or verify this event’s data on iNaturalist. A video of the bioblitz participants and activities was created by the Alberta Wilderness Association:

Access Constraints

The adjacent Cheviot Coal Mine is undergoing reclamation activities. Access to Cardinal Divide is along a rough gravel road known as the Grave Flats Road, adjacent to the Haul Road. The public road provides access to the two (hiking only) trails to the Cardinal Divide east and west of the parking lot. A short distance further south, down a very steep rough hill, is the trailhead to the Cardinal Headwaters. The Grave Flats Road beyond this trailhead has been recently washed out so is now permanently closed.

There are designated backcountry campsites in the Whitehorse Valley, where you should use the existing fire-pits. Random camping is permitted elsewhere, except on the Cardinal Divide or within 1 km of designated campsites and roadways. You should practice ‘leave-no-trace’ camping, with removal of all fire-rings etc. In the high subalpine, camping stoves should be used rather than fires, as trees grow very slowly. Use bear-poles, if provided, or make sure your food is stored safely and away from the tents, as this is a favourite bear area.

There are a number of horse trails, with staging areas at the Whitehorse Creek campground and the Cardinal Headwaters trail end on the Grave Flats road. Horse users should check with the Park manager regarding weed-free hay fodder and trail use. In recent years, heavy use by off highway vehicles has left badly eroded tracks and progressively widening scars along the hillsides. The stewards of the Wildland Park are working to reclaim some of the damaged areas, using native seeds which have been collected locally. Please stay on the trails and allow time to heal the scars.

Helpful Reminders

Wildland Parks are special public lands whose natural features represent one or more aspects of Alberta’s biological and physical diversity. They provide opportunities for the present and future generations to appreciate, study and enjoy nature.

The Wildland Park is available for public use on foot at all times, but please remember:

  • Motorized vehicles are not allowed off the main road.
  • Protect the vegetation from trampling. Keep to the trails where possible.
  • Be prepared! This is a wild area with harsh and changeable climate. Dress warmly and, if you are hiking, take backcountry precautions.
  • Do not cut trees or camp outside permitted areas.
  • Take only memories, leave only footprints. Do not remove plants, rocks or natural artifacts.

This area is so special to so many people, that many have wished to have their ashes scattered on the Divide. Because of the fragility of the alpine vegetation, building of cairns is discouraged in the Wildland Park.

Featured Publication

Spearheaded by Alison Dinwoodie, the long-time steward of Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park, ANPC recently published a new field guide “Wildflowers of Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park.” Dorothy Fabijan, Carole Dodd and Kristen Andersen helped put the book together, with contributions from many other Alberta botanists. This field guide includes detailed species descriptions, comparisons with visually similar plants, plus information on habitat and natural communities. Each species is identified by a common and scientific name, and thumbnail photos enable easy initial identification by colour. It is available to order through our Publications page.

Clyde Fen Natural Area


Located in the Dry Mixedwood Natural Subregion, approximately 8 km northeast of the town of Clyde along the Bouchard Lake Road.  Three quarter sections (SW 15, NE 16 and SW-27-60-24 W4M) of the greater fen area are designated as a Natural Area, totaling an area of 119 ha.  Much of the surrounding land has been cleared for agriculture and a large commercial sand and gravel pit is in operation east of the Natural Area (in the NW 15).

Ecological Significance

In addition to all wetlands being important on the landscape, Clyde Fen is important for a number of reasons. It supports the most southerly recorded population of pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) in Alberta (less than 100 km from Edmonton).  Other insectivorous plants found in the area include two species of sundew (Drosera spp.) and three species of bladderwort (Utricularia spp.). Clyde Fen rivals other notable peatlands in the region for the most insectivorous plants.  The two rare orchids bog adder’s mouth (Malaxis paludosa) and Loesels’s twayblade (Liparis loeselii) occur in the area along with flattened spike rush (Eleocharis compressa).  All three are species tracked by the Alberta Conservation Information Management System (ACIMS).  The yellow-bellied flycatcher (Empidonax flaviventris), an uncommon bird in Alberta, has been recorded breeding in the area.  Palm warblers (Setophaga palmarum) have bred here in the black spruce–tamarack (Picea maria–Larix laricina) forest.  Bonaparte’s gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) regularly nest around a small lake approximately 1.5 km west of the Natural Area.

The wettest parts of Clyde Fen support a weakly patterned, treeless fen with alternating higher, drier strings of dwarf birch (Betula pumila), sedges (Carex spp.) and golden moss (Tomentypnum nitens); and lower, wetter flarks of sedges and brown mosses.  The edges of the fen are dominated by tamarack, dwarf birch, buck-bean (Menyanthes trifoliata) and brown mosses.  This grades into a black spruce –Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum)–golden moss/feathermoss forest as the soil moisture level drops.  At higher and drier elevations a few small areas of white spruce–aspen /balsam poplar (Picea glauca–Populus tremuloides/P. balsamifera) forest can be found.  There are also two sand ridges in the area with an open jack pine–northern rice grass (Pinus banksiana–Piptatheropsis pungens) forest.

A serious fire in 2001 (one of the driest years on record in the area) burned the majority of the trees in SW 15 and NE 16, but SW 27 was spared.  The areas burned were changed from a treed form to a shrubby form of fen. In all except the wettest areas where tree seedling establishment has been minimal, the burned fen area is transitioning back to its treed form.  Nine years after the fire in 2001, an access road to the gravel pit was constructed through the fen.  Despite concerns that the road would have dire consequences on the drainage pattern of the fen, its effects on hydrology have so far been minimal.  Its main effects have been that it is unsightly, creates an edge for the introduction of numerous invasive and undesirable plant species, and accumulates litter.

Many groups are interested in the protection of Clyde Fen because of its species richness, diversity of habitats, presence of rare species, educational potential and proximity to a large urban area.  A current concern is the invasion of non-native species into the area, particularly common caragana (Caragana arborescens), common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and cicer milk-vetch (Astragalus cicer).  Efforts are underway to prevent the spread of these species.

History and Stewardship Information

Clyde Fen was established as a Candidate Natural Area in 1990 and the ANPC has been the Volunteer Steward of the site since 1992. Note that this site does not hold protected status, designated through an Order-in-Council. It merely has a Protective Notation applied. The current volunteer stewards are Joelyn Kozar and Derek Johnson. They arrange annual inspections of the area, often made in conjunction with ANPC field trips, particularly on the last weekend in May as part of Nature Alberta’s May Species Count. The May Species Count has been conducted most years at Clyde Fen since 1995. Botany Alberta was partially held at Clyde Fen in 2016 and 2021.

Nisku Native Prairie Park Reserve


Nisku Prairie is a 12.5 ha remnant of aspen parkland protected as municipal reserve, “Nisku Native Prairie Park Reserve,” by Leduc County since 1994.  It is located south of Edmonton in Leduc County, east of the Nisku Industrial Area and south of Secondary Highway 625. Then local acreage resident Birgit Friedenstab “discovered” the site in 1993 and successfully convinced Leduc County of its ecological significance and need for more formal protection and management.

Ecological Significance

The landscape consists of aspen groves interspersed with grasslands, and it is this latter plant community, containing patches of plains rough fescue (Festuca hallii) amid a matrix of Kentucky bluegrass and a variety of native grasses and forbs, that is of the most interest. Typical prairie forbs include prairie crocus, three-flowered avens, prairie buttercups, golden bean, bastard toadflax, heart-leaved alexanders, Richardson’s alumroot, veiny meadow-rue, meadow blazingstar, cinquefoils, asters (Symphyotrichum species), goldenrods, and fleabanes. A provincially uncommon grass, Canada ricegrass (Piptatheropsis canadensis) grows in the Prairie. A shrub, narrow-leaved meadowsweet (Spiraea alba), forms patches in the moister spots; its distribution does not extend west of Edmonton. A total of 140 species have been recorded over the years for the site, of which approx. 9 ha have a predominant cover of more or less native vegetation.

History and Stewardship Information

The Prairie is managed jointly by Leduc County and the Alberta Native Plant Council under a joint stewardship and management agreement which was renewed in 2016. Leduc County is responsible for the infrastructure, including signs and fences, and will mow and herbicide upon ANPC request if labour and time is available. ANPC is responsible for promoting awareness of the Prairie’s natural history, and for providing volunteers to undertake various stewardship tasks such as weed control. Volunteer work also includes rehabilitation of disturbed areas by removing non-natives and transplanting natives, in many cases grown from seed collected in the Prairie by members of the Edmonton Native Plant Society. 

We are in constant need of volunteers who enjoy gardening and weed-pulling. The site is a relatively short drive from south Edmonton districts, Beaumont, Nisku and Leduc. Anyone wishing to volunteer at Nisku Prairie should contact Patsy Cotterill at

For an updated Stewardship Report December 2021 please click here.

Big Sagebrush Candidate Natural Area (now encompassed within Castle Provincial Park)

An example of a conservation win! Big Sagebrush Candidate Natural Area is now fully encompassed within Castle Provincial Park.

Situated in the southwest corner of Alberta, the area’s name comes from the presence of Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) a provincially rare plant (S2) that can be found thriving in this area. All known occurrences are restricted to the southwest corner of the province, which forms the northeastern border of its range in North America.

This area is also home to over 300 other plant species, including 15 rare species. Among the rare plants found here are: one-flowered cancer root (Orobanche uniflora), slender bog orchid (Plantanthera stricta), large flowered lungwort (Mertensia paniculata) and shrubby beardtongue (Penstemon fruticosus).

The area remains largely in a pristine undisturbed state. Human impact is limited to light cattle grazing, horseback riding, hiking, and some camping and historic ATV use along the road that runs alongside the area.