Ministry of Environment

Ecology

PART II
Ecoregion Unit Descriptions

 

Humid Temperate Ecodomain

This Ecodomain covers most of the mid-latitudes of North America from the east coast to the west. In British Columbia it includes the continental slope and shelf, all the coastal islands, adjacent mountains, the central interior plateau, and the southern interior mountains. The climate is characterized by strong seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation with a distinct winter. In British Columbia this ecodomain is subdivided into two ecodivisions.

Humid Maritime and Highlands Ecodivision

Coast & Mountains Ecoprovince
Georgia Depression Ecoprovince
Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince
Southern Alaska Mountains Ecoprovince

This Ecodivision occurs along the coast from the western edge of the Continental Slope eastward to the effective height of land on the Coast Mountains, including the Nass Basin and Nass Ranges. It extends the length of the coast from Vancouver Island, Puget Sound and the northern Cascade Ranges to the Panhandle of Alaska. Its climate is temperate and rainy with warm summers. Precipitation is abundant through the year but is markedly reduced in summer. There is much cloud cover. The natural vegetation is usually a coniferous forest of Douglas-fir, western redcedar, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, amabilis fir, and yellow-cedar. It contains some of the world's largest trees and some of the densest coniferous forests. In drier parts of the extreme south of the province, it contains arbutus and Garry oak communities.

In British Columbia this ecodivision is subdivided into two ecoprovinces.

COM - Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince

Location – The Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince extends from the southeastern Alaska to the northern Cascade Mountains in Washington. In British Columbia it includes the windward side of the Coast Mountains and Vancouver Island, all of the Queen Charlotte Islands, and the Continental Shelf including Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and the Vancouver Island Shelf. The Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince consists of the large coastal mountains, a broad coastal trough and the associated lowlands, islands and continental shelf, as well as the insular mountains on Vancouver Island and the Haida Gwaii (formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands) archipelago.

Climate - The major climatic processes involve the arrival of frontal systems from the Pacific Ocean and the subsequent lifting of those systems over the coastal mountains. In winter, oceanic low-pressure systems dominate the area and pump moist, mild air onto the south and central coast. In summer, high-pressure systems occur over the northeastern Pacific Ocean and frontal systems become less frequent and tend to strike the coast further north in the Gulf of Alaska.

Various climatic subregions can be distinguished by, the frequency of arriving fronts, the height of the mountains, the importance of rainshadow effects, and the frequency of Arctic air outbreaks. The southern coastal areas of Vancouver Island and the Pacific Ranges are subjected to less frontal systems. Where the coastal mountains are very high, they impede the passage of moist air into the interior. The central coast, Hecate Lowlands, and Kitimat Ranges are subjected to the greatest frequency of frontal systems. However, the central Coast Mountains are the lowest on the coast and the moist, oceanic air can move into the interior easily. The north coast, the Boundary Ranges, and the mountains of the Alaska Panhandle are subjected to less frequent frontal systems. The mountains there are very high and block the passage of moist, oceanic air into the interior. Rainshadow effects occur on the lee of the Haida Gwaii Islands, in the Queen Charlotte Lowlands and on the mainland, in the Nass Basin. Those areas have drier conditions than other areas on the coast. The Nass Basin in addition, is subjected to frequent outbreaks of cold, dense Arctic air in winter.

Oceanography - There is a strong estuarine gradient across this Ecoprovince, from the freshwater discharges into fjords, across the protected continental shelf to the outer continental shelf. Fjord zones are very common; nearly all large rivers empty into fjords, rather than directly onto the continental shelf. The Outer Continental Shelf, west of Vancouver Island, has the greatest salinity of any shelf area in the province, being exposed to the open Pacific Ocean. Extreme wind and wave exposure occurs on the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, whereas more protected coasts occur in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and inshore areas. Upwelling from the adjacent continental slope enhances the productivity of the nutrients and plankton. The inner continental shelf in the Hecate Depression is a semi-enclosed estuarine environment. Fresh water from river and stream discharge is poorly mixed and the surface layer is merely brackish. The area is rich in nutrients, providing and abundance of prey species for diving birds and large fish. A near shore zone surrounds all the islets, islands and mainland, with a strong intertidal zone as the dominant interface between land and sea. The near shore zone is the where point waves begin to break, has a variety of microhabitats. Perhaps the most important is the intertidal zone - that area between the highest and lowest tides. The exposed parts of the beaches are the least used near shore habitat; the pounding surf is too harsh for most birds.

The sandy intertidal areas provide spawning habitat for the Pacific sand lance and Pacific herring, which are important prey species for alcids, gulls, cormorants, Orca, harbour seal, and Pacific salmon. Much of the constantly washed area of the rocky intertidal zone is occupied by mussels, which provide and excellent food source for many waterbird species. The inter-island channels and sounds provide protected habitat for many birds. Most of that shoreline is rocky and steep but with the influx of nutrients from rivers and streams it is ideal habitat for mussels. The steep-sided fjords are usually quite barren. A shelf at their mouths, pushed up by glaciers, inhibits circulation and encourages the formation of a thick layer of fresh water on the surface. Only in the estuaries at the heads of the inlets does the freshwater create habitat for a wide variety of species. With the exception of the Nass and Skeena rivers and the Skidegate Inlet, most estuaries in the Ecoprovince are medium to small in size. Estuaries provide 3 basic habitats: mudflats, marshes, and eelgrass beds. All 3 contain invertebrates that are exposed at low tides and attract flocks of migrant and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds; when covered by the rising tides those same invertebrates are an important food source for both young and mature Pacific salmon.

Vegetation - Vegetation is dominated by the Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock zones, Alpine Tundra Zone and glaciers occur on the mountain summits, Interior Cedar - Hemlock occurs in the Nass Basin, and transitional Interior Douglas-fir, Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir, Boreal White and Black Spruce and Sub-Boreal Spruce occur along some of the eastern-most valleys. The subalpine zone is a narrow belt on the summits or upper slopes, and is composed of yellow-cedar and mountain hemlock, with blueberries and dense moss. Wet meadows are frequently found as part of the subalpine mosaic. The alpine vegetation zone is rare, with heaths formed by mountain-heathers.

Three lowland habitats that may be used by marine birds are of special interest. Rocky islets and shoreline cliffs, usually with herbaceous or shrubby vegetative cover are important bird nesting and roosting habitats. Estuarine habitats, with tufted hairgrass, sedges, rushes, glasswort, and silverweed are found at the mouths of the many rivers and streams. Low relief areas on the coastal plains and lowlands contain extensive areas of wetland vegetation. Those wetlands range from open bogs to scrubby muskeg forests of shore pine, western redcedar, and yellow-cedar. There is usually extensive development of sedges, Labrador tea, crowberry, and thick mats of sphagnum.

Fauna – The Columbia and Sitka Black-Tailed Deer are the only common large terrestrial ungulates to occur throughout this ecoprovince. Mountain Goats are widespread but restricted to rugged areas in the Coast Mountains. Moose occur mainly in the eastern valleys, and Elk are only an occasional visitor to a few of those eastern valleys. American Black Bears occur throughout this ecoprovince, Grey Wolves are absent from the Haida Gwaii; cougars are absent from the Boundary Ranges and Haida Gwaii, while Grizzly Bears occur only on the mainland except in the south where they have been extirpated. The white race of American Black Bear – the Kermode Bear occurs here, mainly on Princess Royal Island.  The Sea Otter was once one of the most abundant shellfish predators, and the North American River Otter is still numerous and very widespread. Northern Sea Lions and Harbour Seals occur along the coastal areas and the Killer Whale is a common marine inhabitant.

Characteristic small terrestrial mammals include the Keen’s myotis, and mink. There are many distinct island races of Townsend’s vole and white-footed mouse.

The Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince holds the second highest number of birds in British Columbia, supporting 80% of all species known to occur in the province and 60% of those species known to breed. Waterbirds make extensive use of the coastal wetlands as well as near shore and offshore habitats, including islands, islets, and cliffs. The colonial breeding seabirds are of note, and many of those species breed nowhere else in Canada. Offshore habitats provide feeding sites for pelagic birds like the Black-footed Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, jaegers, Northern Fulmar, gulls, and some shorebirds. Breeding Red-throated Loons and Spotted Owls are mostly restricted to this Ecoprovince. Some resident species, including the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Black Oystercatcher, contain significant portions of their world populations here. In winter, the estuaries and shores support most of the world’s population of Trumpeter Swans and Barrow’s Goldeneyes. The coast is also an important corridor for millions of migrating birds, especially shorebirds and waterfowl. The Townsend’s Warbler is a high-density breeder on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii. The Western Flycatcher is a high-density breeder on Haida Gwaii.

The centre of abundance of the northwestern garter snake occurs here. The rough-skinned newt, northwestern salamander, western red-backed salamander, ensatina, clouded salamander, and red-legged frog are amphibians whose range is mostly restricted to the Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince.

This ecoprovince supports a wide variety of fish, from purely oceanic species such as rockfish, sole, Pacific herring, Pacific halibut and spiny dogfish, to fish that spawn in freshwater, but live as adults in marine waters, such as the Pacific salmon, including steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden char and eulachon, through to the species that only live in fresh water, such as Coast Range sculpin and torrent sculpin.

In addition to fish the marine environment supports a wide variety of clams, barnacles, shrimp, crabs, starfish and jellyfish.

Ecoprovince Subdivisions

The Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince is divided into eight ecoregions containing 23 terrestrial ecosections and 3 aquatic marine ecosections.

BOU - Boundary Ranges Ecoregion
This ecoregion is located in northwestern British Columbia and adjacent southeastern Alaska; it is a rugged, largely ice-capped, granitic and metamorphic-based mountain range that rises abruptly from the coast; in British Columbia it grades into the adjacent Yukon – Stikine Highlands. A large alpine tundra zone mainly of large icefields, glaciers and barren rock dominates the landscape above the forests. Forested vegetation consists of the subalpine or Mountain Hemlock zone on the lower valley slopes; and, Coastal Western Hemlock zone on the valley bottoms where Sitka Spruce becomes codominant with western hemlock; amabilis fir is not found here; In British Columbia this ecoregion consists of three ecosections.

  • CBR - Central Boundary Ranges Ecosection

    This is a rugged mountain area this is capped by large icefields, and exposed granite. This area was heavily impacted by large sheets of ice that originated along the crest of the mountains. Many large remnant icefields and glaciers remain on the summits. This area is dissected in the south by the large Stikine and Iskut river valleys; as well by the Whiting River. The Stikine River is the sole access corridor through this ecosection. This ecosection extends across the border into Alaska from Blake Channel north to Port Snettisham Inlet. In British Columbia it is drained by the tributaries of the Iskut and Stikine rivers; in Alaska is drained by short rivers entering directly in sounds, fjords and channels that occur on the west side of this ecosection; Chutine and Whiting are the only large lakes in B.C.

    This ecosection is heavily affected by moist Pacific air lying in the Gulf of Alaska and by cold Arctic air the passes over these mountains for the northeast. The large western facing valleys allow moist Pacific air to pass through to the interior and for cold Arctic air to pass onto the neighbouring Alaska panhandle. Wet Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock forests occur on the lower windward slopes in Alaska and up the Stikine and Iskut river valleys; on the lower slopes, particularly in B.C., cold and moist, Sub-Boreal Spruce forest grow. Cold, Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur at slightly higher elevations above the Sub-Boreal Spruce forests. Alpine areas are extensive, but are mainly barren rock or ice covered.

    There are no communities or settlements in British Columbia, nor are there any in Alaska, although in Alaska there are many home sites along the shores of the Stikine River. There are no roads here, most access is either by riverboat or aircraft. Except for some mineral exploration there are no roads in British Columbia. In British Columbia Great Glacier Park is located west of the Stikine River above the confluence of the Iskut River.

  • NBR - Northern Boundary Ranges Ecosection

    This is a rugged mountain area this is capped by large icefields, and exposed granite. This area was heavily impacted by large sheets of ice that originated along the crest of the mountains. Many large remnant icefields and glaciers remain on the summits. This area is dissected in the south by the large Stikine and Iskut river valleys; as well by the Whiting River. The Stikine River is the sole access corridor through this ecosection. This ecosection extends across the border into Alaska from Blake Channel north to Port Snettisham Inlet. In British Columbia it is drained by the tributaries of the Iskut and Stikine rivers; in Alaska is drained by short rivers entering directly in sounds, fjords and channels that occur on the west side of this ecosection; Chutine and Whiting are the only large lakes in B.C.

    This ecosection is heavily affected by moist Pacific air lying in the Gulf of Alaska and by cold Arctic air the passes over these mountains for the northeast. The large western facing valleys allow moist Pacific air to pass through to the interior and for cold Arctic air to pass onto the neighbouring Alaska panhandle. Wet Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock forests occur on the lower windward slopes in Alaska and up the Stikine and Iskut river valleys; on the lower slopes, particularly in B.C., cold and moist, Sub-Boreal Spruce forest grow. Cold, Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur at slightly higher elevations above the Sub-Boreal Spruce forests. Alpine areas are extensive, but are mainly barren rock or ice covered.

    There are no communities or settlements in British Columbia, nor are there any in Alaska, although in Alaska there are many home sites along the shores of the Stikine River. There are no roads here, most access is either by riverboat or aircraft. Except for some mineral exploration there are no roads in British Columbia. In British Columbia Great Glacier Park is located west of the Stikine River above the confluence of the Iskut River.

  • SBR - Southern Boundary Ranges Ecosection

    This is an area of wet rugged mountains that are capped with glaciers, small icefields and exposed granitic and metamorphic bedrock. This area was heavily impacted by large sheets of ice that originated along the crest of the mountains. Many large remnant icefields and glaciers remain on the summits. The Unuk River dissects these mountains, and several smaller ones, such as: the Craig, Bradfield, upper Bowser, Salmon and Bear drain directly into marine channels or sounds. The Portland Canal and its smaller reaches cut into the southern portion of this ecosection in British Columbia. This ecosection extends westward over the crest of mountains into Alaska, as far west as Behm Canal and Revillagigedo Channel. There are no lakes of any appreciable size in B.C.

    All the channels and sounds in the protected waters of the Southern Boundary ranges are classified as part of the North Coast Marine Ecosection.

    Moist Pacific air moves over this ecosection bringing intense precipitation to the windward slopes and adjacent mountains in the northern interior of British Columbia. While at the same time it also allows cold Arctic air to pass down the Portland Canal through onto the Dixon Entrance onto the north coast of B.C. Forests are either very wet, such as Coastal Western Hemlock forests in the lower slopes of Portland Canal and Unuk River valley in B.C. or the lower, western slopes in Alaska; or cold and wet such as the subalpine Mountain Hemlock forests that occur on all the middle elevation slopes in both B.C. and Alaska. Alpine areas are extensive, but are mainly barren rock or ice covered.

    The communities of Stewart and Kincolith in B.C. and Hyder, Alaska are the only settlements here and occur near the southern boundary in Portland Canal. The Stewart Highway (No. 37A) connects Stewart and Hyder with the Cassiar Highway through the Bear River valley. Mining has occurred in the past, particularly in the Bear River valley. Craig Headwaters and Lava Forks parks are located along the British Columbia/Alaska boundary, while Ksi Xts’atKw/Stagoo Conservancy is located on the west central side of Observatory Inlet. In Alaska it is under the management of either Tongass National Forest or Misty Fjords National Monument.

COG - Coastal Gap Ecoregion1
This area consists of rounded, granitic and metamorphic mountains that were overridden by past glaciations; they are lower in relief than mountain ranges to either the north or south, but matterhorns project higher than the normal glaciated mountains. Valley sides are rugged and steep. Because of their lower relief, they allow considerable eastern moving Pacific moisture to enter the interior of the province and cold Arctic air to breakout onto this segment of the coast. Wet coastal forests dominate but on the upper elevations there are extensive areas of alpine but often only barren rock.

  • HEL - Hecate Lowland Ecosection

    This is an area of low relief, consisting of portions of the mainland coast, islands, channels, sounds and fjords, the uplands are rocky and the lowlands are boggy. The bedrock is primarily granitic that has been warped upwards towards the east and within the lowland the topography may be quite rough even though the total relief is not great. In contrast, however, there are areas where a flat low plain, mostly below 50 m elevation. Glaciers moving west out of the Kitimat Ranges buried this area for considerable periods. The western boundary of the ecosection lies adjacent to Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound; the eastern boundary is a break in slope between the lowlands to the west and the higher Coast Mountains to the east. It extends from Portland Canal southward to Queen Charlotte Strait. There are no major streams and most small streams empty directly into marine waters. The lowlands contain many large and small lakes and wetlands.

    All the channels and sounds in the protected waters of the Hecate Lowland are classified as part of the North Coast Fjords Marine Ecosection.

    Moist Pacific air moves over this ecosection bringing intense precipitation to the windward slopes and adjacent mountains in to the east. While at the same time when cold Arctic air build over the central interior of the province it can pass over the low Kitimat Ranges bringing cold and deep snows for short periods. Forests are very wet and dominated by Coastal Western Hemlock forests, only on the highest summits does wet, Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests grow. There are occupied by large expanses of muskeg where drainage is poorly developed.

    The port city of Prince Rupert is the largest community here, smaller settlements such as, Port Simpson, Hartley Bay, Bella Bella and Campbell Island occur here as well. Except for the terminus of the Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) into Prince Rupert there are no major roads in this ecosection most access is by boat or aircraft. The Inside Passage Ferry Route passes through the length of this ecosection from Cape Caution in the south to Prince Rupert in the north with a stop at Campbell Island. Clearcut logging with it attendant road network has occurred in the accessible upland forests. There are numerous representative parks and conservancies here: Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy is the largest protected area and Klewnuggit Inlet Marine, Lowe Inlet Marine, Union Passage Marine, Codville Lagoon Marine, Penrose Island, Hakai Luxvbalis and Calvert Island are some or the other, smaller parks and conservancies.

  • KIM - Kimsquit Mountains Ecosection

    This area is comprised of rounded granitic mountains that are characteristically round-topped, dome-like mountains with cirques on their north and northeastern sides. These mountains were overridden by ice that had originated along the crest between the coast and interior, rounding these already low summits and digging out the fjords. This is a narrow inter-mountain area that rises above the lower Chilcotin Plateau to the east to the west it is separated from other Kitimat Range mountains by being in a rainshadow. It extends from the Bella Coola valley in the south to the north side of Morice Lake in the north. Many streams drain this ecosection, the Morice and Nanika drain northward into the Bulkley River; the Kimsquit and Dean flow into Dean Channel, and the Bella Coola River flows into North Bentick Arm of Burke Channel. There are several large lakes that occur wholly or in part here, these are mainly on east side of the coast divide, and include: Morice, Nanika, Tahtsa, Troistsa, Whitesail and Eutsuk lakes, the latter four being part of the multi armed reservoir that formed behind the Kenny Dam; there are no large lakes on the coastal side of this ecosection.

    All the channels and sounds in the protected waters of the Kimsquit Mountains are classified as part of the North Coast Fjords Marine Ecosection.

    This is an inland - coastal rainshadow area with a mild transitional climate that occurs on the eastern portions of the ecoregion. The climate is characterized by moist, warm summers, and cool to cold winters with relatively heavy amounts of wet snowfall or rain. While the fjords of the Kitimat Ranges physiographic unit runs east to west many of the river valleys in this ecosection lie north-south, thus the adjacent mountains provide some relief from the easterly flow of moist Pacific air. Those valleys also trap cold Arctic air after it is has moved over this area. Lower elevation coastal forests are mild Coastal Western Hemlock, this forest type occurs on the interior side in the low mountain passes. Moist Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests occur on all the upper slopes on the coastal side; while on the interior side, moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests grow on the upper slopes. Alpine is very common on the upper ridges and mountaintops, it can be heavily vegetated, but often it is only barren rock.

     Bella Coola and Hagensburg are the only settlements here and are located in the southern portion of the ecosection; the Chilcotin-Bella Coola Highway (No. 20) from Williams Lake services these communities. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has occurred in the Kimsquit, Dean and Bella Coola river valleys, access was gained via the marine waters. Small scale agriculture occurs in the Bella Coola valley. There are several large representative protected areas in this ecosection such as: Atna River, the western two-thirds of Morice Lake and the western portion of northern Tweedsmuir parks. In addition to parks there are a number of conservancies that have been established for wildlife conservation concerns, such as: the eastern portion of Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees-Kitlope Heritage Conservancy. As well, the Naxalk-Carrier grease trail (also called the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail) cuts southward, through the eastern portion of the ecosection from the Dean River south up the Tahyesco River valley and down into the Bella Coola River valley at Burnt Bridge Creek.

  • KIR - Kitimat Ranges Ecosection

    This is an area of subdued, yet steep-sided mountains that have been dissected by several fjords. The mountains are largely eroded granitic rock that has resulted in bold, impressive, massive mountains. In places the exposed granite has developed grand scale sheeting, so that dome-like mountains have huge rock slabs peeling from their sides and tops. The deep fjords that penetrate into the heart of this ecosection are also characteristic feature. These mountains were overridden by ice that had originated along the crest between the coast and interior, rounding these already low summits and digging out the fjords. This ecosection extends from Portland Canal in the north, to Burke Channel in the south. It rises above the Hecate Lowland to the west and is bounded on the east by similar, but drier mountains. There are many medium-sized lakes including: Kitlope, Kildala, Crab, Foch, Khtada and Alastair and many small lakes. As well, many inlets, sounds and fjords dissect this area. There is a short section of the lower Skeena River that runs through here, as well, this ecosection is drained by: the Ishkheenickh, Khutzeymateen, Exchamsks, Gitnadoix, Ecstall, lower Kitimat, Kildala, and many shorter streams that empty directly into the marine waters.

    All the channels and sounds in the protected waters of the Kitimat Ranges are classified as part of the North Coast Fjords Marine Ecosection.

    Wet Pacific air rises over these mountain bringing heavy precipitation and cloud cover. In the winter cold Arctic air can invade from over the central interior of the province, but such extreme cold weather is usually of short duration. The valleys and lower and mid-slopes are dominated by wet, cold Coastal Western Hemlock forests; while at higher elevations wet, cold Mountain Hemlock subalpine forest dominate.

    Kitimat is the only town remaining here (Kemano, Ocean Falls, Butedale are now closed except for occasional summer recreation purposes). There are only two short stretches of highways here: the Yellowhead Trans-Canada Highway (No. 16) (and the Canadian National Railway) passes through on the north side of the Skeena River and the Kitimat-Cassiar Highway (No. 37) connects Kitimat with Terrace. The Inside Passage ferry route passes between the east side of Princess Royal Island and the mainland. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has occurred in all the accessible valleys, such as the Kitimat and Skeena river valleys; much of the logging was marine based. Several protected areas represent this ecosection, such as: the Khutzeymateen, Gitnadoix River, Foch-Gilttoyees, and Fiordland parks and the western part of Kitlope Heritage Conservancy.

  • NCF – North Coast Fjords
    This is the marine waters area that occurs east of Hecate Strait. It consists of narrow deep fjords, channels and sounds that cut through mainly high relief. These waters are very protected, with restricted circulation that often is strongly stratified by freshwater flowing out of the mountains and lying over brackish marine water. Glacial activity coupled with extreme faulting during past mountain-building episodes has created many steep, straight-sided fjords, channels and sounds.

1 There has been a push by some Non-Government Environmental Organizations (NGEO’s), working on forest management and wildlife conservation issues in the central and northern coastal areas of the province, to call this area the Great Bear Rainforest or the Spirit Bear Rainforest. As their area of concern is much greater than just the area of the Coastal Gap Ecoregion, their name for the area was not considered as a possible name for this ecoregion.

GWH - Gwaii Haanas Ecoregion2
This is an isolated group of islands that range from lowland muskeg, wet coastal forest to rugged upland subalpine. The core of most of these islands is granitic, but volcanic rocks are also present. The ecoregion consists of two larger islands and over 150 smaller islands, islets and reefs. These islands were glaciated by a local ice cap that covered the island during the last ice age. There are three ecosections in this ecoregion.


  • QCL - Queen Charlotte Lowland Ecosection
    This is an area of low relief, poor drainage and extensive muskegs and wetlands in the northeastern part of Haida Gwaii. This ecosection is underlain by basaltic lava and sedimentary rocks all covered by a thin layer of till. The movement of glacial ice from the adjacent mountain across this lowland has left drumlin-like forms and deep drift deposits. That eventually joined with ice from Alaskan and mainland glaciers in Dixon entrance. Masset Inlet and Naden Harbour separate the uplands into three units, and it is drained by small streams that originate on this lowland, such as Jalun, Christie, Hancock, Hielien and Tlell, streams; Yakoon River originates in the adjacent plateau before emptying into Masset Inlet. Mayer Lake is the only large lake, but there are many smaller ones.


    The north-facing marine waters, such as Naden Harbour, Masset Inlet and Masset Sound are classified as part of the Dixon Entrance Marine Ecosection; while Skidegate Inlet is classified as part of the Hecate Strait Marine Ecosection.

    This area lies in a slight rainshadow of the Queen Charlotte Ranges to the west however Pacific air can easily flow over here bringing intense rainfall and cloud cover. Arctic air seldom invades this area and then only for brief periods. Wet Coastal Western Hemlock forest are the only ones to grow here, much of the upland is muskeg or wetlands.



    The community of Port Clements was built at the south end of Masset Inlet, and the communities of Masset and Haida (Old Masset) were established at the mouth of Masset Sound, while Skidegate and Sandspit have been established on opposite sides of the Skidegate Inlet. The Queen Charlotte section of the Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) the only paved highway connects Haida and Masset with Port Clements and Queen Charlotte City, but a major gravel industrial road connects Port Clements to Queen Charlotte City. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has occurred throughout on the non-muskeg uplands. Livestock grazing has been carried out but only on a very small scale. There are several representative protected area in this ecosection; Naikoon Park has been established on the muskeg and sandy beaches in the northeastern portion of this ecosection; as well, Kumdis Conservancy located along the shoreline from Virago Sound east to and up Masset Sound, Yaaguun Gandlaay and Tlall conservancies have been establish on the southeast side of this ecosection and the northeastern portion of Duu Guusd Conservancy has been established west of Virago Sound.

  • QCR - Queen Charlotte Ranges Ecosection
    This area is the very wet, rugged western side of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, despite their low relief these mountains are extremely rugged and their serrated peaks have been sculpted into cirques by locally generated glaciers during the past ice age. Granitic rocks occur from Tasu Sound to Nagas Point and of the high range between Skidegate Channel and Rennell Sound, much of the rest of this area is volcanic in origin; many of the steep forested slopes are unstable and subject to failure after logging. The ecosection extends the length of the Queen Charlotte Islands from Cape St. James in the south to Langara Island in the north. It is drained to the west by short streams that enter directly into the Pacific Ocean. The western margin is highly dissected by sounds, channels and short fjords.

    All the channels, sounds and fjords are classified as part of the Continental Shelf Marine Ecoregion.

    This area is very wet, as it receives Pacific storms directly off the Pacific Ocean, often covering these ranges in a blanket of think clouds. Very wet Coastal Western Hemlock forest dominate the lower to mid-slopes and very wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests grown on the upper slopes, alpine communities are rare because these are low mountains.

    There are a few native villages, but most of the logging communities have been abandoned. Most roads, except the road from Queen Charlotte City to Rennell Sound, are short as logs were taken into the marine water for rafting to sawmill sites. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has occurred on the accessible slopes, valleys and islands. Everything south of Tasu Sound in the west and Dana Inlet in the east has been placed into the Gwaii Haanas National Park; Duu Guusd Conservancy extends form Langara Island south to Rennell Sound, Daawuuxusda Conservancy extends from Rennell Sound on Graham Island south to the national park on Moresby island; as well, the Vladimir J. Krajina Ecological Reserve has been established on both sides of Port Chanal Sound on the southwest side of Graham Island.

  • SKP - Skidegate Plateau Ecosection
    This is a dissected plateau that lies in the lee of the Queen Charlotte Mountains to the west and extends from Pivot Mountain in the north of Graham Island south to Juan Perez Sound on the east side of Moresby Island. It is comprised of highly dissected volcanic rocks; glaciers that originated in the higher mountains to the west moved over this area rounding it profile. Many short streams dissect this area flowing eastward into Dixon Entrance or Hecate Strait, the longest is the Yakoun River; Eden, Yakoun and Skidegate lakes are the three largest in this ecosection and indeed on the entire ecoregion. This plateau is greatly dissected by Masset, Skidegate, Cumshewa, and Selwyn inlets, and Darwin Sound.

    All the channels and sounds in the protected waters of the Skidegate Plateau are classified as part of the Hecate Strait Marine Ecosection.

    This area lies in a slight rainshadow of the Queen Charlotte Ranges to the west however Pacific air can easily flow over here bringing intense rainfall and cloud cover. Arctic air seldom invades this area and then only for brief periods. Wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests are the dominant low and mid-elevation forest; wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forest occur on only the highest ridges nearest to the height of land.

    Queen Charlotte City and Skidegate are the main communities remaining now in the past many communities were established by the native peoples and by logging communities, the later were only to be of a short duration. Most roads were built for hauling logs, but there is a short extension of the Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) between Skidegate and Queen Charlotte City, and there are all weather roads between Queen Charlotte City and Port Clements and from Sandspit to the head of Cumshewa Inlet. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has been intensive in this ecosection. The southernmost portion of this ecosection, from Laskeek Bay to Juan Perez Sound, has been placed into the Gwaii Haanas National Park for its ecological value and to protect Haida villages and historic sites; a small portion of Duu Guusd Conservancy has been established in the north of this ecosection and a small portion of the Daawuuxusda Conservancy has been established in the upper Yakoun watershed.

2 The name Gwaii Haanas was used because it refers to the ‘beautiful islands’ and it is generic, but still pertains to the Haid 1 - a Gwaii; Haida Gwaii was not used as it is more politically charged; finally Queen Charlotte Islands was not used because of the recent push to use a First Nation name when referring to those islands, although only the archipelago has been renamed by the provincial government in 2009 to Haida Gwaii, however, all other physiographic units named ‘Queen Charlotte’ still retain that name.

NRA - Nass Ranges Ecoregion
This is a transitional coastal-interior area lying leeward of the main Kitimat Ranges physiographic unit, subdued, smooth rounded mountains with a strong rainshadow effect on the leeward slopes and basins, but the mountains and ridges on the western windward slopes are more rugged. The mountains in the east are underlain by volcanic and sedimentary (and small granitic batholiths) rock. The mountains to the west are comprised mainly of the coast granitic rocks. Vegetation consists of Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock on the windward slopes and Interior Cedar – Hemlock and Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir on the leeward slopes. It consists of four ecosections.

  • NAB - Nass Basin Ecosection
    This is an irregular shaped basin of low relief that is encircled by sharply rising mountains, the Boundary Ranges to the west, the Hazelton Mountains on the south and the Skeena Mountains on the east. Rock underlying this basin are predominantly volcanic and the relief is flat or gently rolling. Ice from the Boundary Ranges and Skeena Mountains flowed down out over the these flat lands down the Nass River, or down the Kispiox River to the Skeena River, or even over the Nass Ranges to the Skeena. There are many meandering streams, wetlands and small lakes, however, this ecosection is drained primarily by the Bell-Irving, Kwinageese, White and Kinskuch rivers that flow into the lower Nass River; and by the Kispiox River that flows into the Skeena River. Swan Lake is the largest that is wholly within this ecosection both Meziadin and Bowser lakes have only their eastern halves here.

    The climate is intermediate between the cool, wet conditions of the outer coast and the drier, conditions of the interior of the province. These mountains provide protection from Pacific storms but also trap cold Arctic air in the winter and spring bringing periods of intense cold and snowy conditions thus the climate of this basin is transitional between the wet mild coast, and cold, dry interior. The cold, Arctic air that invades this basin allows a more interior forest type, the Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests to grow on the valley floor. Subalpine forests of Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir occurs on the few higher hills and ridges.

    The settlements in this ecosection are all First Nation villages that include: New Aiyansh, Gitwinksihlkw, Aiyansh and Kispiox. The Kitimat-Cassiar Highway (No. 37) passes through on the west side from Hazelton to the Bell-Irving River; and the Nisga’a Highway (No. 113) from Terrace, connects New Aiyansh with Highway No. 37 at Cranberry Junction. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has been extensive and occurs throughout. The northern portion of Anhluut'ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga'Asanskwhl Nisga'a Park is located near the mouth of the Nass River and the western half of Swan Lake-Kispiox River Park is located on the eastern margin around Swan Lake and the adjacent upper Kispiox River.

  • CRU - Cranberry Upland Ecosection
    The mountains and ridges here are subdued sedimentary and volcanic rocks that have rounded summits showing signs of heavily glaciation. Ice from the Skeena Mountains flowed down unimpeded over the flat lands of the Nass Basin down the Kispiox River to the Skeena River, or even over the this ecosection to the Skeena. The northward flowing Bulkley River joins the south-westward flowing Skeen River here and there are many small streams that flow into either river such as: Suskwa, Kitseguecla and Kitwancool streams; Kitwanga is the only large lake here.

    This area is in a strong rainshadow but at times large Pacific air masses can stall over the mountains to the east bringing heavy rain and a thick layer of clouds. Cold Arctic air flowing over the mountains to the north and east can bring short periods of extreme cold temperatures, and the interaction of cold air with the wet Pacific air brings deep snow. Valleys and lower slopes on the western side have wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests, the upper slopes have wet, transitional Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests and the alpine is thickly vegetated or barren rock. On the eastern portion of the ecosection, cold Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests grow in the valley bottoms and lower slopes, giving way to cold Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests on the mid- to-upper slopes. The alpine is less lush here, but barren rock is still common.

    There are several small communities here including Kitwanga, Hazelton, New Hazelton, South Hazelton and Moricetown. The Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) passes through, above the Skeena River from Kitwanga to Moricetown and the Kitimat-Cassiar Highway (No.37) connects Kitwanga with Dease Lake. The Canadian National Railway is located above the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers from Moricetown to Kitwanga. Logging with its attendant roads has been extensive throughout this ecosection, except for the higher peaks. There are no large parks in this ecosection.

  • MEM - Meziadin Mountains Ecosection
    This is a rugged, granitic mountain area, lying on the leeward side of the main Boundary Ranges and west of the low Nass Basin. It extends from the lower Nass River and estuary north to mounts Knipple and Anderson on the north side of Bowser Lake and the upper Bowser River. Ice that formed in the Boundary Ranges moved east into the Nass Basin, coalescing with ice moving south from the adjacent Skeena Mountains the entire then moved down out the Nass Valley to the Dixon Entrance or south through Cranberry Upland Ecosection to the Skeena River valley. The mountain summits still have small icefields or glaciers. It is drained by: the upper Bowser River and many small streams that empty into the Nass River. There are two large lakes: Bowser and Meziadin, both are only have the western portions in this ecosection.

    There is a strong rainshadow here, as the western summits protect this area from some Pacific air that arrives from over the Boundary Ranges to the west however, some Pacific air can enter into this area via the wide Nass River valley bringing heavy rain and dense cloud cover. In the winter and early spring, cold Arctic air can override the Skeena Mountains to the west and build up along the east side of this ecosection, bringing short periods of intense cold and the interaction of that cold air with them warm Pacific air can lead to heavy snowfalls. The southern east-facing valleys have wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests, with wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests on the upper slopes. The northern portion of this ecosection has cold Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests in the east-facing valleys, with cold Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forest on the mid-to-upper slopes. Alpine can be heavily vegetated or barren rock; many of the larger mountain blocks still have large icefields or small glaciers, such as the Cambria Icefield southwest of Meziadin Lake.

    There are no settlements in this ecosection; the Stewart Highway (No. 37A) connects Stewart (and Hyder, Alaska) a former port community, with the Kitimat-Cassiar Highway (No. 37 at Meziadin Junction through the Bear River Pass. Gingieltl Creek Ecological Reserve is the largest protected area here.

  • NAM - Nass Mountains Ecosection
    This is a rugged, granitic mountain area lying east of the Kitimat Ranges and west of the Nass Basin and Cranberry Upland. These mountains comprise serrate peaks, rounded summits and ridges. The source of lavas forming the recent lava plain along the northern border with the Nass Basin is in the Tsax River valley. This area was heavily glaciated with ice moving over it from the Boundary Ranges and Skeena Mountains to the east, some ice was also locally generated adding to the large moving sheets. As well as many small streams, the Kiteen and Tseax rivers drain into the Nass River; the Kitwanga, Kitsumkalum and Zymoetz rivers drain into the Skeena River; and the Wedeene River drains into the Kitimat River. There are three medium sized lakes: Lava, Kitsumkalum and Lakelse lakes.

    Its climate is somewhat transitional between coastal and interior regimes, but this is the wettest of the four ecosections in this ecoregion because Pacific air easily enters via the wide Skeena River valley or overrides the Kitimat Ranges to the west and then stalls bringing heavy rain and cloud cover. Cold Arctic air occasionally invades from the north and can bring extreme cold temperatures deep snow events for short periods. All the major valley bottoms and lower to mid-slopes have wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests, on the upper slopes wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests grow. The alpine is either heavily vegetated or barren rock; a few small glaciers survive on the north or northeastern-facing cirque basins.

    Terrace is the only large town, Lakelse Lake is a small suburb located to the south on the Kitimat-Cassiar Highway and Usk is a small community on the Canadian National Railroad and Rosswood is located on Kitsumkalum Lake. The Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) passes through along the Skeena River as does the Canadian National Railway; the Nisga’a Highway (No. 113) connects New Aiyansh and the Nisga’a First Nation with Terrace via the Kitsumkalum valley; and the Kitimat-Cassiar Highway (No. 37) connects Terrace with Kitimat. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has been intensive in the large river valleys such as the Kitimat and Kitsumkalum as well as in many of the lower slopes. The two largest protected areas here are: Seven Sisters Park located on the east side of the Skeena River south of Kitwanga; and the Anluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’Asanskwhl Nisga’a Park was established on the extensive lava beds in the Tseax watershed.

PAC - Pacific Ranges Ecoregion
This is the southern-most mountain range of the Coast Mountains. This ecoregion includes all of the Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains as it extends from Burke Channel in the north to the Fraser River Lowland in the south; in addition it extends southward across the Fraser River to include the north-westernmost portion of the Cascade Ranges in Washington as far south as the South Fork of Snoqualmie River. It includes the coastal islands, channels and fjords southeast of Queen Charlotte Sound, otherwise it lies east of the Georgia-Puget Basin, Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait. The mountains are characteristically coastal granites that are high, steep and rugged. This ecoregion is affected by heavy fall and winter rains that bring extreme rainfall or snowfall events from October to March, in some cases however warm subtropical storms can bring intense rainfall from the southwest during the October to early January period. Otherwise winter rain arrives from the Northeast Pacific in the west. Cold Arctic can build up over the interior of the province and then flow down the major valleys onto the coast, or it can build up and overflow the entire Pacific Ranges bringing extreme cold weather and snow for short periods before being forced back into the interior by the Pacific systems.
This ecoregion consists of seven ecosections.

  • CPR - Central Pacific Ranges Ecosection
    This is a rugged, ice-dominated ecosection that has the highest mountains, in British Columbia, south of the St. Elias Mountains and Alsek and Kluane ranges in the far northwestern portion of the province; Mount Waddington is 4016m high and Silverthrone Mountain is 2350m. This ecosection is composed of granitic rocks; the summits diminish to the west with the downward slope of the dissected and eroded surfaces. Ice built up over these mountains flowing northward onto the Chilcotin Plateau or southward into the Strait of Georgia, rounding some of the ridges and mountains and depositing glacial debris over the plateau or in the Georgia Depression. Much of the upper levels still have very large icefields and glaciers with much exposed bedrock. The area is dissected by: the Smokehouse, Klinaklini, Homathko, Southgate and Toba rivers and their accompanying fjords, respectively, Knight, Bute and Toba inlets.

    The fjords classified as the Johnstone Strait Marine Ecosection: these are deep, steep-sided fjords that have been formed along major faults and were deepened and steeped by successive glaciations. The glaciers deposited a shelf of material at the fjord outlets, thus trapping brackish water below the freshwater that comes down the rivers; there is very little mixing of the two water layers.

    Pacific air moving over Queen Charlotte Sound and Strait, or over the Vancouver Island Mountains contain much moisture which it drops on this ecosection as that air rises to pass over into the interior, in so doing it hits cold air and precipitates heavy rains or snow on the ecosection. Dense, cold Arctic air can slide down either the Klinaklini or Homathko valleys bring strong winds and cold temperatures to the coast from the interior, such systems, though are usually short-lived. The valleys and lower elevation slopes are dominated by wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests; while the mid-elevation slopes are dominated by wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests. Vegetated alpine is usually a narrow band above the subalpine and below barren rock or icefields.

    Except for logging and summer sport fishing recreation camps this area has no settlements. There are a few valley bottoms, resource roads for logging radiating out from the estuaries. There are numerous conservancies and two parks here: the Lockhart-Gordon, Tsa-lat/Smokehouse and Catto conservancies are located in the northwestern area; the Dzawadi/Upper Klinaklini River, lower portion of the Homathko – Tatlayoko and the Bishop River parks are located along the eastern boundary; and the Hunwadi/Ahnuhati-Bald Conservancy is located on the west side overland from Kingcome to Knight inlets.

  • EPR - Eastern Pacific Ranges Ecosection
    This is a rugged inland area that has a transitional wet mild coast and dry cold interior climates including some strong rainshadows. This ecosection extends into Washington as far south as the south end of Ross Lake of the dammed Skagit River. These mountains are built of granitic rocks and rise in height from south to north and the northern summits have large icefields. Glaciers passed down out of the mountains and down the Lillooet Valley to the Lower Mainland, or it passed through one of the other more narrow mountain valleys to either Howe Sound or Jarvis Inlet. One of the most recent volcanoes in southern British Columbia, Mount Meager occurs in the headwaters of the Lillooet River, other volcanoes are: Mount Garibaldi and Mount Cayley in the Squamish watershed. The Fraser River Canyon from Boston Bar to Yale and the Coquihalla River cut through on the east side; the Lillooet River, with the north half of Harrison Lake, lies in the middle; the Squamish-Elaho-Glenndining and Chekamus rivers cut through on the west portion of the ecosection.

    Pacific air often passes over this ecosection leaving little precipitation and mild temperatures. In the winter though cold Arctic air and invade this area from the central interior of the province bringing extreme cloud and snow; such systems can become trapped by the Pacific air once it build in strength leaving the large valleys in a temperature inversion with cold temperature and heavy cloud cover for long periods. Almost all the valleys and lower slopes are dominated by moist, mild Coastal Western Hemlock forests, only parts of the Pemberton Valley can have a moist Interior Douglas-fir forest that is more common in the Leeward Pacific Ranges Ecosection to the north. Upper slopes have moist, mild Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests, although some of the northeastern slopes have moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir subalpine forests. Vegetated alpine occurs just above the subalpine forest and above that is usually barren rock; a few icefields and glaciers remain on the higher summits northwest of Lillooet River.

    Several towns and communities have been established here, such as, Whistler, Pemberton, Mount Currie, Hope and Yale; the first three are connected to the Lower Mainland by the Sea-to-Sky Highway (No. 99), and the last two are connected to the Lower Mainland and the interior by the Trans Canada (No. 1), Crowsnest Highway (No.3) and Coquihalla Highway (No. 5). Extensive clearcut logging with its attendant roads has occurred on the lower to mid slopes outside the parks. Pemberton Valley is the most productive agricultural area in the entire Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince. There are a number of large protected areas including: northern three-quarters of Garibaldi Park; most of Clendinning Park; all of Upper Lillooet Park, Upper Soo and Callaghan conservancies and Chilliwack Lake Park; the western half of Skagit Valley and Mehatl parks.

  • JOS - Johnstone Strait Marine Ecosection
    The marine waters include most of the Johnstone Strait and a small portion of the Queen Charlotte Strait marine ecosections. There is much mixing of the marine waters especially through Johnstone Strait with water moving in or out of the Strait of Georgia or Queen Charlotte Strait through this strait depending on tides. Freshwater from the Homathko, Southgate, Klinaklini, Kingcome and Wakeman rivers mixes with marine waters through tidal action here.

  • NPR - Northern Pacific Ranges Ecosection
    This ecosection it has steep, rugged, often ice capped, mountains that rises above the Kitimat Range physiographic unit to the north, but it is somewhat lower than the Central Pacific Ranges to the south. Glaciers built up along the crest of these mountains before moving either eastward onto the Chilcotin Plateau or westward to the coast. It is dissected in part by several deep, narrow river valleys and fjords of the: Machmell and Taleomey rivers; associated Owikeno Lake; Rivers Inlet and Burke Channel fjords. It extends north from the Machmell-Owikeno-Rivers Inlet drainage to Burke Channel in the north and the Atnarko River valley on the east.

    Wet Pacific air rises over these mountain bringing heavy precipitation and cloud cover. In the winter cold Arctic air can invade from over the central interior of the province, but such extreme cold weather is usually of short duration. The valleys and lower and mid-slopes are dominated by wet, cold Coastal Western Hemlock forests; while at higher elevations wet, cold Mountain Hemlock subalpine forest dominate. Alpine areas can have dense vegetation or more often barren rock; alpine glaciers remain on the highest summits.

    Rivers Inlet a former fish cannery village is now a summer recreation fishing site. Clearcut logging with its attendant roads has occurred in the accessible valleys and lower slopes, although much of this ecosection is rugged and inaccessible, in many cases logging was marine based. A narrow, southwestern portion of Tweedsmuir Park lies along the northeastern boundary of this ecosection as well as several conservancies such as: Thorsen Creek, Hot Springs-No Name Creek, Sheemahant and Owikeno conservancies.

  • NWC - Northwestern Cascade Ranges Ecosection
    This is a block of rugged mountains of the north-westernmost segment of the Cascade Ranges that extends northward from Washington to barely enter British Columbia south of the eastern portion of the lower Fraser Valley. It includes the large snowfield draped Baker Mountain volcano. Only a small shoulder of these mountains enters into British Columbia, ending at the south bank of the Fraser River at Bridal Falls. It extends from the international boundary in Washington south to the South Fork Snoqualmie River valley. It is bounded on the west side by the Puget Lowlands and on the east by the dry interior climate of Washington on the crest of the Cascades. These mountains are composed of a mix of metamorphosed volcanic rock, sandstone, shale and limestone that were all folded and thrust-faulted during the mountain building episode of the past 100 million years. In Washington there are several notable volcanoes with Mount Baker at 3285m is the most visible in the Lower Mainland. There has been considerable mountain glacier on these mountains, but the large Cordilleran from British Columbia only went as far south as this ecosection before stalling. In its movement it eroded and rounded the ridges on the west diminishing their heights. In B.C. it is drained by the Chilliwack River; whereas in Washington it is drained by the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaquamish, Skykomish, and Snoqualmie Rivers, Cultus is the only large lake in B.C., there are several large lakes in Washington, including: Tolt Seattle Water Supply Reservoir, Spada, Cavanaugh, Big, Samish, and Whatcom lakes with Shannon and Baker lakes being the two largest.

    Pacific air masses arrive from the Strait of Juan de Fuca a large mountain gap to the west or from either down the Strait of Georgia or from the around the south side of the Olympic Mountains and they can bring intense rainfall events and heavy cloud cover for extended periods. Cold Arctic air can arrive from over the Coast Mountains in B.C. bringing short periods of strong, cold winds and heavy snowfall, but such systems are generally short-lived. Wet, warm Coastal Western Hemlock forests dominate the lower to mid slopes and valleys; wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests occur on the upper slopes and ridges. Alpine vegetation is generally dense but gives way to barren rock and even large snowfields on the higher mountains.

    In British Columbia the small community of Bridal Falls is located along the Trans Canada Highway (No.1); the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline runs between the Fraser River and the Trans Canada Highway. In Washington it is crossed by: Interstate Highway (No. 90) in the South Fork Snoqualmie River valley, State Highway (No. 2) in the Skykomish River valley and North Cascade highway (No. 20) through the Skagit River valley. There are many small communities and settlements in Washington, such as: Concrete, Darrington and Granite Falls. Outside the parks and wilderness areas logging with its attendant roads has been extensive throughout in both British Columbia and Washington. Cultus Lake Park and Liumchen Ecological Reserve are two protected areas in British Columbia. There are several large protected areas in Washington: the northwestern portion of North Cascades National Park; and numerous Wilderness Areas such as Mount Baker and Glacier Peak.

  • OUF - Outer Fiordland Ecosection
    This is an area of low but rugged islands and mainland peninsulas that are dissected by a great many inlets, fjords and sounds. It lies east of Vancouver Island at Johnstone Strait and Discovery Passage, and it extends from the southern area of Queen Charlotte Strait south to the northern area of Georgia Strait. This rugged ecosection is composed mainly of granitic rocks that have been intermixed with volcanic rocks that have been heavily eroded by past glaciations. It is heavily faulted and glaciers passing over have eroded them creating a myriad of channels, sounds, straits and fjords. Glaciers moving down from the adjacent Pacific Ranges overwhelmed this area as it moved both to the north into Queen Charlotte Strait or to the south into the Georgia Basin. There are many short streams that empty straight into the marine waters, and the upland surface has many low elevation lakes with Tom Browne, Fulmore and Heydon being three of the larger ones.

    The marine waters include most of the Johnstone Strait and a small portion of the Queen Charlotte Strait marine ecosections. There is much mixing of the marine waters especially through Johnstone Strait with water moving in or out of the Strait of Georgia or Queen Charlotte Strait through this strait depending on tides. Freshwater from the Homathko, Southgate, Klinaklini, Kingcome and Wakeman rivers mixes with marine waters through tidal action here.

    Pacific air can move down from Hecate Strait over this area before rising over the high mountains to the east bringing periods of intense rainfall and heavy cloud cover. In the summer months hot air from much further south can bring clear skies to the southern portion but it can also bring fog and heavy clouds to the northern portion as the hot air meets the cooler moist air. At times in the winter cold, Arctic air can move down the large valleys that are connected to the interior such as the Klinaklini and Homathko, bring short periods of strong winds and intense cold. Wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests dominate most of this area, only the highest areas have wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests.

    There are many small fishing camps, logging sites, recreational homes and small settlements throughout this ecosection, but there are no large communities. Most access is either by boat or floatplane as there are few all weather roads. Clearcut logging has occurred over all the accessible forests. Commercial and recreational fishing and fish farms all occur here. Of the larger protected areas: East Redonda Island Ecological Reserve, Mains Lake Chain, and Small Inlet parks have been established on the southern islands, while Broughton Archipelago Marine Park has been established on the northern islands.

  • SPR - Southern Pacific Ranges Ecosection
    This is an area of bold, rugged granitic mountains that rises abruptly above the Fraser Valley and Sunshine Coast. Large glaciers built up over the crest of this ecosection before flowing down the valleys and ridges to coalesce in the Strait of Georgia forming a large ice sheet that overwhelmed the entire area. There are several fjords in the northern section that drain into the Strait of Georgia, such as: Indian Arm, Howe Sound and Jervis Inlet. As well there are what can be considered fjord-lakes in the southern portion, such as: Harrison, Stave, Pitt, and Coquitlam lakes that drain into the Fraser River before emptying into the strait; while Powell Lake another fjord-lake occurs in the northern portion above the Sunshine Coast. These fjord-lakes were probably true fjords before the Fraser Lowland build up with sediment. There are many short streams that feed into those bodies of water, Pitt River is one of the largest to originate in this ecosection, while the Squamish River originates to the east before passing through here to Howe Sound.

    The fjords are all part of the Strait of Georgia Marine Ecosection that originates in the adjacent Georgia Depression Ecoprovince. These are typical fjords with steep mountains flanking their margins and having been formed by glacial action in existing faults or weak bedrock fractures. Freshwater from the streams usually lies on top of deeper brackish water with little mixing of the two. Most of the steep outward sills lie in the adjacent ecosections.

    This ecosection is greatly affected by westerly Pacific storms bringing heavy rain and snow from late fall to winter; summers can be dry and warm with occasional rainy periods. During periods of Arctic air outbreaks outflow winds in the Squamish and Lillooet river valleys can bring extreme winds and cold weather those valleys allow that cold air to enter the Puget-Georgia Basin, such severe winter events are generally short-lived. The valleys, lower to mid-slopes have wet Costal Western Hemlock forests; while the upper, forested slopes are dominated by wet, Mountain Hemlock subalpine. Alpine vegetation is usually dense, but barren rock becomes common on the highest ridges and mountaintops.

    Squamish and several small communities, such as Lions Bay, Brackendale and Harrison Lake occur here. The Sea to Sky Highway (No. 99) passes through from West Vancouver to the village of Whistler and Pemberton and the Lougheed Highway (No. 7) passes along the north side of the Fraser River between Hope and Agassiz. Except in the several parks intensive clearcut logging, with its attendant roads has occurred on all the valleys and lower slopes. Several large parks have been established here, including: Golden Ears, Pinecone – Burke, Indian Arm, Cypress, Tantalus, Tetrahedron, Mount Seymour and the southern one-fifth of Garibaldi parks.

WVI - Western Vancouver Island Ecoregion
This area includes the western and northern lowlands, islands and mountains of Vancouver Island. The mountains are composed of a heterogeneous mix of sedimentary and volcanic rocks with numerous granitic intrusions. There is an extensive lowland at the northern end and a strandflat along the western coast. This ecoregion is affected by heavy rainfall events during the October to February period, and in some cases, warm subtropical storms that bring intense rainfall and winds from the southwest during the October to early January period. Otherwise winter rain arrives from the west and northwest Northeast Pacific.

The alpine zone is limited to a few mountaintops, but where it does occur it is usually dominated by rock outcropping or mountain-heathers and small wet meadows. The subalpine or Mountain Hemlock Zone has a mixed climax of mountain hemlock and amabilis fir, with seral yellow-cedar on richer sites. A dense shrub layer occurs. Common plants include blueberries, false azalea, copperbush, white-flowered rhododendron, and dense mosses. At higher elevations, the forest cover becomes discontinuous and may be mixed with meadows. The lowest or Coastal Western Hemlock Zone is dominated by western hemlock. Except in the drier Nimpkish Valley, where Douglas-fir is a common seral species, amabilis fir is also common. Sitka spruce forests grow in a narrow belt adjacent to the ocean. Other trees include western redcedar (lower elevations), yellow-cedar (higher elevations), shore pine and red alder. Understories are dominated by woody shrubs such as blueberries, salal, huckleberries, and false azalea, with bunchberry, deer fern, sword fern, and a carpet of mosses. Floodplains are composed of Sitka spruce, red alder, salmonberry, and ferns.
This ecoregion consists of three ecosections.

  • NWL - Nahwitti Lowland Ecosection
    This is an area of low to rolling topography, with high precipitation located at the north end of Vancouver Island. It was heavily overridden by glacial ice from the mainland; erosion of the soft sedimentary rocks has produced the low-lying gentle topography that rise to the harder volcanic rocks towards the west and to the mountains in the south. The faulting and eroded fractured surface gives this ecosection a rough feature in spite of its low elevation. Glaciers that moved down from the mountains to the south overrode this area gouging the fjords and channels and eroded the upland surface. The ecosection extends from the mouth of the Nimpkish River north and west around the north end of Vancouver Island past Quatsino Sound to the Klaskish and Colonial valleys. The many inlets of Quatsino Sound dissect it. The rivers that drain this area are short, with most originating on the lowland. Victoria, Alice and Nahwitti are three of the largest lakes, but there are many smaller ones and wetlands across the uplands.

    Vancouver Island Shelf Marine Ecosection waters enter into all the inlets included the large, multi-armed Quatsino Sound, bringing seawater in from the Continental Shelf. The small streams on the adjacent lowland provide little freshwater, that is poorly mixed with the marine waters. Glaciers gouged out the fjords, inlets and sounds, deepening them except near their outlets where deep sediments were deposited when the glaciers waned.

    This is a wet lowland as moist Pacific air arrives off the Pacific Ocean unimpeded over this area before they rise over the adjacent Vancouver Island Mountains or the Pacific Ranges far to the east. Very wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests are the only forest type here, but there are many wetlands and muskeg areas on the upland surface.

    Port Hardy, Port McNeil and the largest towns, other settlements include Holberg, Coal Harbour and Port Alice. The Vancouver Inland Island Highway (No. 19) from Campbell River services Port McNeill and terminates at Port Hardy; there are many all-weather industrial roads that lead to Coal Harbour, Holberg, Quatsino, Winter Harbour and Port Alice. Clearcut logging, with is attendant roads has been extensive throughout. Many communities are based on recreational and commercial fishing as the lumber industry undergoes downsizing, a large open pit mine for copper was dug on the north shore of Rupert Inlet. Cape Scott Park is the only large protected area; it extends along the coastline from Shushartie Bay west to Cape Scott and south to San Joseph Bay. Quatsino, Kwakiutl Lawn Point and Marble River are three smaller parks representing this area.

  • NIM - Northern Island Mountains Ecosection
    This is a partial rainshadow area consisting of a long, wide north-facing valley and associated mountains located in the northern mountain portion of Vancouver Island. The rocks are composed of a heterogeneous group of sedimentary, volcanic rocks folded about northerly trending axes and intruded by granitic batholiths. Uplift and dissection of the surface produced extremely rugged topography that rises above Johnstone Strait to the east or the Nimpkish Valley in the centre. Glaciers built up in these mountains before moving northward down the Nimpkish valley or eastward over the eastern flank to coalesce with glaciers coming out of the Pacific Ranges to the east. The northward flowing Nimpkish River is the largest; others include: the White, Adam, Eve, Kokish, Cluxewe, Benson, Oktawanch and Gold Rivers. Nimpkish Lake id the largest, but other large lakes include: Alice, Victoria, Bonanza, Woss, Vernon and Muchalat.

    Moist Pacific air moves over the mountains from the Pacific Ocean to the west or down the north-facing valleys from Hecate Strait, bringing intense rainfall events and heavy cloud cover. There are several areas however that are in rainshadows that are somewhat protected from such air masses. The valleys and lower to mid-elevation slopes are dominated by very, wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests, drier forests occur in the rainshadows. Wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests occur on the upper slopes, below the alpine, which here is either densely vegetated or barren rock, small mountain glaciers occur on the highest northeast-facing mountains.

    The settlement of Woss a former logging camp is located in the middle of this ecosection while Kelsey Bay and Sayward are located on the northeastern boundary near Johnstone Strait and Gold River is located at the southern boundary upstream from Muchalat Inlet. The Vancouver Inland Island Highway (No. 19) passes through Woss and Nimpkish, while the Gold River Highway (No. 28) connects Gold River with Campbell River. Intensive and extensive clearcut logging with its attendant roads has occurred in the valley bottoms and lower slopes. Many of the roads have become major all-weather roads that provide access from eastern Vancouver Island to small coastal villages. Several parks have been established in this ecosection including: the Lower Tsitika River, Nimpkish Lake, Schoen Lake, Woss Lake and White Ridge parks; the upper Elk and Ucona rivers portions of Strathcona Park; and Robson Bight (Michael Biggs) Ecological Reserve that was established for the protection of killer whales.

  • WIM - Windward Island Mountains Ecosection
    This is an area on the western margin of Vancouver Island that consists of lowlands, islands, and rugged mountains. The rocks are composed of a heterogeneous group of sedimentary, volcanic rocks folded about northerly trending axes and intruded by granitic batholiths. Uplift and dissection of the surface produced extremely rugged topography that rises above the Continental Slope to the west. Glaciers built up along the crest of these mountains before flowing westward into the Pacific Ocean, rounding some of the summits and ridges and leaving vast quantities of glacial sediment along the coast line. As well that large ice sheet heavily impacted the many fjords, channels and sounds by deepening them and straightening their margins. The ecosection extends from Jordan River in the south to Brooks Peninsula in the north. There are any short rivers that empty directly into the marine waters. Nahmint, Henderson and Nitinat are three of the largest lakes here.

    Vancouver Island Shelf Marine Ecosection waters enter into all the inlets included the large, multi-armed Quatsino Sound, bringing seawater in from the Continental Shelf. The small streams on the adjacent lowland provide little freshwater, that is poorly mixed with the marine waters. Glaciers gouged out the fjords, inlets and sounds, deepening them except near their outlets where deep sediments were deposited when the glaciers waned. There are many fjords, inlets and channels here, including: Kyuquot, Nootka, Clayoquot and Barkley sounds and Esperanza Inlet and Port San Juan.

    Pacific storms can bring intense rainfall and storms to these mountains as it rises over them heading to the east. Warm summer temperatures mixing with the cold Pacific water can bring heavy fog along the coast. Very wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests dominate the islands, lowlands, and valleys and lower to mid–elevation slopes; muskeg and wetlands occur along the Estevan Coastal Plain on the extreme western margin. Very wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests are restricted to the very few higher summits along the eastern margin with the adjacent ecosections.

    Several towns and communities have been established to service resource extraction, Tofino and Ucluelet are the two largest, other smaller settlements include: Zebellos, Tahsis, Bamfield, Port Renfrew, River Jordan and several First Nation villages; Sooke is located along the southern margin. The Port Alberni-Pacific Rim Highway (No. 4) connects the Long Beach area with Port Alberni; and the West Coast Highway (No. 14) connects Port Renfrew and River Jordan with Victoria. Several all-weather resource roads are also used to gain access for some of the communities. Extensive clearcut logging, with its attendant roads, has occurred in almost all the accessible valleys and lower slopes outside the protected areas. There are a wide variety of representative protected areas that have been established in this ecosection: Pacific Rim National Park (including Long Beach, Broken Group and West Coast Trail units), Juan De Fuca Marine Trail, Carmanah – Walbran, Clayquot Arm and Clayquot Plateau, Flores Island, Hesquiat Peninsula, the western one-third of Strathcona, Bligh Island, Tashish – Kwois, and Brooks Peninsula parks and Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve.

  • Outer Pacific Shelf Marine Ecoregion
    This is a narrow continental shelf area that extends westward from Vancouver Island to the bottom edge of the continental slope. It is a triangle-shaped area 90 km wide off the southwest cost of Vancouver Island to 45 km wide off the north coast. There is intense upwelling at the edge of the continental slope and strong tidal currents around the Scott Islands and Brooks Peninsula, that creates intense tidal mixing which results in the proliferation of sea life. This shelf is under the influence of the southeasterly flowing California Current during the late spring to early autumn period and brings with it northwest winds. Starting in late autumn or early winter the California Current is shifted offshore by the Davidson Current and this southward flowing current then persists until early spring when the California Current again moves inshore.

    This aquatic marine ecoregion contains six marine ecosections in the offshore and more protected British Columbia waters. Two ecosections have a terrestrial component and the other four are predominately marine.

  • CNS – Continental Slope Marine Ecosection
    This is a steep, dissected slope at the edge of the Continental Shelf that lies to the east. There are strong down-slope and cross-slope turbidity currents, causing great upwelling currents from the great depth (1800m) along the western margin. This slope marks the seaward extent of the North American Continent the start of the slope varies from 90 km off the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island to 45 km off the northern tip of the Island, to begin right offshore of Graham Island. Glaciers stopped at about the upper limit of this ecosection, dropping much sediment in the process.

  • DIE – Dixon Entrance Marine Ecosection
    This is and east-west depression in the Continental Shelf, that is bounded by Dall and Prince of Wales islands, in Alaska to the north and by Graham Island on Haida Gwaii to the south. At the seaward end it is split into two deep 400m deep channels and by a shallow ridge that rises to within 35m of the surface. To the east these channels recombine to form a single depression that gradually shoals to 270 m over a sill south of Cape Chacon, Alaska, followed by more rapid shoaling over the submarine ridge that separates Dixon Entrance from Chatham Sound. Glaciers moving down out of the Coast Mountains to the east and north, combined with submarine faulting of the bedrock have caused most of the relief changes and sedimentation. Freshwater coming out of the adjacent mountains, especially from the Nass and Skeena rivers greatly reduces the salinity.

    Pacific air moving over this ecosection brings strong winds, heavy rains, and heavy seas as large swells move in from the adjacent ocean. The few islands and islets that occur here have wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests or they have bare rock and muskeg. Commercial fishing is the main resource use, but this strait is also important for ocean-going vessels serving Prince Rupert.

  • HES – Hecate Strait Marine Ecosection
    This is the shallowest of the three large Inner Pacific Shelf ecosections, as well it is the least exposed and has the most uniform bathymetry (bottom contour). The axis is a narrow, submarine valley that hugs the mainland flank, with depths that diminish from about 300m in the south to about 50m in the north. The northwest side is a broad platform of glacially deposited sands and gravels that were transported from the Kitimat Ranges to the east. Moist Pacific air can easily override this strait bringing heavy precipitation, strong winds and rough seas. Freshwater coming out of the adjacent mountains, especially from the Skeena River reduces the salinity greatly. Commercial fishing is the main resource use.

  • QCS – Queen Charlotte Sound Ecosection
    This is a shallow marine area that lies between the mainland, northern Vancouver Island and southern Haida Gwaii. It contains only a few islets that are close to the main body of the Hecate Lowland physiographic unit. The bathymetry is complex as it contains a large shallow bank and three broad troughs that slice inland from the Continental Slope, all three have shallow sills that are glacial in origin as a result of the large Cordilleran Ice Sheet that pushed soft debris out from the adjacent mountains.

    This is a wide marine shelf located between the Hecate Lowland in the east, the Haida Gwaii in the northwest, the open Pacific Ocean to the southwest and Vancouver Island to the south. Ocean waves and currents mixing marine water with freshwater coming out of the mountains affect this area.

    Pacific air masses move easily over this shelf bringing strong winds, heavy rain and rough seas. The few islands and islet here are wind-swept and contain sparse Coastal Western Hemlock forest, barren rocks or muskeg.

    There are no settlements and the major resource use is commercial fishing. The Goose Group of islands and islets are part of the Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy; the Moore/McKenney/Whitmore Islands and the Byers/Conroy/Harvey/Sinnett Islands and surrounding marine waters are two Ecological Reserves established for nesting seabirds and for harbour seal breeding. The islets in this ecosection are very important for colony nesting birds and as Harbour Seal and Sea Lion haul outs.

  • QCT - Queen Charlotte Strait Ecosection
    This is shallow marine area that is interspersed with many islands, islets and reefs, located between northern Vancouver Island and the Hecate Lowland. The southern large islands, namely Malcolm and Cormorant are comprised of soft sedimentary rocks, while the northern islands, such as Hope and Nigei are composed of erosion resistant volcanic rocks. Glaciers moved west down from the Pacific Ranges to the east and coalesced with smaller glaciers from the northern Vancouver Island Mountains as they moved out over the Hecate Strait. They scoured the islands and deposited glacial debris in the water. There are strong currents mixing the oceanic and freshwaters in the many channels, sounds and straits.

    The marine waters are primarily shallow basin with adjacent deep fjords. There are strong currents, well mixed with moderate salinity, but with some freshwater from the adjacent uplands.

    Pacific air moves over this area, bringing strong winds and heavy precipitation as that air moves eastward over the adjacent Pacific Ranges or southward into the Georgia Basin. The islands support wet Coastal Western Hemlock forests.

    The only two communities, Alert Bay and Sointula occur on Cormorant and Malcolm islands respectively, but many smaller village sites and summer recreation locations occur here. There are three protected areas here: God’s Pocket Marine Park is located on Hurst and Bell islands and surrounding waters; the northern portion of Broughton Archipelago Marine Park is located in the south of this ecosection and Ugwiwey-Cape Caution Conservancy is located south of Bramham Island in the northeast.

  • VIS – Vancouver Island Shelf Ecosection
    This is a shallow oceanic area, with a few isolated islands, islets and reefs. It lies offshore from western Vancouver Island and it extends westward as far as the top edge of the continental slope

    This is a very important area for commercial fishing. The islands and islets are very important for Sea bird colony nesting, harbour seal breeding and sea lions haul outs. The marine portion of Pacific Rim National Park, and Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve; and the Anne Valle (Triangle Island), Sartine Island and Beresford Island ecological reserves and Lanz and Cox Islands Parks are all included as protected areas in this ecosection.

GED - Georgian Depression Ecoprovince

Location - This ecoprovince lies between the Vancouver Island Mountains and Olympic Mountains on the west and the southern Coast Mountains and northern Cascade Ranges on the east. In British Columbia, this ecoprovince is a large basin that encompasses the southeastern Vancouver Island Ranges and the Nanaimo Lowlands in the west, the Strait of Georgia, Gulf Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca in the middle, and the Georgia Lowlands and the Fraser Lowlands in the east. In Washington, this Ecoprovince is also a large basin that encompasses the lower, eastern slopes of the Olympic Mountains in the west, the Puget Trough and adjacent lowlands in the middle, and the western foothills of the Cascade Ranges on the east.

The majority of the human population in British Columbia and Washington occurs in this ecoprovince and the environment has been greatly modified. Large portions have been converted to exclusive urban and industrial use. Agriculture is intense and includes dairy production, food crops, berries and cereals. Logging remains important on the periphery of the settled area, but is coming into serious conflict with recreational use of the few remaining natural areas.
 
Climate - This ecoprovince is characterized by a particularly effective rainshadow in the lee of the Vancouver Island Ranges of the Insular Mountains and the Olympic Peninsula of the Coast Range in Washington. After moving over these barriers, surface air flow is level or subsiding and creates clearer skies and drier conditions than in coastal areas adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. The southern parts of this ecoprovince have the greatest annual amounts of sunshine in British Columbia. Temperatures throughout the area are moderated by the adjacent Pacific Ocean and inshore marine waters.

Except where prevailing winds and topography have combined to create rainshadow effects, such as on the Saanich Peninsula and Gulf Islands, the Vancouver Island side is wetter and cloudier than the Lower Mainland side, because of increased exposure to moist air from the sea. On the Lower Mainland side, there is not sufficient relief to force moist air to cooler elevations, and as a result the area is fairly dry. Part of it is known locally as the Sunshine Coast.

This ecoprovince is affected by heavy fall and winter rains that bring extreme rainfall events during the October to February period, and in some cases, warm subtopical storms bring intense rainfall from the southwest during the October to early January period. Otherwise winter rain arrives from northeast Pacific from the west and northwest, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, low passes such as the Nitinat/ Cowichan valley and Johnstone Strait or over the Vancouver Island Mountains.

Physiography - In British Columbia, the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince is a large basin that encompasses the southeastern Vancouver Island Mountains, the Nanaimo Lowlands, and the Gulf Islands in the west, the Strait of Georgia, in the middle, and the Georgia Lowlands and Fraser Lowlands in the east.

The whole area was covered by ice during the glacial periods of the past one million years. Ice flowing westward from the Coast Mountains and eastward from Vancouver Island Ranges coalesced in the strait to form a glacier that flowed southeastward and southward and escaped to the sea westward through Juan de Fuca Strait, or moved south across the Puget Sound and Puget Lowlands in Washington. Much of the lowland area was flooded after being pushed below sea level by the weight of ice. Fine silt and clay material settled out over those areas. At some sites fast-moving water deposited coarse sand and gravels, and there are moraines of mixed rock and soil.

The western portion of the ecoprovince consists of rugged mountains that have been deeply eroded, leaving some mountains isolated above the general land surface. East of these mountains are the Nanaimo Lowlands, and area with low relief and undulating topography mixed with areas of sharp crests and narrow valleys. Several medium-sized rivers (Cowichan, Chemainus, Nanaimo, Puntledge, and Campbell rivers) flow from the mountains through the coastal lowlands to terminate with well-developed estuaries.
Within the Strait of Georgia are many small islands. Most are composed of bedrock, although a few, such as Savary, Sidney and James islands, are composed of glacial deposits. Savary Island is a particularly large end-moraine.

The eastern portion of the ecoprovince consists of a large delta that has filled in around low hills (Fraser Lowlands) and a narrow coastal plain of glacial deposits (Georgia Lowlands). The Fraser River dominates the area but there are several small rivers and streams that cross the valley from the mountains.

Oceanography -The Strait of Georgia is a semi-enclosed estuarine environment that is strongly affected by freshwater discharge, mainly from the Fraser River, but also from numerous other streams, such as: the Skagit, Squamish, Cowichan, Puntledge, Campbell and Toba rivers. It is rich is a variety of foods at depths that many different diving birds can attain. There are 4 distinct marine environments in the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince. A nearshore zone surrounds all the islets, islands, and mainland, with an intertidal zone as the dominant interface between land and sea. Most of the shoreline is rocky and steep. Inter-island channels and sounds provide a variety of habitat quality. Most are steep-sided with fast tidal currents. Extensive shallow areas such as Baynes Sound provide a nutrient-rich environment. Estuaries trap nutrients carried down by rivers and create extremely diverse and rich ecosystems that attract thousands of migrant and wintering waterfowl and shorebirds. Several estuaries occur in the ecoprovince, including the Fraser River estuary, which is by far the largest in the province. This ecoprovince has only protected waters, but the Strait of Georgia is deep enough to have a mesopelagic zone as well as an epipelagic layer.

Vegetation - The Georgia Depression supports vegetation with the longest growing season in British Columbia. Vegetation is dominated by the Western Hemlock Zone that occurs on the Vancouver Island Mountains and lowlands, and the lowlands on the eastern side of the Olympic Mountains. Coastal Douglas-fir occurs along the Nanaimo Lowlands, Gulf Islands and Puget Trough; Mountain Hemlock and Alpine Tundra Zones occur only on the higher portions of the Vancouver Island Ranges and Olympic Mountains. In addition, two important local habitats have developed. Estuarine habitats form where freshwater rivers enter the marine straits. From the high tide ridges to subtidal mudflats, there are bands of vegetation that include tufted hairgrass, fescues, rushes, seaside arrow-grass, silverweed, and sedges. Further inland, creeks and rivers support riparian forests dominated by black cottonwoods, red alder, and bigleaf maple. Agricultural and residential development on most of the lowland areas has resulted in the loss of much of both habitats.

At lower elevations, a vegetation zone dominated by Douglas-fir occurs. The common trees include grand fir, western redcedar, and western flowering dogwood. Understory plants include a dense shrub cover of salal, dull Oregon-grape, sword fern, starflower, and mosses. Soils are moderately weathered, and become dry in summer. In the Fraser Valley, fluvial soils are now extensively altered by agriculture or urban development. Of special interest, particularly on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, are rocky sites with arbutus and Garry oak forests, with understories dominated by spring wildflowers, such as camas, sea blush, shootingstar, and blue-eyed Mary, and by shrubs such as oceanspray and common snowberry. This unique habitat has suffered from urban development.

Above the low elevation forests and further inland, where climatic moisture increases, lays an extensive vegetation belt dominated by western hemlock, however, Douglas-fir and western redcedar are the common seral species in this moist zone. Understories are generally shrub-dominated, primarily with salal and dull Oregon-grape. Red alder, salmonberry, sword fern, bracken, fireweed, and dense mosses are characteristic. Logging has been extensive. At higher elevations, amabalis fir may be mixed with western hemlock.

The subalpine vegetation belt is dominated by dense forests of mountain hemlock and amabilis fir. Yellow-cedar may also be present, and understories are shrub-dominated with white-flowered rhododendron, false azalea, blueberries, queen’s cup, bunchberry, twayblades, and five-leaved bramble. Soils are heavily leached and acidic, with thick forest floor accumulation. At upper elevations, the forest cover becomes discontinuous and dominated by mountain hemlock. Extensive dry areas between the tree clumps may be covered with mountain-heathers, crowberry, and partridgefoot. In wetter areas with delayed snow melt, moisture-requiring species such as Sitka valerian, Indian hellebore, white marsh-marigold, leatherleaf saxifrage, and black alpine sedge occur.

The upper vegetation zone of alpine tundra is limited in extent to a few mountain peaks on Vancouver Island. Mountain-heathers, saxifrages, and lichens predominate and rock outcropping is extensive.

Fauna – Columbian Black-Tailed Deer are very abundant in the rural and natural areas throughout the ecoprovince. American Black Bear occur throughout, although less commonly on the Gulf and San Juan islands. Grizzly Bears have been extirpated from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia for a considerable time now, (they however, never did occur in either Vancouver Island nor apparently, in the Puget Sound area). Other large mammals include Cougar, Roosevelt Elk (Vancouver Island and Olympic Mountains, as well they have been introduced to the Georgia Lowland), and Coyote (Lower Mainland and Puget Sound.) The extensive marine/land interface provides haul-out areas for Harbour Seals and Northern and California Sea Lions. Offshore, Killer Whales and Harbour Porpoises are common marine mammals. On-shore, in the estuaries, along riverbanks and lakeshores, Northern American River Otters, Mink and Raccoons are common predators.

Small mammals almost restricted to the ecoprovince, include the Vancouver Island Marmot, on Vancouver Island and Olympic Marmot, on the Olympic Peninsula; other small mammals include: Marsh Shrew, Trowbridge’s Shrew, Shrew-Mole, Townsend’s and Coast Mole, Douglas’ Squirrel, Creeping Vole and Eastern Cottontail (introduced).

This ecoprovince supports the highest diversity of birds in British Columbia - 90% of all species known to occur in the province. It also has 60% of the species that are known to breed in British Columbia. Many of these species are casual and accidental - spotted by the many birdwatchers in the area.

The wetlands of the Fraser River delta make up the largest single unit of wetland habitat in British Columbia. In addition, the mild climate enables it to be the most important migratory and wintering area for waterbirds in the province. Waterfowl are abundant, including Snow Geese during the winter months. The delta supports the largest wintering population of raptors in Canada. Notable among these are the Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, and Short-eared Owl. The delta is also important to migrating shorebirds, most of the world’s Western Sandpipers stage, rest and feed there. In winter, Dunlin is the most numerous shorebird.

Large numbers of waterbirds winter in bays, surge narrows, and estuaries throughout the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince. Notable among these are the Pacific Loon, Western Grebe, Brandt’s Cormorant, Common and Barrow’s goldeneyes, Surf, White-winged and Black scoter, Greater and Lesser scaup, Thayer’s and Glaucous-winged gulls, Common Murre, and Marbled and Ancient murrelets. The area is also important to wintering shorebirds such as Black Turnstone and Surfbird.

In British Columbia the only resident populations of Barn Owl and Anna’s Hummingbird occur in this ecoprovince. The Gulf Islands support the only breeding colonies of Double-crested Cormorants, and most of the colonies of Glaucous-winged Gulls in the province. Three species of passerines breed only in the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince: Purple Martin, Bushtit, and Hutton’s Vireo. The Eurasian Skylark introduced to the Victoria area, and the Crested Myna, introduced to the Vancouver area, maintain the only North American breeding populations in this Ecoprovince.

 Reptiles include the western pond turtle (introduced), and sharptail snake. Characteristic amphibians include the Pacific treefrog, Pacific giant salamander, ensatina, bullfrog (introduced), and green frog (introduced).

This ecoprovince supports a wide variety of fish from the purely marine species such as rockfish, flounder, spiny dogfish, Pacific herring and ling cod, to fish that spawn in freshwater, but live as adults in marine water, such as the Pacific salmon, steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, and eulachon, through to the species that only live in fresh water, such as the introduced pumpkinseed and smallmouth bass, or the native peamouth chum and threespine stickleback. A few species move regularly from freshwater to the brackish estuaries and even marine environment, such as the green sturgeon, Dolly Varden char, (bull trout occur only in the Lower Mainland), and Coast Range sculpin.

Ecoprovince Subdivisions

The Georgia Depression Ecoprovince in British Columbia is subdivided into four ecoregions containing seven ecosections (One of those is a marine ecoregion and three are marine ecosections).

EVI - Eastern Vancouver Island Ecoregion
This is an area of reduced rainfall leeward of the Vancouver Island Ranges. The rugged mountains along the centre of the island gradually become reduced in height to the east, becoming low ridges and isolated hills before ending on a wide lowland plain. There is also a small basin in the centre. The area is comprised of a heterogeneous group of sedimentary and volcanic rocks folded about northwesterly trending axes that have been intruded by numerous granitic batholiths. The highest mountains on the island lie between Cowichan Lake and the White River. It is comprised of two ecosections that correspond to physiographic differences.

  • LIM - Leeward Island Mountains Ecosection

    This is a mountainous area from the crest of the Vancouver Island Ranges to the Nanaimo Lowlands. It includes the Great Central Lake Basin and Port Alberni and Cowichan Lake. These mountains have been eroded by past glaciation that has eroded the slopes and ridges and deposited deep glacial debris on the adjacent lowland. Glaciers moved down off the mountains to coalesce with large glaciers from the Pacific Ranges to the east that moved south down the Strait of Georgia. Several large rivers, including, drain this ecosection on the eastside: Salmon, Elk, Puntledge, Qualicum, Englishman, Nanaimo, Cowichan and Shawnigan. On the west side, primarily the Stamp River drains these mountains. As well, there are many shorter streams. In this area there are several lakes, such as: Buttle, Great Central, Sproat, Upper Campbell, and Cowichan.

    Moist Pacific air that has moved over the western side of Vancouver Island gives rise to rainshadows and a drop in precipitation, although still bringing heavy cloud cover. In the summer hot, dry air from the south can advect into the lower valleys bring in warm temperatures and very dry conditions. Winter storms can result from cold Arctic air moving through wide valleys in the Pacific Ranges and across the Strait of Georgia, bringing very cold conditions and deep snow to the east facing valleys and slopes; such storms are infrequent and of a short duration. Due to its elevation this ecosection has the harshest winter climate within this ecoprovince. Vegetation zones reflect the mountainous, coastal environment: moist Coastal Western Hemlock forests occurs on all the lower mountain slopes, along the eastern foothills and in the large valleys; parkland stands of moist Mountain Hemlock subalpine forests occurs near tree line, while below that, denser Mountain Hemlock and Yellow Cedar forests dominate. Wet Alpine vegetation occurs on the summits of only the highest mountains.

    Port Alberni is the largest population centre in this ecosection, smaller communities include: Sooke, Shirley, Mesachie Lake and Youbou. The West Coast Highway (No. 14) from Sooke to River Jordan provides access from Victoria to Port Renfrew; Qualicum to Port Alberni Highway (No. 4), from Coombs to Port Alberni provides access from Parksville to Long Beach; the Gold River Highway (No. 28) provides access from Campbell River to Gold River; the Vancouver Island Highway (No. 19), in the northern part of the ecosection, provides access from Campbell River to Port Hardy. Clearcut logging has been extensive throughout the ecosection for the past one hundred years and there are many forest access roads; mining has occurred in selected locations such as the Westmin mine on the slopes above the southern end of Buttle Lake and the mining area has been excluded from Strathcona Park. The eastern portion of Strathcona and Strathcona – Westmin parks constitute the largest area protected within the ecoprovince.

  • NAL - Nanaimo Lowland Ecosection
    This is a coastal plain that is situated on the eastern margin of Vancouver Island. It is underlain by sedimentary rocks, in which coal deposits can occur. Glaciers that moved eastward down from the adjacent mountains met and coalesced with the larger glacier moving across the Strait of Georgia from the Pacific Ranges to the east, as the glaciers retreated the large glacier stagnated while the Vancouver Island glaciers retreated upslope washing large quantities of sand and gravel and even silt into the marine waters lying west of the Strait of Georgia glacier. This resulted in very deep deposits of sediments on this lowland. There are no large streams that originate on this lowland, but several larger ones pass through it, such as: lower Elk, Puntledge, Nanaimo, Englishman, Cowichan and Koksilah; there are however many short streams that drain this ecosection. There are several large lakes that are contain within this ecosection or that are partially in it: Horne and Shawnigan are example of the former, while Comox Lake and Campbell Lake reservoir are examples of the latter.

    Pacific systems can arrive via the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south, the Hecate Strait to the north or from over the Vancouver Island Mountains. There are some rainshadow areas and some areas receive greater amounts of precipitation than others. In the summer hot, dry air from the south can advect over this lowland bringing in warm temperatures and very dry conditions that are Mediterranean in effect. Winter storms can result from cold Arctic air moving through wide valleys in the Pacific Ranges and across the Strait of Georgia, bringing very cold conditions and deep snow to this lowland; such storms are infrequent and of a short duration. This ecosection has a mild climate with low snow depths, as expressed by the warm, dry Coastal Douglas-fir forests, with Arbutus trees that occur in small stands or are intermixed with the Douglas-fir forests; mild Coastal Western Hemlock forests occur on the higher elevations, along the eastern foothills and in the northern segment of this ecosection. Along its entire eastern boundary this ecosection includes the marine/land interface including the intertidal and nearshore zone.

    The Nanaimo Lowland Ecosection includes a large population located along its length, such as: the communities of Duncan, Cowichan Lake, Chemainus, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Courtney-Comox and Campbell River as well as numerous smaller suburban and rural centres; the Trans-Canada Highway (No. 1) extends up the east side of the Ecosection from Mill Bay to Nanaimo, from there the Vancouver Island Highway (No. 19 & 19A) extends north past Courtney and Campbell River past Sayward; there are numerous rural and industrial roads throughout this ecosection. In the past logging was excessive and has resulted in very little of the old growth forest types left. There are several small parks used for day-use recreation and camping in this ecosection, Cowichan River and Elk Falls parks are the two largest.

GPB - Georgia-Puget Basin Ecoregion is a semi-enclosed estuarine basin that includes several straits, troughs, island clusters, as well as the Strait of Georgia. It extends from Johnstone Strait, south across the Canada/U.S.A. boundary to Nisqually Reach in Washington State.

This ecoregion contains only one terrestrial ecosection that has been based on its location within the oceanographic basins.

  • SGI - Southern Gulf Islands Ecosection is a collection of islands, that occur south of Departure Bay at Nanaimo: notably Newcastle and Gabriola islands south to Chatman, Discovery and Chain islands, and inter-island channels and sounds that extends across the Strait of Georgia, the San Juan Island in Washington; as well this ecosection includes the Saanich Peninsula, Sooke and Shawnigan Lake basins. The islands consist of folded and faulted sedimentary rocks, with some volcanic stocks intermixed. It is the faulting that has resulted in the many linear valleys and island separations. Glaciers that moved eastward down from the adjacent mountains met and coalesced with the larger glacier moving across the Strait of Georgia from the Pacific Ranges to the east, as the glaciers retreated the large glacier stagnated while the Vancouver Island glaciers retreated upslope washing large quantities of sand and gravel and even silt into the marine waters lying west of the Strait of Georgia glacier. This resulted in very deep deposits of sediments on this lowland. Streams that originate here are short and often ephemeral, drying in the summer. There are many small lakes and some wetlands but no large lakes here.

    Pacific systems can arrive via the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south, the Hecate Strait to the north or from over the Vancouver Island Mountains. There are some rainshadow areas and some areas receive greater amounts of precipitation than others. In the summer hot, dry air from the south can advect over this lowland bringing in warm temperatures and very dry conditions that are Mediterranean in effect. Winter storms can result from cold Arctic air moving through wide valleys in the Pacific Ranges and across the Strait of Georgia, bringing very cold conditions and deep snow to this lowland; such storms are infrequent and of a short duration. This ecosection has a mild climate with low snow depths, as expressed by the warm, dry Coastal Douglas-fir forests, with extensive Garry Oak and arbutus dominates the terrestrial environment on the drier areas throughout. The intertidal, nearshore and epipelagic zones dominate the marine environment.

    The Strait of Georgia Marine Ecosection surrounds these islands, in the inner channels and sounds the water is generally calmer and shallower, while to the east the deeper and windier portion of the Strait of Georgia dominates.

    Urban centres include all of Greater Victoria (from Sooke to North Saanich), Shawnigan Lake, Ganges and small centres on each of the Southern Gulf Islands. The main corridors include the Trans-Canada Highway (No. 1) from southern Victoria to Mill Bay; the Patricia Bay Highway (No. 17) from Saanich north to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, and many other suburban and rural roads on all but the smallest and most isolated islands; access to the islands is by ferry, small boat or small aircraft. In the past logging has removed much of the old growth Douglas-fir forests and extensive suburban and rural development has occurred here. The Gulf Islands National Park is located at numerous small locations scattered throughout the southern Gulf Islands, there are also several Provincial (such as Gowland Tod Park) and Regional parks (such as East Sooke Park) in this ecosection.

  • GEB – Georgia Basin Marine Ecoregion
    In British Columbia this marine ecoregion contains two marine ecosections.

  • SOG - Strait of Georgia Marine Ecosection
    This is a broad relatively shallow, semi-enclosed estuarine basin that separates southern Vancouver Island from the mainland. It is mainly marine waters, but it also contains several islands. The islands have very dry mild climates, such as southern Quadra, Cortes, Texada, Lasqueti, Denman and Hornby islands.  The southern islands and lower portion of Texada Island area dominated by the dry Coastal Douglas-fir Zone, whereas the northern islands and the upper portion of Texada Island are dominated by the very dry maritime variant of the Coastal Western Hemlock Zone. The marine environment is dominated by the intertidal, nearshore, epipelagic and mesopelagic zones.

  • JOS - Strait of Juan de Fuca Marine Ecosection
    This a deep trough marine area with a strong “estuary-like” outflow current. It is the major water exchange conduit between the Georgia - Puget Basin Ecoregion and the open Pacific Ocean. Except for a few islets, such as Race Rocks, most of the ecosection is marine waters. The northern and southern boundaries approximate the outer limit of the nearshore zone; while the eastern boundary in British Columbia is south of Chain Islets & Discovery Island; in Washington it is south of the San Juan Islands and east of Whidbey Island. The southern deep-sea marine portion of Pacific Rim National Park – West Coast Trail Unit occurs in the far northwest portion of this ecosection.

LOM - Lower Mainland Ecoregion
This an area of increased rainfall and precipitation increases towards the Coast Mountains and Cascade Ranges. There is a slight rainshadow on the lowlands and Fraser River delta. This ecoregion extends from Desolation Sound, south across the International border to the Chehalis River in Washington. The land is generally flat but some higher ridges and hills occur above the low land surface.  There are two ecosections that correspond to physiographic differences.

  • FRL - The Fraser Lowland Ecosection
    This ecosection consists of the Fraser delta, estuary, lowlands, and associated uplands. This lowland has been formed primarily by deposition of great age that has washed down the Fraser River for several million years. It is a triangular shaped area with it headland in the narrow Fraser River valleys east of Bridal Falls, from there it extends south-westward to Bellingham, Washington. The area is bounded on the north by the Pacific Ranges; it terminates at the shoreline of the Fraser Delta and West Vancouver. The nearshore zone of the Strait of Georgia forms the western boundary. The rocks at the basement of the sediment is the typical granitic rocks of the Coast Mountains, but nearly 3,000 m of sediment overly those rocks. The Fraser Delta is still building seaward every year supplied with material from the interior of the province, washed down annually by the Fraser River. Other than the Fraser River there are several large streams that cross here, including: Harrison, Stave, Pitt and Coquitlam, on the north side of the valley; and Chilliwack, Sumas and Serpentine in B.C. and the Nooksack River in Washington. Thee are no large lakes here but historically Sumas Lake occupied much of what is now called Sumas Prairie.

    The Strait of Georgia Marine Ecosection extends to the Fraser River estuary, as well as an intertidal and nearshore zones this environment extends up Burrard Inlet.

    Pacific air passing over this area can stall against the mountains bringing intense rain or snow to the adjacent mountains. In the summer hot, dry air from the south can advect over this lowland bringing in warm temperatures and very dry conditions that are Mediterranean in effect. Winter storms can result from cold Arctic air moving through wide valleys in the Pacific Ranges and across the lowlands bringing cold conditions and deep snow to this lowland; such storms are infrequent and of a short duration. Vegetation zonation varies with elevation, distance from the Strait of Georgia and the corresponding nearness of the mountains. In the lowest portion of the Fraser Delta dry Coastal Western Hemlock forests occur, which gives way to the dry maritime Coastal Western Hemlock forests on the highest areas.

    The largest urban population in British Columbia, from Vancouver to Chilliwack occurs here; in Washington, beside Bellingham, extensive urban and rural development occurs throughout the Ecosection. The Trans Canada Highway (No. 1) is located from Horseshoe Bay in the northwest, through Greater Vancouver, to Bridal Falls in the east; The Lougheed Highway (No. 7) is located on the north side of the Fraser River, from Vancouver in the west to Agassiz in the east; the Vancouver to Blaine (No. 99) is located from West Vancouver, through Vancouver, south across the Fraser Delta to the Canada/USA border (it continues south past Bellingham as Interstate Highway No. 5. As well there are many roads and highways connecting all parts of this ecosection. Historical these lowlands contain dense conifer forests that were clearcut late in the 19th Century, and Sumas Lake was drained and turned into farmland, as did other forest lands. Farm land has given way in many cases to rural and then urban development. Sturgeon Bank and Boundary Bay wildlife management areas are the largest protected areas; portions of Golden Ears and Pinecone Burke parks occur in the northern portion of the ecosection.

  • GEL - Georgia Lowland Ecosection
    This area consists of areas of low relief at the base of the Coast Ranges. It consists of deep sediments that overlie the coast granitic rocks. Deposits of glacial gravel and debris connect Patches of rocky outcrop. Glaciers moving down from the Pacific Ranges to the east smoothed the uplands as they continued westward into the Strait of Georgia. When those glaciers waned and stagnated in the marine water that allowed the sediment that was still coming off the mountains to build up along the shoreline. Several inlets, channels, sounds and fjords dissected this lowland, such as Okeover, Jervis, Sechelt inlets and Howe Sound. Sakinaw Lake is the only large lake that is entirely within this ecosection; Powell, Haslam and Lois lakes, all fjord lakes, only terminate here.

    The Strait of Georgia Marine Ecosection surrounds the islands, inner channels and sounds that water is generally calmer and shallower, while to the west the deeper and windier portion of the Strait of Georgia dominates.

    Pacific air arrives predominantly from the west from over the Vancouver Island Mountains and Strait of Georgia before it rises over the Pacific Ranges to the east. When that air remains at a high level then little precipitation falls in this ecosection, but otherwise the area can be greatly affected by Pacific storms. In the summer hot, dry air from the south can advect over this lowland bringing in warm temperatures and very dry conditions that are Mediterranean in effect and giving the true to this area’s ‘Sunshine Coast’ name. Winter storms can result from cold Arctic air moving through wide Squamish valley bringing strong cold winds called the ‘Squamish Winds’ resulting in cold conditions and deep snow to this lowland; such storms are infrequent and of a short duration. Vegetation zonation varies with elevation, distance from the Strait of Georgia and the corresponding nearness of the mountains. In the lowest portion of the Georgia Lowland dry Coastal Western Hemlock forests occur, which gives way to the dry maritime Coastal Western Hemlock forests on the highest areas nearest to the mountains.

    Small urban communities, such as Powell River, Sechelt and Gibsons, plus extensive rural housing occur throughout. The Sunshine Coast Highway (No. 101) is located along the western edge of the ecosection from Langdale in the south to Lund in the north, with a connection ferry from Earl’s Cove to Saltery Bay. Clearcut logging occurred throughout this area in the past removing much of the old growth forests. Desolation Sound Marine Park is the largest, protected area, but there are numerous small ones.

 

Humid Continental Highlands Ecodivision

Central Interior Ecoprovince
Sub-Boreal Interior Ecoprovince
Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince

This is the second part of the Humid Temperate Ecodomain in British Columbia. It occurs in the southeastern mountains and central plateau but does not cover the southern plateau area. It has a cold snowy winter with a warm summer. Precipitation is ample all year. The natural vegetation is a coniferous forest arranged in striking belts. At the lower levels there is a montane belt of Douglas-fir, and in the south, western larch. Grasslands are exceptional. The subalpine belt is usually dominated by Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir but western hemlock and western redcedar occur where moisture is increased. The uppermost belt is alpine where trees are absent. In British Columbia this Ecodivision has been subdivided into 3 Ecoprovinces.

CEI - Central Interior Ecoprovince

Location - The Central Interior Ecoprovince lies to the east of the Coast Mountains, between the Fraser Basin and the Thompson Plateau. This ecoprovince contains the flat to rolling Chilcotin and the Cariboo Plateaus and the southern two-thirds of the Nechako Plateau. It also contains the Chilcotin Ranges west to the centre of the Pacific Ranges and the Bulkley and Thatsa Ranges.

Agriculture is limited to grazing and small production of forage crops. Logging is the most extensive industry based on renewable resources and there are many mines.

Climate - The area has a typical sub-continental climate: cold winters, warm summers, and a precipitation maximum in late spring or early summer. Some of the mountain ranges on the east side of the coastal mountains are included because they are much drier than the windward side and therefore have a more interior type or sub-continental climate. However, the moderating influences of Pacific air occur throughout the year, as is the case for most of the province south of 57degreesN. The area lies in a rainshadow leeward of the Coast Mountains. In summer there is intense surface heating of the many wetlands, lakes and streams and convective showers, and in the winter there are frequent outbreaks of Arctic air. They are less frequent than in areas to the north, but there is no effective barrier to slow the invasion of cold air.

Along the leeside of the Coast Mountains, especially the Chilcotin, Bulkley, and Tahtsa ranges, there is an interplay of several climatic processes. Generally this is an area of rainshadow and is dry, but extreme western areas receive more rainfall. Local areas are subjected to higher precipitation where moist coastal air pushes through the lower mountain passes. During the winter and early spring, Arctic air frequently stalls on the eastern edge of these ranges.

The northern portion of the Fraser Plateau surface exhibits little rainshadow effect, because it lies east of the low Kitimat Ranges. There is a greater influence of Pacific air through increased rainfall and a smaller east-west precipitation gradient. The southern portion of the Fraser Plateau marks a better defined rainshadow region and is less affected by the low Kitimat Ranges to the northwest.

Physiography - The Central Interior Ecoprovince contains the Chilcotin and Cariboo plateaus, the southern two-thirds of the Nechako Plateau, and the Bulkley, Tahtsa, and Chilcotin ranges.

The Chilcotin, Cariboo, and Nechako plateaus are flat or gently rolling, and have large areas of undissected upland lying between 1,200 m and 1,500 m elevation. Much of the upland plateau is covered with glacial drift. Meandering streams and low depressions have created many wetlands and lakes. The Fraser River and lower Chilcotin River have cut below the plateau surface forming a deep badlands area that divides the Fraser Plateau into the western Chilcotin Plateau and the eastern Cariboo Plateau. To the southeast the upland surface rises gradually to 1,800 m. Most of the plateau surface is underlain by flat-lying lava flows. Those flows have steep escarpments along the rivers and creeks but almost horizontal upper surfaces. In the vicinity of Anahim Lake, 3 shield volcanoes rise above the plateau surface. In the Whitesail Lake and West Road river area, isolated mountains of erosion-resistant granite also stand above the general level of the plateau.

The Chilcotin Ranges lie along the east side of the Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains. They rise progressively higher in approaching the granitic ranges to the west. For the most part, the Chilcotin Ranges display a combination of high, serrated peaks rising above lower rounded summits and gently sloping areas of undissected upland. The Bulkley and Tahtsa ranges are outliers of the Kitimat Ranges and consist of softer rocks than the hard granite rocks of the Coast Mountains. The entire ecoprovince was covered by the last Cordilleran Ice Sheet arising in the Coast Mountains to the west and south and flowing northward or northeastward towards the Nechako Lowland, Columbia Mountains and the Hart Ranges; however, in a small portion of the ecoprovince, especially in the Bonaparte River watershed the ice moved to the southeast into the Okanagan valley via the Thompson valley.

Biogeoclimatic Zonation - In this ecoprovince 7 vegetation zones occur: Vegetation is dominated by the Interior Douglas-fir Zone in the south, the Sub-Boreal Pine - Spruce Zone in the centre and the Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone in the north. In addition, the Bunchgrass Zone occurs within the deeply entrenched portion of the Fraser River, the Montane Spruce Zone occurs at middle elevations in the Chilcotin Ranges and southern Chilcotin Plateau, the Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir Zone occurs on the middle slope of all mountains and the higher portion of the northern Chilcotin and southern Nechako Plateaus, the Alpine Tundra Zone occurs on the upper slopes of all mountains.

Vegetation - The area is intermediate in vegetation between the wet forests of the Coast and Columbia mountains, the dry southern interior forests to the south, and the cold boreal forests to the north. Moisture increases from west to east and from south to north. Vegetation is relatively diverse and deciduous forests increase towards the northeast.

In southern areas, the lowest vegetation zone in the Fraser River badlands is grassland. Common plants include big sagebrush, rabbit-brush, bluebunch wheatgrass, needlegrasses, pasture sage, and sand dropseed. Soils have a high organic content, with dark brown surface horizons.

The shrub-grassland habitats intergrade into a zone whose climax is Douglas-fir. At lower elevations, the open forest is dominated by Douglas-fir, with bluebunch wheatgrass understories. At higher elevations, the more closed forests proceed through a succession of lodgepole pine and pinegrass stages. Other tree species are trembling aspen, white spruce (moist sites), paper birch, and Rocky Mountain juniper. Common understory species include common juniper, prickly rose, soopolallie, willows, kinnikinnick, and aster. Soils are moderately weathered and often calcareous. Floodplains are dominated by black cottonwood.

Most of the upland area is covered by two sub-boreal vegetation zones. In the southern and western portion, where the climate is severe, and dry, extensive even-aged stands of lodgepole pine dominate the rolling landscape. White spruce may only be present in the understory, except where increased moisture in depressions allows for better growth. Fires are frequent and succession extremely slow. Understories are sparsely vegetated, often with ground lichens and scattered common juniper, soopolallie, birch-leaved spirea, grouseberry, kinnikinnick, or pinegrass. Of special interest are the numerous, scattered wetlands that are characteristic of the central interior plateau surface. Sedge fens, shrub fens, and marshes are widespread. Slight increases in climatic moisture in the east, allow greater vegetation diversity. White spruce becomes more common, often with transition stands of trembling aspen, lodgepole pine, of Douglas-fir. Understory shrub density increases to include thimbleberry, falsebox, Douglas maple, velvet-leaved blueberry, asters, and grouseberry. Soils often have clay accumulation and better moisture retention.

In moister and more northern areas, the second sub-boreal zone has a climax of white spruce, often with subalpine fir. Transitional forests of lodgepole pine are common, but stands of trembling aspen and paper birch may be more characteristic of the finer soil materials (clays and fine silts). Shrub and herb diversity is high, with prickly rose, highbush-cranberry, thimbleberry, creamy peavine, pinegrass, and blue wildrye occurring along with a moderately-developed moss layer. Wetlands are common, but are often covered by shrubs and trees. Many are black spruce and sphagnum bogs.
In the southwestern area, bordering the coastal systems, there is a montane vegetation zone that is dominated by hybrid spruce, with scattered subalpine fir and extensive lodgepole pine forest. It has a sparse understory.

The subalpine vegetation zone is very limited. Its climax forest is Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. Lodgepole pine is the common transitional species; whitebark pine may be present at higher elevations. Understories are dominated by shrubs and grasses - common plants include common juniper, soopolallie, grouseberry, lupines, arnicas, and lichens.

The alpine tundra zone is restricted to western areas. In the Chilcotin Ranges, at higher elevations that zone is dominated by rock and expansive glaciers. However, on some of the more rounded peaks in Tweedsmuir and Itchuz - Ilgachez provincial parks, alpine tundra vegetation is distinctive, dense bunchgrasses, sedges, and hardy forbs predominate.

Fauna - Moose are the most widespread wild ungulate, while mule deer occur in large populations in the southern plateau and Fraser River ‘badlands’ area. Several large populations of California bighorn sheep occur in the Fraser River badlands and alpine areas. Cougars, black bears, coyotes, and wolves are also common through the ecoprovince. Widespread small mammals include the western jumping mouse, muskrat and long-tailed weasel. Two species of bat, big brown bat and Townsend’s big-eared bat, hibernate in the ecoprovince.

This ecoprovince supports 65% of all bird species known to occur in British Columbia and 61% of all species known to breed in the province. The only breeding colony of the American White Pelican in the province is found in the Chilcotin Plateau. Excellent habitat for waterfowl and other waterbird (e.g. grebes) production exists throughout the plateau. The world centre of breeding abundance for Barrow’s Goldeneye occurs here. It is also the centre of breeding abundance for Greater Yellowlegs and the Yellow-headed Blackbird, and is one of two important breeding areas for Long-billed Curlew and Ring-billed Gull. High breeding concentrations of Eared Grebe, Sandhill Crane, Herring Gull, and Black Tern have also been found here.

The western terrestrial garter snake is the most common reptile, while the western toad and spotted frog occur throughout the area.

This ecoprovince supports both anadromous and freshwater fish. Anadromous species include: Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, steelhead, white sturgeon and Pacific lamprey. Freshwater fish include: rainbow trout (both native and introduced populations), bull trout, mountain and lake whitefish, lake chub and redside shiner.

Ecoprovince Subdivisions

The Central Interior Ecoprovince is subdivided into 3 ecoregions containing 12 ecosections.

EHN - Eastern Hazelton Mountains Ecoregion is a narrow mountain area located leeward of the rounded Kitimat Ranges. Moist Pacific air spills over into this area, or enters via low mountain passes. The area is greatly influenced by dry descending air creating rainshadow on the eastern portion. Arctic Air invades from the northeast, bringing periods of intense cold temperatures. Forest vegetation is transitional between wet rain forests to the west and the sub-boreal forests to the east. This ecoregion consists of two ecosections.

  • BUR - Bulkely Ranges Ecosection
    This is a narrow, rounded mountain system that lies on the leeward side of the Kitimat Ranges. Most of this ecosection are underlain with granitic rocks. The Cordilleran Ice Sheet once covered the entire ecosection. The higher peaks have been sculpted by the glaciers to form cirques, they usually occur on the north and east facing sides. The highest mountain in the Telkwa Range only reaches to 2325 m, while most are lower than 2,000 m. In addition to the numerous small streams the area is drained by: large streams such as Telkwa and Morice Rivers that flows into the Bulkley River; numerous small streams flowing directly into the Bulkely River; small streams that flow eastward into the Nechako Reservoir, such as, Andrews and Sibola creeks; streams that flow into the Skeena River, such as, the upper Zymoetz, upper Clore rivers and Burnie Creek. Many small lakes occur on the upland, the northernmost segment of Morice Lake is the largest.

    Moist Pacific air invades this area through numerous low mountain passes, while cold Arctic air frequently stalls along its eastern boundary. Vegetation zonation varies mainly with elevation but also with the influence of moist Pacific air: Sub-Boreal Spruce in the valleys and lower slopes; over 60 percent of this ecosection is dominated by the Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir zone, which occurs on the middle slopes; alpine tundra with small glaciers occur on the upper slopes and summits; finally small stands of Coastal Western Hemlock and the Interior Cedar - Hemlock forests occur on the lower slopes adjacent to the low coastal passes. Hudson Bay Mountain, which provides a backdrop to Smithers, demonstrates the environmental complexity of this Ecosection.

    There are no settlements in this ecosection. Access is limited to resource extraction roads mainly in the Telkwa and upper Zymoetz watersheds, and to the Hudson Bay Mountain ski development, but an extensive road network has been built to harvest almost all non-park commercial timber. Most of Tazdli Wyiez Bin/Burnie-Shea Park occurs in this ecosection, as well as, all of the Morice Lake Park and Burnie River protected area, and portion of the Atna River Park.

  • NEU - Nechako Upland Ecosection
    This is a hilly upland area consisting of several monadnocks in the Nechako Plateau and the eastern foothills of the Kitimat Ranges. Successive glaciers from the past Ice Age moved generally eastward from the Coast Mountains and eroded the hills and deposited large quantities of soil and rocks. This ecosection is drained by many small streams that flow eastward into Whitesail and Eutsuk lakes; and the streams that flow into coastal fjords, such as, the South Seekwyakin Creek and Dean and Tsaytis rivers. Many medium sized and small lakes and wetlands occur across the ecosection, and the damming of the Nechako River has created a large reservoir complex - Eutsuk-Whitesail lakes. There are no permanent settlements and access is limited to the forest development roads north of Tahtsa Lake. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the Lodgepole Pine stands within this ecosection. A majority of the ecosection lies within the North Tweedsmuir Park and the northern third of the South Tweedsmuir Park, in addition, Nadina Mountain Park occurs in the northern portion of the ecosection. As well, the Naxalk-Carrier grease trail (the so called Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail) cuts across the South Tweedsmuir Park in the southern portion of the ecosection.

CHR - Chilcotin Ranges Ecoregion is a long, narrow area of high, somewhat rounded mountains, located in the rainshadow of the Pacific Ranges. Precipitation is greatest in the northwest portion adjacent to the low coastal passes of the Atnarko River; and least in the southeast, which is leeward of the highest portion of the Pacific Ranges. Cold Arctic air often lies against the northern perimeter, infiltrating into the north-facing valleys. There are two ecosection subdivisions.

 

  • CCR - Central Chilcotin Ranges Ecosection
    This is a dry, rounded mountain area located leeward of the Pacific Ranges to the south. The Central Ranges Ecosection rises progressively higher going from the eastern boundary with the CHP Ecosection and with the western boundary with the NPR Ecosection. This ecosection is mainly composed of non-granitic rocks (except along the northwestern boundary with the CPR Ecosection), which are volcanic and sedimentary in origin; there is a small portion of the Pacific Range granitic rocks that occur along the western boundary of this ecosection. A rainshadow effect is enhanced on the eastern perimeter, where the deep Fraser River trench creates usually cloudless skies. In addition to the northward flowing Taseko River and Big Creek this ecosection is drained by the northeastward flowing Churn Creek, the eastward flowing Cabin, French Bar, Watson Bar creeks which all flow into the Fraser River; the southward flowing upper Yalakum River, Relay/Tyaughton creeks, and the upper Homathko River and upper Mosley Creek that flow south into Bute Inlet. The mountain summits are dominated by alpine tundra, which ranges from the dry grasslands on the outer mountains, through barren rock fields to extensive snowfields adjacent to the Coast Range divide. Adjacent to the Fraser River and in the low, north-facing valleys dry Douglas-fir forests occur. While at higher elevations the Engelmann Spruce -Subalpine Fir zone, with extensive cold air, shrub meadows. On the mid-elevations slopes and valleys occurs the Montane Spruce zone with predominantly Lodgepole Pine forest occurs. It must be noted that most of the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection have been affected by the current pine beetle epidemic. Access is limited to a few resource roads that penetrate into the larger, lake-filled valleys, such as in the upper Yalakum River or to Taseko, Tatlayoko and Bluff lakes. Large wilderness protected areas have been established in this ecosection: almost all of Ts’yl-Os (Ts’il?os) Park, half of Homathko River/Tatlayoko Lake protected area, two thirds of Big Creek Park and one third of Spruce Lake protected areas occur within this ecosection.

  • WCR - Western Chilcotin Ranges Ecosection
    This is a moist, rugged mountain area located leeward of the north end of the Pacific Ranges. It is composed of a mix of arc volcanoes and plutonic rocks lying east of the fault that formed the North Klinaklini and Atnarko valleys in the south and north of the Bella Coola Valley it follows through Burnt bridge/Tahyesco valleys, and the ecosection lies west of the level volcanic rocks of the Chilcotin Plateau and the upper Dean River valley. It includes the Rainbow Range, the western-most of the three Chilcotin shield volcanoes. Low passes and exposure to the coastal environment via the Bella Coola and Klinaklini river valleys, bring increased moisture to these portions of the ecosection. Cold Arctic air often lies against the northern and eastern margins and low valleys and occasionally over-riding the entire area with intense cold air for short periods during the winter and early spring months. The streams in this ecosection flow into the four main rivers: tributaries of the Klinaklini are the North Klinaklini and McGlintchy Creek; tributaries of the Atnarko are Whitton, Telegraph, Kappan, Hotnarko and Young streams; Burnt Bridge Creek flows into the Bella Coola River; tributaries of the Dean River are the Tusulko, Beef Trail, Talataeszi, Kohasganko and Tahyseco streams. Dry Douglas-fir forests occur in the Klinaklini and Atnarko river valleys. The lodgepole pine dominated Montane Spruce zone occurs along the lower slopes of the eastern margin along the Fraser Plateau. At higher elevations the Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir Zone dominates. While the Alpine Tundra Zone occurs throughout on the mountain summits. . It must be noted that most of the lodgepole pine forests within this ecosection have been hit by the current pine beetle epidemic. Access is limited to a portion of the Chilcotin Highway that traverses the lower Atnarko river valley. The southern portion of Tweedsmuir Park occurs in the northwest portion of this ecosection, as well as a portion of the Dzawadi/Upper Klinaklini River and Dean River Corridor conservancies.

FAP - Fraser Plateau Ecoregion is a broad, rolling plateau that is underlain by flat or gently sloping basaltic lava flows. This ecoregion also includes several shield volcanoes and a small portion of the leeward side of the Kitimat Ranges. The entire area was overridden by cordilleran ice moving eastward in the north and northward in the south levelling and moving vast quantities of rock and soil. The climate is sub-continental, with precipitation resulting from the vast areas of wetlands, lakes and streams; however there is also additional moisture brought into the areas by way of the low Kitimat Ranges. The entire ecoregion is often embedded under Cold Arctic air in winter and spring. It contains ten ecosections:

  • BUB - Bulkley Basin Ecosection
    This is a broad lowland area, lying in the northern portion of the Fraser Plateau Ecoregion. There is a strong rainshadow effect caused from its position eastward of the Kitimat and Nass ranges of the Coast Mountains. The broad valleys are filled with many lakes from the large Francois Lake, to medium sized Fraser, Tchesinkut, Tachink, Nulki and Cheslatta lakes to many smaller ones. A large, multi-armed reservoir (Ootsa, Whitesail, Natalkuz and Tetachuck lakes) from damming of the Nechako River. River drainage is via the Bulkely/Morice Rivers northward to the Skeena River or the Nechako/Endako rivers eastward to the Fraser River. The entire area was overridden by cordilleran ice moving out of the Coast Mountains southeastward in the north up the Bulkley Valley and eastward in the south in the general direction of the Nechako River. Except for small areas of higher relief that has Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir zone, most of this ecosection is dominated by lodgepole pine forest in the Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone. It must be noted that most of the Lodgepole Pine forests in this ecosection have be hit with the current pine beetle epidemic. In the lower valleys, trembling aspen stands occur on the southerly-facing slopes. Extensive development and farming occurs along the Yellowhead Highway corridor of the Bulkley/Endako Valley from Vanderhoof in the east to Smithers and Moricetown in the west, and in the Francois Lake area in the south central portion of the ecosection. Extensive logging has occurred throughout this Ecosection. Francois Lake Park is the largest protected area in this ecosection, other protected areas include: the northern tip of Tweedsmuir Park extends into this ecosection on the south shore of Ootsa Lake, the Uncha Mountains Red Hills Park and Nechako Canyon protected area.

  • CAB - Cariboo Basin Ecosection
    This is a rolling upland area with dry forests, interspersed with wetlands and grasslands on south-facing slopes, lying in the southeastern portion of this ecoregion. It lies mainly on the uplands on the east side of the Fraser River south of McLeese Lake, but it includes a portion of the Chilcotin in the Meldrum - Mackin Creek areas, as well as a short segment of the Fraser River up stream from the Chilcotin Bridge. It is one of the last places in this ecoregion to be overridden by southward moving cold Arctic air, and it is more often affected by warm dry air from the south. The numerous lakes, streams and wetlands contribute to the summer precipitation. This area is a rolling plateau of flat-lying basaltic lava that slopes gently to the west and south. The entire area was overridden by cordilleran ice that flowed from the mountains to the east and west to coalesce and moved northward in the north and southward in the south. Vegetation is predominantly in the Interior Douglas-fir Zone. Douglas-fir forests are common throughout with lodgepole pine forests occurring at higher elevations. Trembling aspen stands occur throughout and are most striking in the low elevation, south-facing grasslands. It must be noted that most of the Lodgepole Pine stands within this ecosection have been hit by the current pine beetle epidemic. Numerous wetlands, small streams and lakes occur across the landscape; Williams, Chimney, Lac La Hache, Green and Loon are the largest lakes. The area is drained by many streams and small rivers flowing off the plateau surface most flow into the Fraser River, but a few of the southern ones flow into the Thompson River via either the Bonaparte or the Deadman rivers. The Cariboo Highway provides for the major flow of traffic through this ecosection, but the numerous communities, small farms and ranches throughout and logging operations are connected by a series of roads and secondary highways. Williams Lake is the largest city; smaller centres include Clinton, 100 mile House, Lac La Hache, 150 Mile House, Lone Butte and Spring House. Three provincial parks of note include: Moose Valley, Flat Lake, and Chasm parks – but there are no large protected areas within this ecosection.

  • CAP - Cariboo Plateau Ecosection

    This is a rolling upland of increased relief on the southeastern portion of this ecoregion. Cordilleran ice moved south-westward and north-westward out of the adjacent Columbia Highlands, rounding the hills and ridges and depositing vast quantities of soil and rocks. This ecosection is drained to the Fraser River in the west by the Quesnel, Horsefly, and Canim Rivers and to the Thompson River in the south by the upper Bonaparte River. There are several medium-sized lakes including: Bonaparte, Canim, Sheridan, Deka, Bridge, Eagle and Big lakes, as well many wetlands, small lakes and streams occur throughout the entire ecosection.

    There is increased moisture as a result of the eastwardly moving moist Pacific air rising over the Columbia Mountains to the east. Temperatures are also cooler than in the adjacent Cariboo Basin Ecosection due to the increased elevation here. Cold Arctic air can build up along the western margin bringing periods of intense cold and snow. Most of the ecosection is dominated by two forested zones: the Sub-Boreal Pine – Spruce zone with lodgepole pine and trembling aspen forests, it occurs in the south at the lower elevations; and the Sub-Boreal Spruce zone with white spruce, subalpine fir and lodgepole pine forests that occurs at higher elevations and in the northern portion of the ecosection. . It must be noted that most of the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection have been hit by the current pine beetle epidemic.

    There are no large communities, but several smaller ones occur here, such as, Bridge Lake, Miocene, and McLeese Lake. The 93 Mile – Little Fort Highway (No. 24) bisects the southern portion of the ecosection, however most access through this ecosection is via the many secondary highways and resource development roads that service the small communities, farms and forest industry. There are no large protected areas within this ecosection; small protected areas include: Schoolhouse Lake Park, which lies south of Eagle Creek and west of Canim Lake; Taweet and Emar Lakes parks.

  • CHP - Chilcotin Plateau Ecosection

    This is a rolling upland with increased relief in the south near the Chilcotin Ranges and in the northwest near the large shield volcanoes of the west Chilcotin, underlain by extensive lava beds that have been heavily glaciated by north flowing glaciers. In addition, this ecosection is underlain by extensive lava beds that have been heavily glaciated by north flowing glaciers. Cordilleran ice moved north-easterly across this area moving vast quantities of soil and rocks. This ecosection lies in the southwest portion of the ecoregion. This ecosection is drained by the eastward flowing Chilcotin River and its tributaries the Puntzi, Chilanko, Tatla Lake, Chilco, Taseko and Big creeks, as well in the west it is drained by the upper Klinaklini and upper Dean rivers, while in the east it is drained by Riske and Churn creeks. There are many small streams and rivers that drain this area, and in addition to Puntzi, Choelquoit, Eagle, One Eye, Tatla and Stum lakes, the upland is dotted with many small lakes and wetlands.

    A rainshadow effect is quite pronounced here as easterly moving Pacific air retains most of its moisture as it passes over this area. Winter temperatures are often very cold, with some of the lowest temperatures in the province occurring here. Vegetation zonation reflects the rise in elevation from the Chilcotin River in the northeast towards the mountains in the south and west. Douglas-fir zones forests occur adjacent to the Chilcotin River, giving way to Sub-Boreal Pine – Spruce zone forests with predominantly lodgepole pine. At higher elevations near the Chilcotin Ranges Montane Spruce and ultimately Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir zone forests occur. . It must be noted that most of the lodgepole pine forests within this ecosection have been hit by the current pine beetle epidemic.

    Alexis Creek is the largest community; smaller ones include Tatla Lake, Big Creek and Hanceville. The Chilcotin Highway, No. 20, which connects Anahim Lake and Bella Coola with Williams Lake is the major access link, but there are many resource roads that provide access to the ranches and farms and for the logging industry. The northern potion of Big Creek Park is the largest park in this ecosection, but Nuntsi Park is the largest wholly within the ecosection, there are also three smaller parks: Nazko Lakes and White Pelican parks and the western portion of Churn Creek protected area occur here; as well as the Chilanko Forks Wildlife Management Area.

  • FRB - Fraser River Basin Ecosection
    This is a deeply incised trench area that divides the lower portion of the Fraser Plateau in two. Damming of the Fraser River during the periods of glaciation caused a large lake to form that was filled with deep layers of silt. Subsequent down-cutting by the Fraser River and smaller side tributaries has left a series of exposed buff-coloured silt cliffs just above the Fraser River the entire length of the ecosection. In addition to the Fraser River that cuts this ecosection in two, it is drained on the east side by the: Sheridan, Hawks, Williams Lake, Alkali, Dog, Canoe, and Big Bar creeks; and on the west side by: Riske, Chilcotin, Gaspard, Churn, Grinder, Lone Cabin and French Bar streams.

    Within this ecoregion this ecosection has its own unique climate caused by exposure to the sun heating the steep grasslands with rising warm air currents forcing the clouds onto the adjacent plateaus. This freeing the valley from clouds further enhances the sun’s effects. It has the warmest and driest climate in the ecoregion and is seldom affected by the moist Pacific air. In the winter large Arctic air masses that move down across the interior of the province can bring cold weather and occasionally deep snow. The vegetation zones reflect the warm dry conditions that prevail here. The Bunchgrass Zone with big sagebrush, bluebunch wheatgrass and needle-and-thread, at the lowest elevations give way to dry steppe that is dotted with trembling aspen copses. At the highest elevations at or near the plateau edge, a meadow-steppe occurs that, in addition to bunchgrasses, has many herbaceous plants. Douglas-fir grows in the deep gullies, on north-facing slopes and near the plateau rim where moisture is increased.

    Except for community centre of Riske Creek and the Toosey Indian Reserve, most alienation is in the form of large ranches and several smaller Indian Reservations. Access is limited to the Chilcotin Highway (No 20) that passes across the north portion of the ecosection and to resource roads that traverse the Fraser River from the Caribou to the Chilcotin Plateau. Free-ranging cattle have been a long-standing tradition here. There are two significant protected areas, the Junction Sheep Range and the Churn Creek parks. In addition there is a large wildlife reserve against alienation at Deer Park between the Chilcotin Highway and the mouth of Riske Creek that was established for California Bighorn Sheep management.

  • NAU - Nazko Upland Ecosection
    This is a rolling upland with several areas of higher relief that is situated in the north-central portion of this ecoregion. In the west it contains the Fawnie and the Nechako ranges shield volcanoes. During glaciation cordilleran ice moved northeasterly across this area depositing vast quantities soil and rock. Melting ice at the end of the glaciation created many long, melt-water channels that filled with gravel and coarse rock and have subsequently contain slow moving streams and wetlands. Streams include: the Entiako, Chedakuz, Big Bend and Chilako streams flowing northward into either the Nechako Reservoir or Nechako River proper; and the West Road/Blackwater, Nazko, Baker, Narcosli streams flowing eastward into the Fraser River; as well there are many smaller streams. Tatelkuz, Tsacha, Entiako, Eliguk, Kuyakuz, Ttauk, Naltesby and Pantage are a few of the larger lakes here, as well, there are many smaller lakes, scattered across the ecosection.

    The area has a typical sub-continental climate: cold winters, warm summers, and a precipitation maximum in late spring or early summer. However, the moderating influences of Pacific air can occur throughout the year. In summer there is intense surface heating of the many wetlands, lakes and streams that bring sporadic convective showers. As well this area can lie under a blanket of moist Pacific air that brings heavy cloud cover and rain. In the winter there are frequent outbreaks of Arctic air. They are less frequent than in areas to the north, but there is no effective barrier to slow the invasion of cold air. This ecosection has increased snowfall over other ecosections to the south caused by moist Pacific air masses meeting cold Arctic air from the north. Vegetation zonation reflects the moister conditions with the lodgepole pine dominated Sub-Boreal Pine - Spruce zone occurring along the West Road and Nazko river valleys in the south, and the white spruce, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine dominated forests occurring north of that. While on the highest areas the Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir zone occurs. . It must be noted that almost all of the lodgepole pine forests within this ecosection have been hit by the current pine beetle epidemic.

    Except for Baldy Hughes, there are no community centres here, although ranches and Indian Reservations are common in the Blackwater River area. Logging with its attendant roads have been extensive throughout outside the Provincial parks. Resource extraction roads provide the main access for the small ranches and Indian Reserves. A portion of South Tweedsmuir Park and most of Entiako Park in the western portion of the ecosection and Finger Tatuk and Kluskoil Lake parks are the largest protected areas. As well, the Naxalk-Carrier Grease Trail (also referred to as the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail) cuts east-west across the ecosection.

  • QUL - Quesnel Lowland Ecosection
    This is a lowland trench, lying between the Nazko Upland to the west and the Quesnel Highland to the east, in the northeastern portion of this ecoregion. Cordilleran glaciers flowed generally northward across this ecosection from out of the Quesnel Highlands to the east and from the Coast Mountains further south. Ice blockage of the major rivers to the south, west and north created a large lake that when it drained left behind deep silt and gravel sediments. This ecosection is divided by the Fraser River that flows from north to south through this ecosection; as well it is drained by the Quesnel and Cottonwood rivers that flow north- eastward into the Fraser; the West Road/Blackwater River flows eastward into the Fraser. There are no large lakes here, however there are many small ones as well as wetlands.

    Cold Arctic air invades this area from the Fraser Basin more readily than it does other ecosections in this ecoregion. Precipitation in enhanced by the eastward flowing, moist Pacific air as it rises over the Columbia Mountains, or by, summer heating of lakes, streams and wetlands in the adjacent uplands. The Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone is the dominate one here, but the forests vary; from Douglas-fir on the dry south-facing slopes of the Fraser River south of Australian to trembling aspen, lodgepole pine, white spruce and subalpine fir forests with rising elevation. . It must be noted that almost all of the lodgepole pine forests within this ecosection have been hit by the current pine beetle epidemic.

    Quesnel is the only city, but smaller communities include: Hixon, Australian and Alexandra. The Cariboo Highway (No. 97) links this area with Prince George and the Lower Mainland. The Barkerville Highway (No. 26) links Quesnel to Barkerville. Numerous secondary highways and forest development roads provide access to the small communities, farms, ranches and forests. Logging has been extensive throughout. Fraser River Park on the west side of the Fraser River, east of Hixon is the only significant park in this ecosection.

  • WCU - Western Chilcotin Upland Ecosection
    This is a rounded upland dominated by two large shield volcanoes lying in the west - central portion of this ecoregion, as well there is a large lowland formed by past glaciation. Cordilleran ice moved eastward across this area. The uplands were severely rounded, and large areas of outwash gravels and sands were deposited in the wide intermountain areas. Drainage radiates away from this ecosection to the north and east via the West Road and Nazko rivers; to the southeast via the Chilcotin River; and to the west via the Dean River. Charlotte Lake is the largest one, but others include Nimpo, Anahim, Kappan and Hotnarko, as well there are many small lakes and wetlands on the lowland surface

    The area generally has a sub-continental climate with cold winters, warm summers, and a precipitation maximum in late spring or early summer. However, the moderating influences of Pacific air can occur throughout the year. In summer there is intense surface heating of the many wetlands, lakes and streams in the lowlands and adjacent ecosections that bring sporadic convective showers. As well this area can lie under a blanket of moist Pacific air that brings heavy cloud cover and rain. There is also a strong mountain affect to the shield volcanoes that brings increased precipitation and cool conditions. In the winter there are frequent outbreaks of Arctic air. They are less frequent than in areas to the north, but there is no effective barrier to slow the invasion of cold air. This ecosection has increased snowfall over other ecosections to the south caused by moist Pacific air masses meeting cold Arctic air from the north. Vegetation zonation reflects the moister conditions with the lodgepole pine dominated Sub-Boreal Pine - Spruce zone occurring in the wide intermountain plain of the upper Dean River. Above that and across most of the eastern flank of the ecosection the Montane Spruce Zone of lodgepole pine and white spruce occurs. While the Engelmann spruce - Subalpine Fir Zone occurs on the higher forest slopes. The alpine zone occurs as a gently rolling landscape on the mountain summits it ranges from extensive shrubfields at lower elevations, through herb/grass dominated stands to barren rock near the summits. It must be noted that almost all of the lodgepole pine forests within this ecosection have been hit by the current pine beetle epidemic.

    Anahim Lake is the largest community, but extensive development has occurred at Nimpo Lake, but there are not settlements over most of this ecosection. This ecosection is traversed in the south by the Chilcotin Highway (No. 20) as it passes from Williams Lake to Bella Coola. Access to other reaches of the ecosection, outside the provincial parks, is by to the resource development roads for logging and to service the many small ranches that occur on the lowland meadows. The significant Itcha - Ilgachuz Park and Ilgachuz Range Ecological Reserve are the only protected areas here, they occur over the large shield volcanoes in the center of the ecosection.

 

SBI - Sub-Boreal Interior Ecoprovince

Location – The Sub-Boreal Interior Ecoprovince is located in the north-central portion of the province, to the east of the Coast Mountains and to the west of the Interior Plains. It consists of several physiographic systems: the low‑lying plateau area of the Nechako Lowlands, the northern portion of the Nechako Plateau, and the McGregor Plateau, and the southern portion of the Northern Rocky Mountain Trench. The mountains to the west and north include the southern Skeena and Omineca mountains, while those to the east include the Hart Ranges and associated foothills, the Misinchinka Range and associated foothills.

In this ecoprovince, logging is the most extensive industry based on renewable resources; there are many mines. Agriculture is restricted to the area of finer textured soils in the Fraser Basin; it is limited to grazing and some forage and few cereal crops.
          
Climate – The area has a sub-continental climate, typified by cold winters, warm summers, and precipitation that is equal in summer and winter. It is strongly influenced by the moderating Pacific air; in addition, summer rain is largely due to surface heating, which leads to convective showers. In winter and spring cold Arctic air can easily invade from the east and north to dominate the entire area.

Prevailing westerly winds bring Pacific air to the area over the Coast Mountains by way of the low Kitimat Ranges or the higher Boundary Ranges. Much of the region is in a rainshadow. Coastal air has low moisture content by the time it reaches the ecoprovince. Moisture does enter the area when there is a southwestern flow over the low Kitimat Ranges. Summer surface heating, which leads to convective showers, and winter frontal systems result in precipitation that is evenly distributed throughout the year. Rain shadows occur in some of the Skeena and Omineca mountains and Rocky Mountain Foothills, but heightened precipitation occurs on the western side of the Skeena Mountains and Hart Ranges.

Outbreaks of Arctic air are frequent during the winter and early spring, the cold air moving unhindered from the north to the south. The southern edge of the ecoprovince is near the typical southern extent of the Arctic air mass in January. The mountains are an area of relatively high snowfall.

Physiography -This ecoprovince consists of several physiographic systems. The low-lying plateau area is comprised of the Nechako Lowlands, the northern portion of the Nechako Plateau, and the southern portion of the Northern Rocky Mountain Trench. The mountains to the north and west include the southern Skeena and Omineca Mountains, while the mountains in the east are comprised of the Hart Ranges and associated foothills, the southern Muskwa Ranges and foothills and the McGregor Plateau.

The Interior Plateau portion is a broad area of low relief, with expanses of flat or gently rolling country. In places it is almost completely undissected, but elsewhere it is incised to the level of the Fraser, Nechako and other rivers. The Fraser Basin is of lower relief than the Nechako Plateau. Much of its drainage is poorly organized, and there are numerous lakes and wetlands. The Nechako Plateau is of higher relief with long low ridges. In the Interior Plateau area, the Rocky Mountain Trench is similar in appearance to the Fraser Basin. During the past ice-age, large glaciers moved across the region leaving various deposits and 3 larger areas of fine-textured, lake-bottom silts.

The southern Skeena and Omineca mountains are a complex series of mountain ranges that occur north of the Interior Plateau and east of the coastal mountains. These mountains appear to rise from the plateau surface in long, rounded ridge and eventually to peaks and high ridges with the serrated and jagged profile created by intense alpine glaciation. The zigzag course of the Skeena River, downstream from Kludo Creek, which cuts across the northern Babine Range is 3 places, was determined by ice barriers in adjoining valleys. The present drainage of Babine Lake northward into the Skeena River below Atna Range rather than through the old portage route across to Stuart Lake must also be the result of damming by ice or moraines. The Omineca Mountains are composed of harder, erosion-resistant granitic rock; their lateral boundaries are a series of depressions and valleys. Drainage is generally to the east, while drainage in the Skeena Mountains is to the south and to the west.

The lower elevation central Rocky Mountains are comprised of the Hart Ranges, the southern portion of the Muskwa Ranges, and the adjacent foothills. They contrast sharply with the majestic mountain groups to the south and north. They are a narrow range that separates the Interior Plateau of central British Columbia from the Interior Plains. The Peace River dissects those mountains with a deep gorge, the only such crossing of the Rocky Mountains from the Liard River in northern British Columbia to the Missouri River in central Montana. Other than the Peace, rivers generally are short and flow westward into the Parsnip and Fraser rivers or eastward into the Peace River. The upper surface of the continental ice-sheet once lay 1,800 m to the 2,100 thick on the mountains. Some of the rounded summits were overridden, and some were little affected by alpine and valley glaciation. The combination of greatly lessened elevation and relief, of different bedrocks and structure, and reduced alpine and valley glaciation has resulted in a subdued topography. The Rocky Mountain Foothills to the east are similar to the adjacent Rocky Mountains except that their height diminishes towards the Interior Plains and they have a trellis pattern of drainage. In the foothills, the valleys have eroded along belts of soft rock and fault zones and are generally wide and flaring.

Biogeoclimatic Zonation - Vegetation is dominated by the Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone (SBS) on the Nechako Plateau, Nechako Lowlands, Northern Rocky Mountain Trench, and many of the valleys; the Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir Zone (ESSF) occurs on the middle slopes of all mountains; and the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine Zone (BAFA) occurs on the upper slopes of those mountains; the Interior Cedar - Hemlock Biogeoclimatic Zone occurs in the wetter valleys of the Skeena Mountains and southern Hart Ranges; the Spruce - Willow - Birch Zone (SWB) occurs in the upper Ospika valley; and the Boreal White and Black Spruce Zone (BWBS) occurs in the valley of the foothills and Omineca Mountains.

Vegetation - Vegetation in this ecoprovince reflects increased coolness and moisture with an increase in latitude when compared to the Central Interior Ecoprovince, to the south. The dominant vegetation is dense coniferous forest, from valley bottom to timberline, with increased shrub and tree cover on the scattered wetlands. Deciduous forests are more common here than in southern ecoprovinces.

Three primary vegetation zones occur:         
The lower zone that has a potential climax of white (hybrid) spruce and subalpine fir covers the greatest portion of the ecoprovince. The predominance of fine-textured landforms results in moist soils and diverse understories. The transitional vegetation is sensitive to changes of both summer warmth and soil material. Soils are less weathered than in the higher elevation or more northern areas, where lodgepole pine is common. On finer soils, where clay accumulation impedes moisture movement, trembling aspen and paper birch may form extensive deciduous forest before climax species can become established. Common plants of the understory include prickly rose, soopolallie, willows, black twinberry, thimbleberry, devil’s club, bunchberry, arnicas, twinflower, fireweed, trailing raspberry, oak fern, creamy peavine, and asters. Wetlands are extensive in lower relief areas. Sedge fens are common, as well as organics dominated by scrub birch, willows, and sedges. Of special interest are sphagnum bogs with black spruce, Labrador tea, and sedges that are more typical of areas further north. Floodplain areas have black cottonwood and white spruce, with a lush understory of red-osier dogwood, highbush cranberry, black gooseberry, horsetails, and bluejoint. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecoprovince.

The middle vegetation zone is dominated by subalpine forests of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. Lodgepole pine is usually dominant. Common understory species are white-flowered rhododendron, black huckleberry, mountain-ash, black gooseberry, bunchberry, arnica, twistedstalks, and a carpet of moss. In steeper terrain with high snowfall, there are avalanche areas marked by stands of Sitka alder. At higher elevations where the forest opens, the landscape may be intermixed with tree clumps and meadows of valerian, Indian hellebore, ragwort, and sedges. Subalpine soils are strongly acidic but well drained. They have a medium texture and a greater surface accumulation of litter than do lower forest soils.

An extensive alpine tundra belt occurs at higher elevations of the northern mountains, where rolling topography results in a variety of alpine communities. The alpine is composed of moist meadows of herbs such as Indian helebore, ragwort, Indian paintbrush, and sedge, moist heath of mountain-heathers, and drier areas of Altai fescue, other grasses, sedges, dwarf willows, and lichens. In the eastern mountain area, the alpine has a greater component of exposed rock, with drier communities composed of dwarf willows, grasses, woodrushes, moss campion, louseworts, and white mountain-avens. Soils are strongly acidic, often with turfy topsoils, and frequently disturbed by frost churning and heaving.

Fauna - Moose are the most abundant and widely distributed ungulate, Woodland Caribou occur throughout the mountains, Mountain Goats occur in the more rugged mountains, and Stone’s Sheep only occur in the Misinchinka Range and associated foothills. Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer are uncommon and occur mainly in the very southern lowland areas. American Black Bears and wolves are common throughout, while Grizzly Bears are abundant in the mountain forests. Lynx, Fisher and Muskrat are widely distributed throughout this region.

Fifty-seven percent of the bird species known to occur in British Columbia and 45% of all species known to breed in the province are found in the Sub-Boreal Interior. The Boreal Owl is a typical resident species. Highest breeding numbers of Herring Gull and Black Tern occur here. Two passerine species of note are the Rusty Blackbird and Magnolia Warbler.

The only reptile is the rare common garter snake which occurs in the lowlands and mountain valleys While four amphibians occur here: the Western Toad, Wood Frog, and Spotted Frog occur throughout, while the Long-Toed Salamander is restricted to the warmer valleys and lowlands.

This ecoprovince supports both anadromous fish such as, Chinook and sockeye salmon. Native and introduced, rainbow trout, lake trout, bull trout, lake and mountain whitefish, Arctic grayling (in the Peace River watershed), longnose sucker, slimy sculpin and torrent sculpin are important fish that occur in the Sub-Boreal Interior.

Ecoprovince Subdivisions

The Sub-Boreal Interior Ecoprovince is subdivided into four ecoregions containing 14 ecosections.

CRM - Central Canadian Rocky Mountains Ecoregion
This ecoregion consists of steep-sided, but round‑topped mountains and foothills that are lower than ranges of the Rockies to either the south or the north. Pacific air spills over these mountains bringing moist, mild air to the eastern valleys, while Arctic air passes from east to west bringing very cold, dense air to the western valleys and lowlands. Low-pressure systems in central Alberta can push moist air westward causing heavy precipitation events, especially in the Rocky Mountain Foothills. The Boreal White and Black Spruce zone occurs in the outer eastern valleys; the Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone occurs in the interior and western valleys, the Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir zone occurs on all the middle and upper mountain slopes; and the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine zone occurs on the mountain summits. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecoregion. It contains five ecosections.

  • HAF - Hart Foothills Ecosection
    This ecosection consists of low, rounded mountains and wide valleys area on the east side of the Hart Ranges of the Rocky Mountains. They are composed of limestone sedimentary rocks; the western boundary with the Hart Ranges is a structural line, while the eastern boundary with the Albert Plateau is quite indistinct and dissected by eastward flowing rivers. Northeastward moving Cordilleran ice moved across these ranges and down the valleys, meeting the southwestward coalescing with the Laurentide ice along the eastern margin. This ecosection is drained by the Moberly, Pine, Sukunka, Wolverine and Murray rivers all which ultimately drain into the Peace River in BC; and by Redwillow, Wapiti, Red Deer, and Belcourt rivers which all flow into Alberta before joining the Peace River; Gwillim and Wapiti lakes are the only large lakes.

    This ecosection is in a rainshadow of easterly flowing Pacific air coming over the main Hart Ranges, however, when low-pressure systems build up in central Alberta moisture can be pushed westward into this area bringing considerable moisture. In the winter, cold dense Arctic air often stalls along the eastern margin or in the valleys, bring periods of intense cold and considerable snowfall. Boreal white and black spruce forests occur in the valleys of the eastern boundary with the Alberta Plateau; Sub-Boreal Spruce forests occur in the valley bottoms along the western boundary as well as on the lower slopes throughout; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur on all the mid to upper slopes throughout; alpine tundra occur on the highest ridges and summits and become more continuous towards the western margin with the Hart Ranges.

    There are no communities here. The John Hart Highway (No. 97) linking the Peace River with the interior of the province was built through the northern portion; Don Phillips Way (No. 29) from Chetwynd to Tumbler Ridge passes through the northeast portion of this ecosection. The British Columbia Railway crosses these foothills in two places: from the west to east via Pine Pass and along the Wolverine River. Coal mining occurs at Bull Moose and Quintette mountains along the eastern boundary. Gwillim Lake Park and the northern third of Wapiti Lake Park are the main larger parks that occur within this ecosection.

  • MIR - Misinchinka Ranges Ecosection
    This is a rugged, rounded mountain area, with deep narrow valleys. This area is transitional in height with the higher Muskwa Ranges to the north. Some of the rounded summits were overridden by northeastward moving ice, however some areas were little affected by either alpine or valley glaciation. The Peace Reach of the Williston Lake (Reservoir) divides this ecosection into two terrestrial units. On the south side of the Williston Reservoir this ecosection is drained by the lower Clearwater River and by Scott, Weston, Colin, Selwyn and Point creeks; while on the north side it is drained by – the western tributaries of the Nabesche, West Nabesche, Bernard, Wicked streams which flow southward into the Peace Arm; the Ospika, Davis and Lafferty rivers and creek flow into the Finlay Arm; and the Horn and Poutang creeks join to form the Graham River and flow eastward.

    Moist Pacific air often stalls over these mountains, bringing high precipitation, both summer and winter. In the winter cold Arctic air often lays in the Peace River Reach, and often overrides the entire area bringing very cold and heavy snowfall weather. There are no communities here; logging has proceeded into the Ospika watershed. The damming of the Peace River has flooded the Peace canyon making a barrier for movement of terrestrial animals. Boreal White and Black Spruce forests occur in the Ospika valley; Sub-Boreal Spruce forest in all the other valleys and on the lower mountain slopes; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur throughout on the mid to upper slopes. The tops of the ridges and mountains have extensive alpine vegetation.

    There are no settlements or highways here. Logging with its attendant roads has occurred along the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Lake reservoir; in the Ospika valley and other wide valleys, such as the Clearwater River valley. Placer mining has occurred in the Peace River canyon. The western two thirds of the Graham-Laurier Park have been established in the northeastern portion of this ecosection.

  • NHR - Northern Hart Ranges Ecosection
    This is a rounded mountainous area that has a rather low profile composed of limestone sedimentary rocks that have been overridden and rounded by glaciers moving from the interior of the province eastward.. This ecosection is drained by the upper Clearwater River, and western portion of the Ducette Creek which flow northward; the shorter Cut Thumb, Chichouyenily, Gagnon, Mischiochinka, Misinchinka, Renolds, Anzac and Table streams that flow westward into either the Parsnip River or the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Reservoir; and the upper Pine, Burnt and upper Sukunka rivers that flow eastward through the Hart Foothills Ecosection. Hook Lake is the only large lake here.

    It is often overridden by eastward moving Pacific air or southwestward moving Arctic air. They bring heavy precipitation as rain or snow. Sub-Boreal Spruce forests dominate the valley bottoms and lower slopes; impressive wetlands have developed in several flat-bottomed valleys, such as, in the Hominka, Table and Anza valleys. Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate the middle and upper slopes. Alpine is more prevalent towards the highest ridges to the south and along the higher eastern margin with the foothills.

    There are no communities here: the John Hart Highway (No. 97) linking the Peace River with the interior of the province lies near the middle of this ecosection. The British Columbia Railway crosses these mountains in two places: from the west to east via Pine Pass and along the Table River into the upper Sukunka River valley. The only large protected area, Pine Lamoray Park has been established on the south side of Pine Pass, it includes all the watershed of Mountain Creek.

    PEF - Peace Foothills Ecosection
    This is a rounded, blocky mountain area that lies on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. This ecosection was overridden by eastward moving glaciers that coalesced with Laurentide glaciers moving west across the Interior Plains. The Peace Reach of the Williston Lake reservoir divides this ecosection in two: south of the Peace Arm this ecosection is drained by the Carbon, Gaylard, Dowling, and Johnson creeks; while on the north side it is drained by the eastern portion of the Nabesche, Schooler, Aylard, and Dunlevy streams that flow southward; and by the eastward flowing Graham, Chowade and Cypress streams.

    A strong rain shadows exist, but cold, Arctic air can stall along the eastern margin, and invade into the eastern-facing valleys, especially the Williston Lake. As well low pressure systems over central Alberta and push moist air westward bringing heavy rain events here. The eastern-facing valleys are dominated by Boreal White and Black Spruce forests; at the furthest ends of those valleys and on the lower slopes Sub-Boreal Spruce forests dominate; at mid and upper slopes Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate. Alpine is most prevalent on the higher ridges and mountain summits in the western margin near the adjacent ecosections.

    There are no communities here. The dam for Williston Lake reservoir was constructed near the eastern boundary; it is serviced by a road from Hudson’s Hope. Logging and its attendant roads has occurred in many of the valleys, especially the Graham River and Carbon Creek watersheds. Three large protected areas have been established here: the eastern third of Graham-Laurier Park has been is located in the watersheds of Needham and lower Emerslund creeks; Butler Ridge Park is located on the eastern boundary just north of the Peach Reach; and Bocock Peak and Klin-se-za parks have been established in the upper watershed of Carbon Creek.

  • SHR - Southern Hart Ranges Ecosection
    This is a transitional mountain area situated between the lower Northern Hart Ranges to the north and the rugged Canadian Rocky Mountains to the south. It is comprised of limestone bedrock These ranges are topographically and structurally similar to the Front Ranges to the south, although they become lower to the north. Eastward moving glaciers overrode this area, rounding the contours and upper slopes and some glaciers remain at the highest elevations in the south. This ecosection is drained by the upper Parsnip River a stream that ultimately flows into the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Lake (Reservoir); by streams that drain into the upper Fraser River, such as, the McGregor, Torpy and Herrick rivers; and by streams that flow into the Peace River, such as, the Imperial, upper Murray, upper Wapiti and upper Red Deer streams. Monkman Lake is the only lake of any size.

    This ecosection forms a barrier to the eastward moving Pacific air or southwestward moving Arctic air. Pacific air can stall along the western margin bringing heavy rain and snow. Moist forests of the Interior Cedar – Hemlock zone occurs on the lower slopes of the southern valleys. Elsewhere Sub-Boreal Spruce forests occur in most valleys and lower slopes; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate the middle and upper slopes. Alpine vegetation is most common on the higher ridges and mountains in the south and along the eastern margin with the foothills.

    There are no communities here. Logging with it attendant roads has occurred throughout the valleys. In addition to smaller protected areas several large mountain parks have been established here: almost all of Monkman Park, two-thirds of Wapiti Lake Park and the southwestern half of Kakwa Park occur along the higher eastern boundary; Arctic-Pacific lakes Park is located between Herrick Creek and the Parsnip River.

    This ecosection consists of low, rounded mountains and wide valleys area on the east side of the Hart Ranges of the Rocky Mountains. They are composed of limestone sedimentary rocks; the western boundary with the Hart Ranges is a structural line, while the eastern boundary with the Albert Plateau is quite indistinct and dissected by eastward flowing rivers. Northeastward moving Cordilleran ice moved across these ranges and down the valleys, meeting the southwestward coalescing with the Laurentide ice along the eastern margin. This ecosection is drained by the Moberly, Pine, Sukunka, Wolverine and Murray rivers all which ultimately drain into the Peace River in BC; and by Redwillow, Wapiti, Red Deer, and Belcourt rivers which all flow into Alberta before joining the Peace River; Gwillim and Wapiti lakes are the only large lakes.

    This ecosection is in a rainshadow of easterly flowing Pacific air coming over the main Hart Ranges, however, when low-pressure systems build up in central Alberta moisture can be pushed westward into this area bringing considerable moisture. In the winter, cold dense Arctic air often stalls along the eastern margin or in the valleys, bring periods of intense cold and considerable snowfall. Boreal white and black spruce forests occur in the valleys of the eastern boundary with the Alberta Plateau; Sub-Boreal Spruce forests occur in the valley bottoms along the western boundary as well as on the lower slopes throughout; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur on all the mid to upper slopes throughout; alpine tundra occur on the highest ridges and summits and become more continuous towards the western margin with the Hart Ranges.

    There are no communities here. The John Hart Highway (No. 97) linking the Peace River with the interior of the province was built through the northern portion; Don Phillips Way (No. 29) from Chetwynd to Tumbler Ridge passes through the northeast portion of this ecosection. The British Columbia Railway crosses these foothills in two places: from the west to east via Pine Pass and along the Wolverine River. Coal mining occurs at Bull Moose and Quintette mountains along the eastern boundary. Gwillim Lake Park and the northern third of Wapiti Lake Park are the main larger parks that occur within this ecosection.

  • MIR - Misinchinka Ranges Ecosection
    This is a rugged, rounded mountain area, with deep narrow valleys. This area is transitional in height with the higher Muskwa Ranges to the north. Some of the rounded summits were overridden by northeastward moving ice, however some areas were little affected by either alpine or valley glaciation. The Peace Reach of the Williston Lake (Reservoir) divides this ecosection into two terrestrial units. On the south side of the Williston Reservoir this ecosection is drained by the lower Clearwater River and by Scott, Weston, Colin, Selwyn and Point creeks; while on the north side it is drained by – the western tributaries of the Nabesche, West Nabesche, Bernard, Wicked streams which flow southward into the Peace Arm; the Ospika, Davis and Lafferty rivers and creek flow into the Finlay Arm; and the Horn and Poutang creeks join to form the Graham River and flow eastward.

    Moist Pacific air often stalls over these mountains, bringing high precipitation, both summer and winter. In the winter cold Arctic air often lays in the Peace River Reach, and often overrides the entire area bringing very cold and heavy snowfall weather. There are no communities here; logging has proceeded into the Ospika watershed. The damming of the Peace River has flooded the Peace canyon making a barrier for movement of terrestrial animals. Boreal White and Black Spruce forests occur in the Ospika valley; Sub-Boreal Spruce forest in all the other valleys and on the lower mountain slopes; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur throughout on the mid to upper slopes. The tops of the ridges and mountains have extensive alpine vegetation.

    There are no settlements or highways here. Logging with its attendant roads has occurred along the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Lake reservoir; in the Ospika valley and other wide valleys, such as the Clearwater River valley. Placer mining has occurred in the Peace River canyon. The western two thirds of the Graham-Laurier Park has been established in the northeastern portion of this ecosection.

  • NHR - Northern Hart Ranges Ecosection
    This is a rounded mountainous area that has a rather low profile composed of limestone sedimentary rocks that have been overridden and rounded by glaciers moving from the interior of the province eastward.. This ecosection is drained by the upper Clearwater River, and western portion of the Ducette Creek which flow northward; the shorter Cut Thumb, Chichouyenily, Gagnon, Mischiochinka, Misinchinka, Renolds, Anzac and Table streams that flow westward into either the Parsnip River or the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Reservoir; and the upper Pine, Burnt and upper Sukunka rivers that flow eastward through the Hart Foothills Ecosection. Hook Lake is the only large lake here.

    It is often overridden by eastward moving Pacific air or southwestward moving Arctic air. They bring heavy precipitation as rain or snow. Sub-Boreal Spruce forests dominate the valley bottoms and lower slopes; impressive wetlands have developed in several flat-bottomed valleys, such as, in the Hominka, Table and Anza valleys. Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate the middle and upper slopes. Alpine is more prevalent towards the highest ridges to the south and along the higher eastern margin with the foothills.

    There are no communities here: the John Hart Highway (No. 97) linking the Peace River with the interior of the province lies near the middle of this ecosection. The British Columbia Railway crosses these mountains in two places: from the west to east via Pine Pass and along the Table River into the upper Sukunka River valley. The only large protected area, Pine Lamoray Park has been established on the south side of Pine Pass, it includes all the watershed of Mountain Creek.

  • PEF - Peace Foothills Ecosection
    This is a rounded, blocky mountain area that lies on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. This ecosection was overridden by eastward moving glaciers that coalesced with Laurentide glaciers moving west across the Interior Plains. The Peace Reach of the Williston Lake reservoir divides this ecosection in two: south of the Peace Arm this ecosection is drained by the Carbon, Gaylard, Dowling, and Johnson creeks; while on the north side it is drained by the eastern portion of the Nabesche, Schooler, Aylard, and Dunlevy streams that flow southward; and by the eastward flowing Graham, Chowade and Cypress streams.

    A strong rain shadows exist, but cold, Arctic air can stall along the eastern margin, and invade into the eastern-facing valleys, especially the Williston Lake. As well low pressure systems over central Alberta and push moist air westward bringing heavy rain events here. The eastern-facing valleys are dominated by Boreal White and Black Spruce forests; at the furthest ends of those valleys and on the lower slopes Sub-Boreal Spruce forests dominate; at mid and upper slopes Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate. Alpine is most prevalent on the higher ridges and mountain summits in the western margin near the adjacent ecosections.

    There are no communities here. The dam for Williston Lake reservoir was constructed near the eastern boundary; it is serviced by a road from Hudson’s Hope. Logging and its attendant roads has occurred in many of the valleys, especially the Graham River and Carbon Creek watersheds. Three large protected areas have been establish here: the eastern third of Graham-Laurier Park has been is located in the watersheds of Needham and lower Emerslund creeks; Butler Ridge Park is located on the eastern boundary just north of the Peach Reach; and Bocock Peak and Klin-se-za parks have been established in the upper watershed of Carbon Creek.

  • SHR - Southern Hart Ranges Ecosection
    This is a transitional mountain area situated between the lower Northern Hart Ranges to the north and the rugged Canadian Rocky Mountains to the south. It is comprised of limestone bedrock These ranges are topographically and structurally similar to the Front Ranges to the south, although they become lower to the north. Eastward moving glaciers overrode this area, rounding the contours and upper slopes and some glaciers remain at the highest elevations in the south. This ecosection is drained by the upper Parsnip River a stream that ultimately flows into the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Lake (Reservoir); by streams that drain into the upper Fraser River, such as, the McGregor, Torpy and Herrick rivers; and by streams that flow into the Peace River, such as, the Imperial, upper Murray, upper Wapiti and upper Red Deer streams. Monkman Lake is the only lake of any size.

    This ecosection forms a barrier to the eastward moving Pacific air or southwestward moving Arctic air. Pacific air can stall along the western margin bringing heavy rain and snow. Moist forests of the Interior Cedar – Hemlock zone occurs on the lower slopes of the southern valleys. Elsewhere Sub-Boreal Spruce forests occur in most valleys and lower slopes; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate the middle and upper slopes. Alpine vegetation is most common on the higher ridges and mountains in the south and along the eastern margin with the foothills.

    There are no communities here. Logging with it attendant roads has occurred throughout the valleys. In addition to smaller protected areas several large mountain parks have been established here: almost all of Monkman Park, two-thirds of Wapiti Lake Park and the southwestern half of Kakwa Park occur along the higher eastern boundary; Arctic-Pacific lakes Park is located between Herrick Creek and the Parsnip River.

FAB - Fraser Basin Ecoregion
This is a broad, lowland and rolling upland area, located in the southwestern portion of the Sub-Boreal Interior Ecoprovince. The climate is sub-continental with even precipitation amounts throughout the year: easterly-flowing moist Pacific air coupled with summer surface heating of lakes and streams bring summer rains, while in the winter, southward flowing cold Arctic air meeting moist Pacific air bring persistent snowfall events. The Sub-Boreal Spruce zone dominates much of this area: with the Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir zone on the upper slopes of the few higher ridges; while the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine zone occurs only on Tsisutl Mountain. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecoregion. It contains three ecosections.

  • BAU - Babine Upland Ecosection
    This is a rolling upland with low ridges; much of the intrusive bedrock has been obscured by glacial debris, such as, eskers, meltwater channels, and drumlins. Glacial ice moved southward out of the Omineca Mountains to coalesce with north-eastward flowing ice from the Chilcotin Plateau. This ecosection is drained by the Sutherland and Fulton rivers that flow into Babine Lake; by the Babine River which drains Babine Lake and flows into the Skeena River; by the Nation River which flows into the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Lake; and by the Hautete, Middle, and Tacho rivers that drain into the large lakes which ultimately drain into the Nechako River. Many small streams and wetlands and several very large lakes in the depressions, such as Babine, Tochcha, the Northwest Arm and southern reach of Takla, Trembleur, Tezzeron, Cunningham, and Stuart lakes occur here.

    This area is affected by easterly-flowing, moist Pacific air and by surface heating of the many lakes, wetlands and streams, bringing humid and rainy conditions that are sub-continental in effect. In the winter dens, cold Arctic air can settle over this area for long periods bringing extreme cold weather and snow events. Sub-Boreal Spruce forests dominate all the valleys and lower slopes; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forest occur only on the upper slopes. Alpine communities are rare and occur on only a few of the highest summits. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection.

    There are no communities in this ecosection although, Fort St James is located on the southeastern boundary, and summer residences and fishing lodges have been established in many places such as: at Pinchi, Middle River, Donald Landing, Smithers Landing, Topley Landing, Granisle and Fort Babine. Logging is the main resource industry and has been extensive throughout the ecosection; however Copper Mining occurred on Copper Island in the middle of Babine Lake east of Granisle. Rubyrock Lake, Sutherland River and the eastern half of Babine River Corridor parks are the three largest of many protected areas that have been established here.

  • MCP - McGregor Plateau Ecosection
    This is rolling upland adjacent to the Hart Ranges. It is a displaced portion of the Rocky Mountain Trench that is higher than the Trench to the north or to the south. Glacial ice moved eastward over this plateau and the Hart Ranges to the east. Many small lakes, wetlands, and streams occur here. This ecosection is drained by the western portion of the upper Fraser River that cuts through the southern area, and by the lower Parsnip River that flows northward into the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Lake; the Chuckinka and Angusmac creeks flow into the north flowing Crooked River; by the Seebach creek and lower McGregor River that flow southward into the Fraser River; and by the lower Bowron and lower Willow rivers that flow northward into the Fraser River. Large lakes include Eagle, Purden, Tacheeda and Morfee lakes

    This plateau area has a cool moist climate caused by moist Pacific air rising over this plateau as it moves over the Hart Ranges to the east. In the winter dense, cold Arctic air can invade from the north down the Northern Rocky Mountain Trench of from over the Hart Ranges to bring long periods of intense cold and snow. Wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests occur only along the eastern margin, especially in the Fraser River valley; elsewhere the area is dominated by Sub-Boreal Spruce forests. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection.

    Mackenzie the largest community is located partly in this ecosection in the far north extent; many other smaller settlements, such as: Willow River, Giscome, Aleza lake, Upper Fraser, McGregor and Sinclair Mills have been established south of the Fraser River. In addition to the many roads that service small communities in the south, the Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) is located across the southern portion; the John Hart Highway (No. 97) lies in the northern portion in the Misinchinka and Crooked river valleys, and the Mackenzie Highway (No. 39) connects Mackenzie to the John Hart Highway. Logging is the main resource industry and its attendant roads have been built throughout the ecosection, however the current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection. Purden Lake Park is the only large protected area here.

  • NEL - Nechako Lowland Ecosection
    This is a flat or gently, rolling lowland with some dissection by the Fraser and Nechako rivers and by past glaciation. Glaciers from the north, west and southern mountains coalesced in this ecosection before moving eastward to the Hart Ranges. They left behind many eskers, drumlins and meltwater channels. This ecosection is drained: to the north into the Parsnip Arm of Williston Lake by the Crooked/Pack, McLeod and Weedon streams; to the south to the Fraser River by the Stuart, lower Nechako, Salmon and Muskeg rivers. There are myriad small lakes, wetlands and streams across the surface; as well there are several large lakes, such as, Carp, Great Beaver, and McLeod lakes and the eastern halves of Tezzeron and Pinchi lakes and the very southern portion of the Parsnip Arm of the Williston Lake reservoir.

    The climate here is typically is sub-boreal, with moist Pacific air moving eastward across the lowland and summer surface heating of the many bodies of water create humid conditions during the summer. In the winter dense, cold Arctic are can invade from either the north or from over the Hart Ranges to the east bring long periods of intense cold and snowfall. The southern half of this ecosection has a milder climate than any other in this ecoprovince. The entire lowland is dominated by Sub-Boreal Spruce forests. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection.

    Prince George is by far the largest community here, smaller ones include: Vanderhoof and Fort St James, as well as many small settlements, such as Mud River, Salmon Valley and McLeod Lake. The John Hart Highway (No. 97) lies along the eastern boundary servicing many small communities and connecting the Peace River and Mackenzie with Prince George; the Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) lies near the southern boundary and services Vanderhoof and also connects this region with both Prince Rupert and Alberta; Vanderhoof – Stuart Highway (No. 27) connects Fort St. James with Vanderhoof. Logging is the main resource industry. Agriculture, such as hay, cereal crops and livestock, occurs along the southern-most lowland area. The two largest protected areas are: Carp Lake Park located in the northern portion is largest protected area here; as well the Stuart River Park is divided into upper and lower sections have been established along the Stuart River; smaller protected areas include: Dahl Lake, Mount Pope and Eskers parks.

OMM - Omineca Mountains Ecoregion
This ecoregion consists of several mountain groups that are dominantly rounded, isolated ranges that build in height from the south to north, wide valleys often separate these ranges. Cold Arctic air is common in the winter. The Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone occurs in all the valleys, except in the north central ones where Boreal White and Black Spruce forests become dominant; the Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir Zone occurs on the mountain slopes; and the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine Zone occurs on the mountain summits. This ecoregion consists of four ecosections.

  • ESM - Eastern Skeena Mountains Ecosection
    This ecosection has a wide valley in the centre that is surrounded by high isolated and often rugged mountain ranges. The mountains are largely folded sedimentary rocks that are extremely complex with many overturned and recumbent outlines. Glaciers moved south and east out of these mountains meeting easterly flowing ice from the mountains and plateaus to the south. This ecosection is drained mainly by the upper Skeena and Sustut rivers, but also by smaller streams such as: the Birdfat, Squingula, Asitka, Duti, Kluatahtan, and eastern Slamgeesh rivers all of which flow into the Skeena River. There are no large lakes here.

    This area is in a rainshadow of the higher Northern Skeena Mountains Ecosection to the west, which has resulted in lower precipitation amounts. However, moist easterly flowing Pacific air can often meet cold southerly flowing Arctic air causing increased snowfall events. Sub-Boreal Spruce forests dominate the valley bottoms and lower mountain slopes; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur throughout the mid-slopes. Alpine of the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine type occurs on all the upper slopes and ridges. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection.

    There are no communities or settlements and little logging here. The British Columbia Railway right of way although never completed, is located in the lower Sustut and upper Skeena rivers valleys. The northern two thirds of the Sustut Park is the largest to have been established in this ecosection, but another protected area is the northern potion of the Damdochax Park.

  • MAP - Manson Plateau Ecosection
    This is an area of rolling upland that lies south of the higher Omineca Mountains and north of the lower Nechako Lowland. This area was occupied by glaciers moving south from the Omineca mountains then coalescing with north-eastward flowing ice from the south, all then flowed eastward across the Hart Ranges. This ecosection is drained: to the east into the Parsnip Arm of Williston Lake via the Nation River by the Manson, Klawli and Kwanika rivers; into the Stuart River and then the Fraser River by the Driftwood River system and Lion Creek that flow first into Takla Lake. The north arm of Takla Lake is by far the largest here, other smaller lakes of note are: Bear, Tsayta and Indata.

    Moist easterly-flowing Pacific air coupled with surface heating of the many streams and lakes in the Interior Basin can bring precipitation as rain in the summer and snow in the winter as well as a high humidity. Cold Arctic air that invades from the north or east can bring long periods of intense cold and snow. The large valley bottoms are dominated by Sub-Boreal Spruce forests; while the mid to upper mountain slopes are dominated by Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests. Extensive areas of alpine of the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine type occur on the higher slopes and ridges. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection.

    There are no communities, only a few settlements along Takla Lake here. Roads are mainly industrial for logging and mining, but a main road runs from Fort St. James to Germansen Landing through this ecosection. The British Columbia Railway right of way although never completed, is located along the north shoreline of Takla Lake and northward up the Driftwood Valley. Three large protected areas have been established here: Nation Lakes Park, most of Mount Blanchet Park and the southern portion of Sustut Park.

  • PAT - Parsnip Trench Ecosection
    This is a wide intermountain plain that lies between the Omineca Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. It is part of the Northern Rocky Mountain Trench, a fault controlled basin that extends from the Liard Basin in the north to the Fraser River in the south. Glacial ice moved into this valley from the adjacent mountains then moved southward to coalesce with the eastern moving ice from the interior of the province to move over the Hart Ranges. Streams in this ecosection are small; most just pass through from adjacent upland ecosections into the reservoir, or short streams that originate in the western and eastern ridges of this ecosection. Manson and Nation are the only two free flowing large Rivers left in this ecosection. There are several smaller creeks that originate in the muskeg on the southwestern portion of the ecosection, such as: the Muscovite, Blackwater, Dastaiga, Tsadeka and Scovil. Williston Lake reservoir (the Parsnip and Finally reaches and Omineca Arm) occupies about 40% of this ecosection.

    Warm, moist Pacific air flows in from the south and cold Arctic air often moves south down the Northern Rocky Mountain Trench bringing either heavy snowfall or rain. In addition surface heating of the reservoir and wetlands and streams bring convective showers throughout the summer. Only Sub-Boreal Spruce forests occur here. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection.

    Mackenzie, the only community, occurs at the southeastern boundary. Logging and its attendant roads have occurred throughout. The two largest protected areas are: Muscovite Lakes south of Omineca Arm on the west side of the reservoir; and Heather-Dina Lakes parks north of Mackenzie on the east side of the reservoir.

  • SOM - Southern Omineca Mountains Ecosection
    This area consists of rounded mountains and ridges, separated by wide valleys. The mountains have a core of composite batholitic granitic rock named the Swannell Ranges. These mountains were glaciated throughout, but with varied intensity. The lower mountain peaks and ridges are rounded but at higher elevations the peaks are serrated and show the sculptural effects of cirque glaciation. The streams in this ecosection drain into the Omineca Arm of the Williston Reservoir by the Mesilinka, Osilinka, Tutizika, Germansen and Omineca rivers. Germansen is the largest lake, while other lakes include, the Tutizika, Blackpine, Wasi and Nina lakes.

    The Boreal White and Black Spruce zone occurs in the valley bottoms and cold Arctic air often ponds in these wide valleys causing a treeless willow and birch shrub community to become established. Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur on the middle slopes; while the upper slopes and higher mountains and ridges are dominated by extensive areas of alpine of the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine type. The current pine beetle epidemic has hit most the lodgepole pine stands within this ecosection.

    Manson Creek and Germansen Landing, small rural communities, have been established in the very southeastern portion of the ecosection on the Omineca and upper Nation rivers. Logging has been pushing further into this ecosection via the major river valleys from the south and east. In addition an industrial road was build to access minerals in the upper Finlay River watershed. Two large protected areas have been established here, the largest includes most of Omineca Park, and the southern portion of Chase Park.

SKM - Skeena Mountains Ecoregion
This Ecoregion consists of bold, rugged mountain ranges lying to the east of the coastal mountains. Wet Pacific air meets the colder Arctic air resulting in deep snow in the late fall, winter and early spring, and in the summer this area is often covered in dense clouds. The Interior Cedar – Hemlock Zone occurs in the western valleys and the Sub-Boreal Spruce Zone in the eastern ones; the Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir Zone occurs in the mid-slopes; and the Boreal Altai Fescue Alpine Zone dominates the upper slopes. This ecoregion has been subdivided into two ecosections.

  • NSM - Northern Skeena Mountains Ecosection

    This ecosection consists of high rugged mountains and a moist, coast/interior transition climate. They are composed of folded sedimentary rocks with complex folds and recumbent outlines. Typically the valleys and saddles are characterized by tight complex folding, whereas the broader massifs are commonly gently contorted or even flat lying. The peaks and ridges present a serrate and jagged profile that has developed under intense glaciation. Glaciation was heavy with much ice originating here then flowing northward or southward to coalesce with other moving ice. Many glaciers persist especially in the north. This ecosection is drained to the south by both the Skeena River and its tributaries: the Canyon, Sheladamus, Kuldo and upper Kispiox; or via the Nass River by the: lower Damochax, Vile, Sallysout, Shandalope, Kotsinta, Muckaboo, Taylor, Bell-Irving and Treaty streams. In the north this ecosection is drained by the Iskut by: the upper Iskut, Ningunsaw, Mare and Burrage streams; and into the Stikine by the upper Klappan River and Tumeka Creek. Tumeka Lakes is the largest in this ecosection.

    Westward flowing moist Pacific air can bring heavy cloud cover and precipitation either as rain in the summer or deep snow in the winter. Cold Arctic air is often stalled outside this ecosection, but it can often push westward over these mountains bring intense cold conditions. Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests occur in the lower western slopes and valleys; while Sub-Boreal Spruce forests occur in some of the northeastern valleys. Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur on all the middle slopes and alpine vegetation or bare rock occur on the upper slopes and ridges; small glaciers occur on the upper slopes in the northwest nearest the Boundary Ranges.

    There are no communities here. The Kitimat - Cassiar Highway (No. 37) passes through the western valleys of the Bell-Irving, Snowbank and Ningunsaw streams, connecting northern British Columbia with the Yellowhead Highway (No. 16). Logging has occurred on some of the southwestern valleys and lower slopes. Three large protected areas have been established here: the Ningunsaw Park, Ningunsaw River Ecological Reserve and the northern portion of the Swan Lake – Kispiox River Park.

  • SSM - Southern Skeena Mountains Ecosection
    This ecosection consists of a narrow range of mountains to the east of the Nass Basin and west of the Nechako Plateau. This ecosection consists of high rugged mountains and a moist, coast/interior transition climate. They are composed of folded sedimentary rocks with complex folds and recumbent outlines. Typically the valleys and saddles are characterized by tight complex folding, whereas the broader massifs are commonly gently contorted or even flat lying. The peaks and ridges present a serrate and jagged profile that has developed under intense glaciation. Glaciation was heavy with much ice originating here then flowing eastward to coalesce with other ice moving across the interior of the province. Many glaciers persist especially in the north. This ecosection is drained northward into the upper Skeena by the Sicintine River; into the Babine River by the Nilkitkwa, Shelagyote and Shedi streams; and into the Bulkley River by the Suskwa and Harold Price rivers. There are no large lakes here only smaller ones such as the Gunanoot and Onerka.

    The climate is variable being wetter and milder on the west side and drier and colder on the east side. Moist Pacific air often stalls along the western portion bringing heavy clouds and rain the summer and snow in the winter; while cold Arctic air often stalls along the eastern portion bringing intense cold and dry snow. The western valleys and lower slopes are dominated by Interior Cedar-Hemlock forests, while the eastern valleys are dominated by Sub-Boreal Spruce forests. Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine forests occur throughout on the middle slopes of the mountains. Alpine vegetation and bare rock occur on the upper slopes and ridges, while at higher elevations in the north small glaciers persist.

    There are no communities or settlements here. Logging and it attendant roads has occurred on many of the lower slopes and valleys, especially adjacent to the Nass Basin and the Nechako Plateau. Two large protected areas, the Babine Mountains Park occurs in the southernmost mountains and the west half of the Babine River Corridor Park occurs on the east side in the centre of this ecosection.

 

SIM - Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince

Location - The Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince consists of the Columbia Mountains and associated highlands, the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench, and the Continental Ranges of the Rocky Mountains and associated foothills. It lies east of the interior plateaus and west of the Interior Plains. In British Columbia it extends eastward to the British Columbia - Alberta boundary, however the Ecoprovince does extend as far east as the Interior Plains. The southern boundary in British Columbia is the 49th parallel or the Canada-USA border, however the Ecoprovince extends southward into northeastern Washington, northern Idaho and northwestern Montana as far south as the limit of Interior Cedar - Hemlock forests.

Forest-based industries are important and include a rapidly expanding tourism and recreation element. Coal mining occurs in the Elk River Valley and metal mining occurs in the lowlands and mountains. Extensive reservoir impoundments have occurred throughout this Ecoprovince on the Columbia and Kootenay rivers and their tributaries. Agriculture is restricted to the Rocky Mountain Trench, the Creston Valley, the southern Columbia Valley and the Robson Valley. It is largely based on grazing and forage crops, except in the extreme southwest where lowlands and floodplains have been developed for orchards and cereal crops.

Climate - there are two distinct climate regimes - one in the mountains and the other in the Rocky Mountain Trench. Although there are strong temperature and precipitation gradients over the entire area, the climate regimes of the mountains are largely the same. Air masses generally approach from the west and loose moisture first, as they pass over the western Columbia Highlands and Columbia Mountains and again as they pass over the Rocky Mountains. The rainfall in the ecoprovince is obtained from three main sources: by way of lower passes in the southern coastal mountains, by way of the low Kitimat Ranges, and through evaporation from surface waters on the interior plateaus. Surface water within the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench is a minor contributor to precipitation in the adjacent Rocky Mountains. This process is reversed in the summer when low pressure systems lay in the adjacent Interior Plains, forcing air masses westward over the Rocky Mountain Foothills and Mountains, bringing rain or snow and often high winds to these mountains..

The Rocky Mountain Trench bisects two large mountain blocks with significantly different physiography and macroclimatic processes. A strong rain shadow effect exists leeward of the Columbia Mountains. During the summer, intense surface heating creates strong updrafts in the mountains, the resulting downdraft over the centre of the valley clears the sky and enhances the sunny conditions that characterize the trench’s summer climate.

During the winter and early spring months, the Rocky Mountain Trench serves as an access route for outbreaks of cold, dense Arctic air. During minor outbreaks, the cold air remains in the trench, but during severe outbreak events, it passes into the valleys of the upper Columbia, lower Columbia, Elk and Kootenay Rivers.

Physiography - The Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince consists of several mountain ranges, valleys, trenches, and highlands. There are five main physiographic systems: the Columbia Highlands on the western flank, the Columbia Mountains, the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench, the Continental Ranges of the Rocky Mountains and the Rocky Mountain Foothills that are mainly in Alberta.

The highlands consist of the Quesnel Highlands and the higher, eastern portion of the Okanagan and Shuswap highlands. The highlands represent a transition between plateaus and mountains and occur where the amount of dissection is fairly high and where the flat and gently sloping upland surfaces of the higher elevations are small. Glacial ice covered most of the high areas during the past ice ages and consequently most summits are rounded. Cirques which developed on the northern and northeastern sides have sharpened the profiles of the highest peaks, whereas the valley sides were steepened and the valley bottoms broadened.

The Columbia Mountains consist of a series of ranges and alternating trenches of a complex geological origin. The mountain ranges get progressively higher from the southwestern Selkirks to the northern Cariboo Mountains. The high mountains, especially in the northern ranges, are mostly massive and have bold, sharp peaks separated by deep, steep-sided valleys. Lower summits were covered by glacial ice and subsequently have been sculptured by cirque and valley glaciers to sharp peaks and sawtoothed ridges. It is only in the southern ranges at elevations below 2,100m that rounded and moderately pointed summits prevail. The profiles of many valleys have been strongly modified by glaciation and its after effects. The retreating ice left moraines and other debris. Ice dams created large glacial lakes that disappeared as the melting progressed but have left extensive terraces of silts and compact gravels along the sides of the valleys.

The Southern Rocky Mountain Trench is a large, faulted valley that lies between the Columbia and Rocky mountains. It is open to the Nechako Lowlands to the north and the Flathead Basin in Montana. Since it has been eroded and in-filled by glacial debris, it resembles a along, narrow plain with few bedrock outcrops. Several large rivers (Fraser, Canoe, Columbia, and Kootenay) meander along the valley floor, forming large floodplains and wetlands. Much of the middle portion has been flooded by the McNaughton Lake reservoir and the Koocanusa Lake reservoir fills the floodplain of the southernmost of the trench in British Columbia.

The Continental Ranges of the Rocky Mountains are comprised of a series of longitudinal ridges and deeply dissected valleys. These mountains are highest and most rugged in the north portion that is drained by the upper Fraser and Canoe rivers. Here short, steep rivers and streams flow down into the Rocky Mountain Trench. Southward the mountains become open with isolated ridges, and the valleys become wider. The rivers often flow for long distances before draining into the trench.

Biogeoclimatic Zonation - Vegetation is dominated by three zones; the Interior Cedar - Hemlock Zone in the lower to mid slopes of the Columbia Mountains and wetter localities in the Rockies and trench, the Engelmann Spruce -Subalpine Fir Zone occurs on the middle slopes of all mountains and the Interior Mountain-Heather Alpine Zone occurs on the summits of those mountains. The Ponderosa Pine Zone occurs in the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench, as does the Interior Douglas-fir Zone, but this zone also occurs sporadically in the main valley of the Shuswap and Okanagan highlands. The Montane Spruce Zone occurs in the valleys and lower slopes of the southern Rocky Mountains and eastern Purcell Mountains, while the Sub-Boreal Spruce zone occurs in the upper Fraser River watershed.

Vegetation - The Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince encompasses great habitat diversity because of combinations of very wet mountains and very dry rain shadow valleys. There are seven vegetation zones present, but they are best described in three parts: the dry southeastern area on either side of the East Kootenay Trench and surrounding mountains, the area including the main portions of the Columbia Highlands, Northern Columbia Mountains, and Selkirk-Bitterroot Foothills ecoregions, and the rest of the Rocky Mountain Trench and surrounding mountains.

East Kootenay Trench - In the lowest vegetation zone, the climax forest is Douglas-fir. However, widespread fires, and logging and extensive grazing history have created many transitional woodlands and open areas. In the valley bottom, ponderosa pine is the main seral species, giving way at higher elevation and increasing moisture to western larch and lodgepole pine. Persistent shrub-grasslands have saskatoon, antelope-brush, redstem ceanothus, and grasses, including rough fescue, bluebunch wheatgrass, junegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Canada bluegrass, needlegrasses, and cheatgrasses. In the forest, common shrubs include rose, kinnikinnick, saskatoon, soopolallie, and birch-leaved spirea. Pinegrass is common. Soils often have dark surfaces horizons and are moderately weathered. Floodplains may have black cottonwood, spruce, red-osier dogwood, false Solomon’s-seal, and horsetails. Of special note are the extensive marshes along the upper reaches of the Columbia River, intermixed with riparian forests that are important to moose, elk, white-tailed deer and waterfowl.

Southern Continental Ranges - the climax montane forests consist of Engelmann spruce, and subalpine fir. The zone is relatively dry, with Douglas-fir, western larch, and lodgepole pine as important seral species. Understories are shrubby, with Utah honeysuckle, soopolallie, saskatoon, birch-leaved spirea, false azalea, pinegrass, bunchberry, and mosses. Soils have clay layers that improve moisture retention. Widespread fires have been common, creating extensive stands of lodgepole pine.

The subalpine vegetation zone has open to closed Engelmann spruce and subalpine fire forests, although seral lodgepole pine predominates. Understories support white-flowered rhododendron, grouseberry, false azalea, thimbleberry, queen’s cup, bunchberry, pinegrass, and mosses. Soils are strongly weathered and acidic. Moister sites may have horsetails and meadowrue. Avalanche areas with dense Sitka alder and herbaceous cover are common throughout the zone. At the higher elevations, forest cover becomes discontinuous and in the Fording River valley rough fescue grasslands occupy southerly-facing slopes and ridge tops. Whitebark pine and alpine larch may be found at timberline. Meadows may be intermixed with the forest.

The Interior Mountain-Heather Alpine vegetation zone is mainly rock-dominated, with pockets of grass-sedge meadows and heath or white mountain-avens dominated vegetation. These upper slopes often consists of only barren or lichen covered rocks.

Columbia Mountains and Highlands - for most of the ecoprovince, the climax forests of the lower vegetation zone is western hemlock and western redcedar. Seral forests are common in the drier areas, with Douglas-fir, western larch, grand fir, western white pine, lodgepole pine, paper birch, or trembling aspen. Common plants include blueberries, false box, devil’s club, Utah honeysuckle, twinflower, queen’s cup, oak fern, other ferns, and mosses. However, in the wetter valleys, forests succeed directly to the climax species. Soils are usually deeply weathered, reddish in colour, and very acidic. Of special note are the extensive wetland complexes associated with the floodplain and delta of the Kootenay River in the Creston Valley.

The subalpine vegetation zone here is dominated by subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce, sometimes with mountain hemlock at higher elevations. Seral forests are uncommon. Understory plants include white-flowered rhododendron, black gooseberry, false azalea, twisted stalk, Sitka valerian, bunchberry, and dense moss. Avalanche chutes dominated by Sitka alder and herbs, occur frequently. At higher elevations, the forest cover is mixed with lush herbaceous meadows. In southern area, whitebark pine and alpine larch may occur at timberline.

The Interior Mountain-Heather Alpine vegetation zone is mainly rock and glacier dominated, with patches of heath, or grass-sedge meadows.

Fauna - Mountain goats are perhaps the most widely distributed wild ungulate in the ecoprovince but mule and white-tailed deer are also widely distributed. Rocky Mountain elk are very abundant throughout the mountains and valleys adjacent to the southern third of the Rocky Mountain Trench. Small, herds of mountain caribou occur in old-growth spruce and subalpine fir forests in the Northern Park Ranges ecosection and the Columbia Mountains and Highlands Ecoregions; the herd in the southern Selkirk Mountains is the southern most population of caribou in the province. In British Columbia bighorn sheep are common in the Southern Park Ranges Ecosection and adjacent trench, but in Alberta they are common throughout the Park Ranges and adjacent foothills. Grizzly and black bears are common throughout the area, as are coyotes and cougars; grey wolves have been increasing their distribution in recent years. Small carnivores, such as Canada lynx, wolverine and martin are common throughout, while bobcats, fisher and American badger are locally common, especially towards the southern areas of the ecoprovince.

Small mammals include the long-eared myotis, pika, hoary marmot, Columbian ground squirrel, golden-mantled ground squirrel, and water vole.

This ecoprovince supports 70% of the bird species known to occur in British Columbia and 62% of all breeding avifauna of the province - the second highest diversity of breeding species. It contains the only breeding location of Forster’s Tern and one of the highest breeding concentrations of Ospreys in the world. It is also one of the few areas in British Columbia where the Western Grebe and Long-billed Curlew breed. The Black-billed Cuckoo occurs regularly. Significant autumn and winter populations of waterbirds, especially American coots, are found on large ice-free lakes. The extensive waterbodies are important migration staging areas for Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and dabbling and diving ducks, particularly redhead. The area is the centre of breeding abundance for the White-breasted Nuthatch. Large flocks of Clark’s Nutcracker appear in the valley bottoms during autumn and winter.

The painted turtle, and common and western terrestrial garter snakes are typical reptiles. The long-toed salamander, western toad, and spotted and northern leopard frogs are the characteristic amphibians.

This ecoprovince supports both anadromous and freshwater fish. Anadromous species include: Chinook salmon and white sturgeon. Freshwater fish include: rainbow trout (both native and introduced populations), brook trout (introduced), bull trout, mountain whitefish, mottled sculpin and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Ecoprovince Subdivision

The Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince is divided into 8 ecoregions containing 23 ecosections.

COH - Columbia Highlands Ecoregion
This ecoregion is a rolling highland area that rises from uplands, highlands and isolated ridges on the west and south to culminate in higher mountains along the northeastern margin. Moist Pacific air rising over these highlands, bring intense precipitation especially from fall to early spring. This Ecoregion contains three ecosections in British Columbia.

  • BOV - Bowron Valley Ecosection
    The Bowron and Willow valleys are surrounded by low highlands and ridges to the west and rugged mountains to the east, while in south there is a rounded hilly area. During the Ice Ages glaciers moved north down these valleys to coalesce with glaciers from the south over the Fraser Plateau and with ice from the northern portion of the Rocky Mountain Trench to eventually move eastward over the Rocky Mountains. During their movement they moved lots of rock and soil and when the glaciers stagnated they left behind many eskers, drumlins and meltwater channels. This ecosection is drained by several streams, including: the Bowron and Willow rivers which flow northward into the Fraser River; the Naver, Abbay and Sovereign streams which flow westward into the Fraser. In addition to many small lakes and wetland, the largest lakes here include: Stony, Bowron, Ahbau, the western portion of Indianpoint and the northern portion of Spectacle lakes.

    This is a moist cold area, with a wide Bowron River valley, and narrower Willow Creek valley, both of which open northward exposing the interior of the ecosection to northerly weather systems. Moist Pacific airdrops it moisture as it rises over the hills to the west and the Cariboo Mountains to the east. In the winter cold, dense Arctic air brings intense cold and heavy snowfall. Sub-Boreal Spruce forest occur throughout the wide valleys and lower mountain slopes; while Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur on the middle and upper slopes. The alpine zone is uncommon and occurs mainly in the higher mountains in the south.

    Wells and the historic village of Barkerville are the only communities here. The Barkerville Highway (No. 26) connects Barkerville and Wells to Quesnel. Logging, with its attendant roads has occurred throughout most of the lower elevation forests; placer mining has been intensive in the upper Willow River watershed since the middle of the nineteenth century. The western third of Bowron Lake Park is the largest protected area in this ecosection.

  • NSH - Northern Shuswap Highland Ecosection
    This is a gentle to moderately sloping highland area, intermediate between the plateaus to the west and the mountains to the east. Most ridges and summits have been rounded as glacier activity was heavy as ice moved west and then south across this ecosection from the higher adjacent Columbia Mountains. The valley sides are commonly steep because of the glacial erosion and the total relief may be fairly great even though the local relief in the uplands is moderate. This ecosection is dissected by the lower Clearwater, North Thompson (from Blue River to Birch Island), upper Adams, lower Seymour and Eagle rivers, all of which are situated in wide valleys; in addition to the five mentioned above this area is also drained by the Raft, Mud, Barriere, Cayenne and Kwikoit rivers and creeks. There are several large lakes of note: Upper Adams, northern Shuswap (Seymour and Anstey arms) and south Murtle lakes; plus a number of smaller lakes, like: Humamilt, North and South Barriere and Tumtum.

    The climate here is warmer and winters are milder than the Quesnel Highland Ecosection to the north. Eastward flowing, wet Pacific air brings significant rain and snow to this area throughout the year. Cold Arctic air can invade from either the northwest of from over the Columbia Mountains to the east, although such outbreaks are not as common as they are in the Quesnel Highland Ecosection to the north. The moist forest type of Interior Cedar – Hemlock dominate the valley bottoms and lower slopes; while Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir forests occupy the middle and upper mountain slopes. Alpine is rare occurring on only a few of the highest summits.

    Blue River and Vavenby are the only communities in this ecosection. The Yellowhead South Highway (No. 5) and the Canadian National Railway follow the North Thompson River and connect Clearwater with Valemount. There is also highway access to Wells Gray Park via the Clearwater and Blue river valleys. Logging and its attendant roads have been extensive throughout, except for the provincial parks. Of the several protected areas, the southern portion of Wells Gray Park is the largest, but others include: Upper Adams River, Anstey – Hunakwa, Momich Lakes and the eastern third of Dunn Peaks parks.

  • QUH - Quesnel Highland Ecosection
    This is a transitional highland area, intermediate between the lower level plateaus to the west and the higher rugged mountains to the east. Here there are remnants of a highly dissected plateau of moderate relief, which rise gradually from west to east. This area is underlain by sedimentary rocks which contain some volcanic rocks, while limestone and quartzite form many of the higher peaks. Glaciers covered all of this area moving north-westward to coalesce with north flowing ice from the Fraser Plateau. The glaciers resulted in greatly rounded summits, but cirque basins have developed on north sides. At the south end of these highlands are several volcanic landforms that include cinder cones and lava flows. This ecosection is drained to the west: via the Fraser River by the, Cariboo, Matthew, Little, Roaring and upper Horsefly streams; and into the North Thompson River by the Molybdenite, Canim and Spanish streams. There are several large lakes in this ecosection, Quesnel Lake is by far the largest, but others of note are: Horsefly, Cariboo, crooked, Hobson and Clearwater lakes.

    Precipitation is higher here than in the Shuswap Highland Ecosection to the south. Easterly flowing moist Pacific air rising over this area drops considerable moisture as rain in the summer and snow in the winter. In addition cold, dense Arctic air can build up against the western margin or invade into the valleys and mountains giving intense cold for extended periods. Wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests dominate all the valleys and lower slopes; colder Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forest dominate the upper slopes including the lower mountain summits. Alpine occurs on the highest ridges and mountains in the middle and eastern sections of this ecosection.

    There are only small settlements here, such as Likely, but there are many resorts and summer cabins on the lakes outside the provincial parks. There are no highways into this ecosection, but logging with its attendant roads have occurred throughout the non-park forests. The western portion of Wells Gray Park is the largest protected area, and the Cariboo River Park occupies most of the upper Cariboo River floodplain.

  • SRH - Shuswap River Highland Ecosection
    This moist highland consists of steep-sided, gentle or moderate rolling uplands and ridges that are dissected by the circuitous Shuswap River and Shuswap Lake waterways. Glacier moved westward out of this area before moving south, coalescing with southward moving ice in the Thompson Plateau. The Eagle and the lower Shuswap rivers drain this ecosection westward into Shuswap Lake. In addition to the streams mentioned above, this ecosection is also drained by the Sicamous, Kingfisher and Tsuis streams. There are several large lakes, of which, Salmon Arm of Shuswap Lake is the largest others include: Mara, Mabel, and Sugar lakes.

    Valleys that are oriented to the west, allow moist Pacific air to penetrate deep into the interior valleys, otherwise that moist air rises over this highland creating rainshadows or alternately slopes with heavy precipitation. In the winter that system brings heavy snowfall especially when coupled with cold Arctic air. Wet Interior Cedar - Hemlock forests dominate the valleys and lower slopes; cold Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur on the upper slopes and ridges. Alpine is rage, occurring mainly along the eastern boundary with the higher Monashee Mountains.

    Among the communities located here are: Sicamous and Malakwa, although there are several such as, Mabel Lake and Cherryville that are established along the border with the North Okanagan Highland Ecosection to the south. Most of the shorelines of the large lakes contain lodges and recreational home sites. The Trans Canada Highway (No. 1) passes through Sicamous from Salmon Arm to Revelstoke while the Vernon to Sicamous section of highway (No. 97A) passes along the eastern shore of Mara Lake. Logging with it attendant roads has occurred throughout this ecosection. There are several smaller protected areas, including: Silver Star and Mount Griffin parks.

ECR - Eastern Continental Ranges Ecoregion
This ecoregion lies on the east side of the southern Canadian Rocky Mountains, mainly in Alberta although a small segment of one ecosection extends northwestward into British Columbia. It is comprised mainly of the Front Ranges physiographic unit, which are tilted limestone-based mountains that usually have a gentle west side and steep east side. This area lies in a rain shadow, caused by both the Columbia Mountains and the western Park Ranges physiographic unit, but it is also quite cold in the winter and early spring caused by outbreaks of cold Arctic air lying either along the eastern margin or invading the into the valleys. This Ecoregion is represented by only one Ecosection in British Columbia.

  • FRR - Front Ranges Ecosection
    Most of this ecosection is in Alberta and only small, northernmost portion extends into British Columbia on the eastside of the Rocky Mountains. This ecosection consists of parallel rows of ridges and valleys that is underlain entirely by sedimentary limestone rocks. These ranges follow major faults that have resulted in thick limestone cliffs and wide valleys. All the rivers drain north-eastward into Alberta; in British Columbia this ecosection is drained by the Belcourt and Narraway rivers that flow into the Wapiti River before entering the Peace River; the upper Kakwa and upper Smoky rivers join as the Smoky River before it to drains into the Peace River. As well, this ecosection is drained in Alberta by the Snaring and Snake Indian rivers that flow into the Athabasca River. There are no large lakes in this ecosection; in British Columbia Belcourt and Cecelia lakes are the largest; while in Alberta, Twintree and Rock lakes are the largest.

    This area is in a rainshadow of the eastward moving, moist Pacific air as it has risen over the Hart and Park ranges. In the winter, dense cold Arctic air often lies unimpeded over these mountains, bringing extreme cold temperatures. This climate has resulted in the Interior Mountain-Heather Alpine Zone occurring at mid-upper elevations, lower here than in the rest of the Southern Interior Ecoprovince. Forests in the outer, northeast-facing valleys are predominantly Boreal White and Black Spruce Zone types; otherwise Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate most of the lower and middle slopes.

    There are no settlements or roads in British Columbia in this ecosection; in Alberta, Grand Cache is located at the eastern margin and the Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) from Jasper to Hinton, Alberta passes along the southern boundary. The northern half of Kakwa Lake Park is located in British Columbia where is occupies nearly one third of the ecosection. The Alberta portion of this ecosection is protected almost entirely by either the Willmore Wilderness or the northern portion of Jasper National Park.

NCM - Northern Columbia Mountains Ecoregion
This ecoregion is a rugged, often ice-capped mountain area that rises abruptly from the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench to the east and the Columbia Highlands to the west. These mountains include a variety of rocks, ranging from metamorphic of sedimentary derivation, through volcanic origins, to a large number of granitic batholiths. This block of mountains intercepts eastward flowing moist Pacific air, making these the wettest mountains in the interior of the province. They are also and effective barrier for southerly flowing cold Arctic air masses preventing that air from reaching the southern valleys unless under a large pressure system. This ecoregion contains five ecosections.

  • CAM - Cariboo Mountains Ecosection
    This is an area of high, very rugged, ice-capped mountains with narrow valleys. From the north the mountains gradually increase in height southward reaching their highest in the Premier Range at the heads of the North Thompson, Raush and Azure rivers. The high total relief and massive boldness of the mountains provide striking mountain scenery. These mountains are composed of sedimentary and metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, although some limestone is present. Where underlain by metamorphic rocks, the peaks are sharp and the ridges continuous. Where underlain by granite, the peaks are more massive and rounded and the ridges irregular or radiating from a central mass. This ecosection lies at the north end of the ecoregion. It is drained via the upper Fraser River by the Slim, Haggen, Dome, Wolverine, Goat, Milk, Dore, Castle, Raush streams; via the main Fraser River by the Ghost, upper Cariboo and Penfold rivers; via the Columbia River (Kinbasket Reservoir) by the upper Canoe River; via the North Thompson River by the Stormking upper North Thompson, Lampiere, north Blue, upper Murtle, Azure, Hobson and upper Clearwater streams. There are a number of large lakes: such as, upper Murtle, Azure, Mitchell, Lanezi, and Isaac lakes, all of which are in protected areas.

    Moisture arrives via the easterly flowing Pacific air rising directly over these mountains in the north or after passing over the Quesnel Highland to the west. That air usually creates wet and humid conditions. In the winter dense, cold Arctic air can stall along the northern margin, but under large systems invade the entire area bring periods of intense cold and snow. The northwestern valley bottoms east of the Bowron Valley have Sub-Boreal Spruce forests; elsewhere the lower valleys all have the wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forest types. The mid to upper slopes are dominated by moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests. Alpine is usually barren rock and many glaciers still occur on the highest summits, especially in the Premier Range.

    There are no settlements here; Yellowhead South Highway (No.5) and the Canadian National Railway pass through the southern portion in the North Thompson valley. Logging and its attendant roads occur in the north and wherever the terrain allows road building. This ecosection is represented by three large protected areas on the western side, being the northern and eastern portion of Wells Gray Park, Cariboo Mountains Park and the eastern three quarters of Bowron Lake Park; as well there are a number of smaller parks, such as: Upper Raush, West Twin and Sugarbowl – Grizzly Den parks on the eastern side.

  • CCM - Central Columbia Mountains Ecosection
    This is an area of high ridges and mountains, with mainly narrow valleys and trenches, except for the wider Arrow and Kootenay lakes. This area is underlain by a variety of rocks, including sedimentary, metamorphic, gneiss and granitic batholiths. Glaciers built up along the central core moving to the west over the Okanagan Highland, or east and down the Purcell Trench, in its process it rounded the summits and deposit debris in the valleys. It is drained by streams flowing into different bodies of water: into the Kootenay Lake by the Lardeau, Lake, Glacier, Hamill, Fry, Carney, Campbell, Kaslo, Keen, and Kokanee streams; via the lower Kootenay River by the Slocan River; and eastward into the Arrow Lake reservoir by the Burton, Snow, Goathaven, Caribou, Slewiskin, Kuskanax, Halfway and Crawford streams; on the west side of the Arrow Lakes reservoir it is drained by the Begbie, Mulvehill, Cranberry, Fosthall, Arrow Park and Whatshan steams. There are two large lakes formed by damming the Columbia and Duncan rivers, namely, the upper Arrow Lakes reservoir and the south Duncan Lake reservoir; other large lakes include: Slocan, Trout, northern Whatshan and the north arm of Kootenay Lake.

    This is a moist area; precipitation is high, from the valley bottoms to the upper slopes by the Pacific air moving over these mountains from either the west across the interior of the province or from the south from across the Columbia Basin in Washington. Such moisture brings high humidity and rain in the summer or deep snow in the winter. Cold Arctic air seldom invades this area, being protected by mountain systems on all sides, but sometimes that cold air can move down either the Purcell Trench or the Columbia River Trench and affect this area. Under large systems that Arctic air can overwhelm the entire area for short periods in the winter. The valleys and lower slopes are dominated by moist Interior Cedar-Hemlock forests; the middle mountain slopes have a moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forest. Alpine vegetation is moist, but barren rock occurs on the highest areas an in Glacier Creek large glaciers persists.

    Revelstoke in the northwest portion is the largest community, others include: Nakusp, Needles, New Denver, Trout Lake, Lardeau, and Kaslo. There are several highways here: the Trans Canada Highway (No. 1) passes through the northwestern portion from Revelstoke to Golden; the Nakusp –Mica Creek Highway (No. 23) passes along the east shore of the Upper Arrow Lakes with a ferry connecting the two sides of the reservoir, and the highway continues on the west shore to Revelstoke; the Slocan – Vernon Highway (No. 6) is located up the Slocan Valley to Nakusp, south to Fauquier; the Kaslo – New Denver Highway (No. 31A) passes over the Kokanee Range; and the Balfour – Kaslo – Galena Bay Highway (No. 31) passes along the west shore of the north arm of Kootenay Lake, upper the Lardeau Valley, past Trout Lake to the east shore of the Upper Arrow Lake at Galena Bay. Logging with its attendant roads has occurred over much of the lower elevation forests outside the parks. Extensive mineral exploration and mining was conducted throughout this ecosection from the early 1800’s to present. There are a number of large protected areas, including: the west half of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, Kokanee Glacier, Valhalla, Goat Range and Monashee parks.

  • NKM - Northern Kootenay Mountains Ecosection
    This is an area of high, rugged mountains, many of which are ice-capped. These mountains are metamorphic rocks of sedimentary and volcanic in origin, there are also erosion resistant quartzite and limestone that form many of the highest peaks. This ecosection is drained via the North Thompson River by Mud Creek; into the Adams River by the, uppermost Adams River; into Shuswap Lake by the, upper Seymour and Crazy streams; into the Kinbasket Lake (reservoir) by the, Foster, Encampment, Windy, Bachelor and Beaver streams; into Revelstoke Lake (reservoir) by the Bigmouth, Goldstream, Downie, Jordan, Scrip, Pat, Soards and Nagle streams; into the Duncan Lake (reservoir) and Kootenay lake by the, Duncan, Westfall, Geigdrich, Lake, Healy, upper Lardeau and Howser streams; and finally into the Columbia River systems below Revelstoke by the, Illecillewaet, Tangier, Incomappleux and Akolkglex streams. There are two reservoirs in this ecosection, the Revelstoke dam generates electricity and the upper Duncan dam is for water control for downstream power generation. There are no other large lakes here.

    This ecosection has the some of the highest precipitation, as both rain and snowfall in this ecoregion. Moist Pacific air reaches it greatest high rising over these mountains bringing intense rain or snowfall and generally humid conditions; . In the winter, dense Arctic air can move down the eastern side in the Rocky Mountain Trench or down the middle via either the Columbia River Trench or the Purcell Trench bringing cold weather to the valleys. Occasionally large Arctic air systems can engulf the entire ecosection for extended periods before being pushed out by the dominant Pacific air.

    There are no permanent settlements here, although there are housing for maintenance of the Mica and Revelstoke dams, and park management at Rodgers Pass. The Trans Canada Highway (No. 1) from Revelstoke to Golden passes across the Rodgers Pass, as does the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Nakusp to Mica Creek Highway (No. 23) follows the eastern shore of Revelstoke Lake from Revelstoke to the Mica Dam. Logging with its attendant roads has occurred outside the parks in the low to mid elevation forest throughout this ecosection. Three large parks represent this ecosection: Glacier National Park is the largest, but this ecosection also includes Mount Revelstoke National Park and most of Upper Seymour River Park.

  • SCM - Southern Columbia Mountains Ecosection
    This is an area has more subdued and rounded mountains than do ecosections to the north in this ecoregion and do not show their high rugged ridges. The mountains in this ecosection are the Nelson Range, commonly referred to as the southern Selkirks, and the northeastern half of the Bonnington Range, both of the Selkirk Mountains and the southern Purcell Trench that includes the south arm of Kootenay Lake and Creston Valley. The rocks are predominantly granitic in origin but also contain a variety of other rock types. This ecosection is bounded by the West Arm of Kootenay Lake in the north, the Purcell Trench in the east the, Columbia River Fault in the west and the lower mountains of the Idaho panhandle. It extends southward into eastern Washington and northern Idaho as far south as the Pend d’Oreille valley. In British Columbia this ecosection is drained by the north-flowing Kootenay River (spelled Kootenai in the U.S.A.) as it drains into Kootenay Lake, but also by: Midge, Cultus, Summit and Boundary creeks on the east side; and by the lower Kootenay River, upper Salmo River and Stagleap Creek on the west side. In Idaho and Washington, in addition to the Kootenai River, it is also drained by Priest River that flows into the Pend Oreille River. Moyie and St. Mary lakes are the two largest lakes in this ecosection.

    Pacific air moving over these mountains arrives either from the interior of British Columbia of from the southwest over the Columbia Basin. Precipitation is high on the mountain slopes but the Creston Valley (extending south to Bonners Ferry Idaho) is in a strong rain shadow. Cold Arctic air seldom envelopes this ecosection and when it does it is usually of short duration. The valleys and lower slopes are dominated by moist Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests; the upper slopes have moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests. Alpine is limited to the higher ridges and is usually sparsely vegetated or barren rock.

    The main communities in British Columbia are Nelson, and Creston, but many small settlements occur along the east shore of the South and West Arms of Kootenay Lake in the Creston Valley and along Highway No. 6. In Idaho, Bonners Ferry is the largest community, but there are many settlements south of there to Sandpoint; and many settlements along the priest River. Washington has no communities here. There are several highways that cross this ecosection: In B.C. the Crowsnest Highway (No. 3) from Salmo to Creston passes over the Selkirk Mountains; Castlegar to Creston (No. 3A) passes east up the Kootenay River to Nelson and along the shore of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake to Balfour and the south along the east side of the south arm of Kootenay Lake to Creston. The Nelson to Nelway Highway (No. 6) passes through the Salmo River Valley from Nelson to Salmo. In the U.S.A. Interstate Highway 2/95 is located in the Purcell Trench and Interstate Highway 2 is located on the east side of the Pend Oreille River; there are no major highways in Washington. Logging with its attendant roads have occurred over the more gentle terrain, and mineral exploration, since the late 19th century has occurred throughout this ecosection in both Canada and the U.S.A. West Arm Park and Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area are two of the larger protected areas established in British Columbia. In addition, the large private holdings of Dark Woods Forest have been purchased by Nature Conservancy Canada for the benefit of wildlife conservation. In Washington and Idaho the higher ridges surrounding Priest Lake have been

  • SPM - Southern Purcell Mountains Ecosection
    This is a rounded upland and mountain area that is higher in the north and diminishes in height southward into northern Idaho and northwestern Montana. The rocks here are predominantly sedimentary, having been eroded from the North American Craton into a shallow sea, long before mountain building created the Rocky and Columbia mountains. Ice moved down the higher mountains to the north and also the adjacent Purcell Trench reaching into the Idaho panhandle and northwestern Montana before stopping. These glaciers rounded the mountains and widened the valleys. The ice damming of the Clark Fork in Montana created a large body of water, Lake Missoula, that worked its way through the ice releasing an extreme flow of water that scoured the Columbia Basin creating the Scablands; this damming and erosion happened many times before the ice sheet finally waned over 13,000 years ago. This ecosection is drained to the east into the Rocky Mountain Trench by St Mary’s River; south into the Kootenay River by the Moyie, Yahk (spelled Yaak in the USA) and Goat/Kianuko rivers, and west into Kootenay Lake by the shorter, creeks. In Idaho and Montana it is drained by the Kootenai (USA spelling) River and by streams flowing into the Clark Fork.

    Moisture and higher summer temperatures usually enter this ecosection by way of the Columbia Basin to the southwest and by the southern portion of the Purcell Trench; or by way of the higher Columbia Mountains to the west. Cold Arctic air seldom reached this area, except via the Purcell Trench or the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench; however sometimes that Arctic air is forced under a large system then it invades the entire area, but such cold weather is usually of short duration. Moist Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests grow in all the valleys and on the lower mountain slopes; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur on the middle and most upper slopes. Alpine areas are restricted to the higher portions of the St. Mary’s/ Kianuko area in British Columbia; and to the higher portions of the Cabinet and Yaak mountains in Montana.

    This ecosection contains no large communities, only small settlements, such as Yahk and Kitchener in British Columbia and Clark Fork and Yaak in Montana. The Crowsnest Highway (No. 3) from Creston to Cranbrook passes through the centre of this ecosection and Highway (No. 95) south of Yahk goes south to the Canada/USA border; Interstate 2 follows the Clark Fork in Montana. Logging has occurred in all the gentler terrain in British Columbia as well as Idaho and Montana. In British Columbia several protected areas represent this ecosection: the southwestern portion of Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, St. Mary’s Alpine, Lockhart Creek, Kianuko, and Gilnockie parks. In Montana the Cabinet Mountains have been designated as a Wilderness Area and all the upper elevation forests and ridges have been placed in a roadless area category.

NCD - Northern Continental Divide Ecoregion
This ecoregion is an area of wide valleys and rounded mountains that is interspersed with higher ridges of less erodable bedrock. Geologically it was part of the deep sea sedimentary rocks that were uplifted when the first superterrane collided with the core of the North American Continent about 200 million years ago. This area is in a rainshadow from the moist Pacific air moving eastward and cold Arctic air may influence this area from both the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench to the west and the Interior Plains to the east. This Ecoregion contains three ecosections in British Columbia:

  • COC - Crown of the Continent Ecosection
    This ecosection occurs mainly in Montana and a segment that occurs in Alberta, there is only a minor segment that enters into British Columbia along the south-easternmost border with Alberta or Montana. This is a bold mountainous area, consisting of the Clark Range that rises abruptly in the east from the surrounding Prairie in Alberta and Great Plains in Montana; or in the west from the Flathead Basin in British Columbia and Montana. This ecosection is drained in British Columbia to the west by the Akamina/Kishinena, Sage, Commerce, Haig and Cate streams into the Flathead River. In Alberta, it is drained to the east by the Carbondale, Castle, Waterton and St. Mary rivers into the Oldman River. While in Montana it is drained to the east via the Missouri River by the Milk, Medicine, Marias and Sun rivers; and to the west via the Clark Fork River by the three forks of the Flathead and Blackfoot rivers. There are several large mountain lakes in Alberta and Montana, of note, are the Waterton and Cameron lakes in Alberta, and upper Waterton, Sherburne, Saint Mary, and Two Medicine lakes on the eastside in Montana and Kintla, Bowman, Logging, McDonald, Swan and Seeley lakes and Hungry Horse Reservoir on the west side.

    This area is affected by moist Pacific air arriving from the west over the Columbia Basin and Columbia Mountains, much of its moisture having been precipitated out. Cold Arctic air often stalls along the eastern margin in Alberta and Montana but can invade this area under large pressure systems bringing periods of intense cold and snow High winds can blow through the low mountain passes. Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate the slopes throughout, except on the lower slopes, eastern slopes in Alberta and Montana where the Aspen Parkland occurs. Vegetated alpine and barren rock occur on the higher slopes and ridges and in Montana a few small glacier persist.

    There are no communities or settlements in British Columbia; Waterton Park is located in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta; in Montana there are no settlements although there is a lodge at McDonald Lake. There are no major highways in Canada in this ecosection, but there are a number of paved roads in Waterton Lakes National Park; in Montana, the Going to The Sun Highway is located through Glacier National Park and Interstate Highway 2 follows the low pass up the Middle Fork of the Flathead and Summit Creek. Logging and it attendant roads have occurred throughout this ecosection outside the protected areas. Akamina-Kishinena Park is the only protected area in British Columbia; Waterton Lakes National Park covers a large portion of this ecosection in Alberta and Glacier National Park occupies almost all of this ecosection in Montana.

  • ELV - Elk Valley Ecosection
    This is mainly a wide valley, with soft sedimentary rocks, bounded by harder limestone and dolomite ridges. Its main centre is in the Elk Valley of British Columbia, but it also includes the southern upper Bull River in B.C. and the upper Oldman River watershed in Alberta. Glaciers override this area moving south down the Elk and Bull river valleys and eastward over the continental divide into Alberta. In British Columbia this ecosection it is drained to the south into the Kootenay River by the Elk, Morrissey, Alexander, Line, Fording, Bull (only the southern upper portion), Sulphur and Sand streams. While in Alberta it is drained to the southeast by the Oldman, Livingstone and Crowsnest rivers; and to the east by the Highwood River. There are no large lakes and only a few smaller ones.

    This area is in a rainshadow of easterly moving moist Pacific air, but it is often influenced by low pressure systems in Alberta forcing cold air westward in this area those systems cause increased moisture to occur in the lower Elk and lower Bull river areas. High winds can blow through the low passes, especially the Crowsnest Pass. It is exposed to cold Arctic air from Alberta via the low Elk, Crowsnest, Oldman and Highwood valleys, creating extreme cold and snow conditions. Moist Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests occur at the western areas of the Bull, Elk and Morrissey valleys. In the upper Elk Valley Montane Spruce forests occur in the valley bottom; dry Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur elsewhere in the upper valleys and mountain slopes. Alpine consisting of dry vegetation types bare rock occur on all the upper slopes and mountain tops, although an alpine grassland occurs on some of high elevations in the Fording River watershed. Further east in Alberta along the eastern margin with the Prairie, Aspen Parkland occurs on the lower slopes.

    In British Columbia the major communities include: Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford; while in Alberta the Crowsnest Pass Municipality includes the communities of Coleman, Blairmore and Hillcrest. The Crowsnest Highway (No. 3) passes through from Elko, British Columbia to Fort McLeod, Alberta and the Elk Valley Highway (No. 43) connects Elkford with Sparwood. Coal mining has occurred here for more than a century, first with underground mines but since the mid-1960’s with open pit mines; elsewhere logging has extended a network of roads through all the assessable areas in both British Columbia and Alberta. The two largest protected areas in BC are the Elk Lakes Park and the southeastern portion of Height of the Rockies Park. In Alberta there is only a small, southern portion of the Peter Lougheed Park in this ecosection.

  • FLV - Flathead Valley Ecosection
    This is a wide basin unit with considerable erosion resistant limestone ridges, that separate the Flathead valley from the Wigwam valley (MacDonald and Inverted ranges) and the Wigwam from the Rocky Mountain Trench (Galton Range); in Montana it is the Whitefish Range that separates the north Fork of the Flathead. From the Rocky Mountain Trench,. tThis ecosection is separated from the Elk Valley to the north by Limestone, Leech, Morrissey and Flathead ridges. It extends southward into Montana as far as Whitefish Lake and the junction of the three forks of the Flathead River. It does not occur in Alberta. Glaciers moved south down this valley into northwestern Montana before stalling. In British Columbia this ecosection is drained southward by the Flathead River and its tributaries; while the tributaries of the Wigwam River are the Desolation, Bighorn and Lodgepole creeks drain westward into the Elk River. In Montana tributaries of the North Fork of the Flathead are the Trail, Red Meadow, Goat, Big and Canyon Creeks; while Swift Creek drains southward into Whitefish Lake, the only large lake in this ecosection.

    Moist Pacific air moves over this area primarily from the southwest over the Columbia Basin and the southern Columbia Mountains, the complex topography here creates many rainshadows or alternatively wetter west facing slopes. Dense, cold Arctic air often stalls along the Rocky Mountain Foothills to the east, but under large systems can override the mountains bringing periods of intense cold and snowfall. The forests in the main Flathead Valley are the dry Montane Spruce types; Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate the mountain slopes. Alpine consisting of dry vegetation types or barren rock occur on the mountain tops and higher ridges.

    In the BC portion there are no major settlements; while in Montana, Polebridge is the only settlement well within this ecosection; Whitefish and Columbia Falls are situated partly on the southern margin and many home-sites have been established along the North Fork of the Flathead River. There are no major highways in this ecosection. Logging, with it attendant roads has been extensive throughout this ecosection. There are no large protected areas in either British Columbia or Montana.

PTR - Purcell Transitional Ranges Ecoregion
This ecoregion lies east of the main Columbia Mountains it rises from the Rocky Mountain Trench in the east in a series of foothills that build in height, finally rising into rugged mountains in the northern ecosection, where it achieves a grand stature. The climate is one of a partial rain shadow from the Pacific westerlies, but it still receives considerable moisture by low-pressure systems lying over the Canadian Prairies and Southern Canadian Rockies to the east. In addition, cold Arctic air invades this area in the winter and spring via the Rocky Mountain Trench. There are two ecosections in this ecoregion:

  • EPM - Eastern Purcell Mountains Ecosection
    This is a rugged, mountain area with high valleys, and rounded foothills that lie west above the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench. These mountains are underlain by sedimentary and metamorphic rocks of great age that were laid down in a shallow sea on the western margin of the North American Craton before the mountain building episodes of about 200 million years ago. Glaciers flowed eastward out of these mountains into the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench before moving south into northern Montana. It is located on the leeward side of the Purcell Ranges from the height of land eastward to the Rocky Mountain Trench and from the head of the Purcell Trench in the Beaver River valley south to the St. Mary River. This ecosection is drained by the upper Mather, Skookumchuck and Findlay streams that flow east into the Kootenay River; and by the Dutch, Toby, Horsethief, Forster, Francis, Bugaboo, Vowell, Spillimacheen and Quartz streams that flow east into the upper Columbia River. Whitetail and Lake of the Hanging Glacier are the only two lakes of any size.

    This ecosection is within a distinct rain shadow of the Pacific air that pass over the Columbia Mountains, although it still receives considerable moisture at certain times of the year. In the winter cold, dense Arctic air that invades the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench can build up in the lower eastern valleys, under some conditions large Arctic air can build up to envelope the entire Columbia and Rocky Mountains bring extreme cold weather and snow for short periods. The lower outer valleys of the Findlay, Dutch, Toby and Horsethief creeks have dry Interior Douglas-fir forests; while in the north against the lower slopes of the Dogtooth Range and in the outer Spillimacheen and Bobby Burns streams, wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forest grow. Elsewhere cool montane forest of Montane Spruce occur in all the main valleys; and on the middle to upper mountain slopes, Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate. The mountains here are high enough to have alpine on all the upper ridges and mountain tops, although vegetation is usually sparse and barren rock is common. Large mountain glaciers remain on the highest mountains along the crest of the Purcell Mountains from Dutch Creek north to Spillimacheen River.

    There are no settlements, nor highways in this ecosection, although a wilderness lodge has been established in Bugaboo Creek. Logging and its attendant roads have occurred in all the valleys that lie outside the Purcell Wilderness Area, in addition heli-hiking and heli-skiing are popular, especially in the northern, heavy snowfall areas. This ecosection is represented by Bugaboo Park and the eastern portion of Glacier National Park that has been established in the northern portion of this ecosection; while the east half of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy has been established in the southwest.

    MCR - McGillivray Range Ecosection
    This is a small area of subdued ridges and foothills located in the southeast of the Purcell Mountains. This ecosection extends southward just into northern Montana, but it lies mainly within British Columbia. These mountains are underlain by sedimentary and metamorphic rocks of great age that were laid down in a shallow sea on the western margin of the North American Craton before the mountain building episodes of about 200 million years ago. Glaciers flowed eastward out of these mountains into the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench before moving south into northern Montana. This ecosection is drained by the Perry, upper Moyie, Joseph, Gold, Bloom and Yahk (spelled YAAK in Montana) streams. There are no large lakes here.

    This ecosection lies in a partial rain shadow of the higher Columbia Mountains to the west, but it can receive moisture from low-pressure systems lying over the western Prairies or over the southern Rocky Mountains; or from moisture arriving from over the Columbia Basin to the southwest. Cold Arctic it can arrive via systems the move down the Southern Rock Mountain Trench or by large, cold air masses that engulf the entire Columbia and Rocky Mountains, but such systems are usually short-lived. Some moist Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests grow in the Yahk River valley, but usually dry forests prevail. Dry Interior Douglas-fir forests occur in the eastern facing valleys in St. Mary, Peavine and Gold creeks; and dry Montane Spruce forests occur elsewhere in the valley bottoms and lower slopes. On the middle to upper slopes Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate. Alpine vegetation is sparse and restricted to a few higher ridges.

    There are no towns or settlements in this ecosection. The Crowsnest Highway (No. 3) from Creston to Cranbook passes through the northwestern portion. Logging with its attendant roads has occurred throughout most of this area, in addition placer mining has occurred in Perry Creek. There are no representative protected areas in this ecosection.

SBF - Selkirk - Bitterroot Foothills Ecoregion
This ecoregion is an area of rounded mountains and wide valleys, lying on the southwestern side of the Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince. This area lies between the warm moist highlands to the west and wet, cool mountains to the east. This ecoregion extends southeasterly into Washington and the Idaho Panhandle. Only one ecosection represents this ecoregion in British Columbia:

 

  • SFH - Selkirk Foothills Ecosection
    This is a transitional mountain area that is situated between the rolling uplands of the Okanagan Highlands to the west, and the rugged mountains of the Selkirk Mountains to the east. It is underlain by granitic batholiths and by sedimentary rocks, particularly to the south. Glaciers overrode the uplands and moved down the Columbia River valley into northern Washington, rounding the mountain profiles and leaving vast quantities of glacial debris on the valley floor, especially south of Castlegar. This ecosection is divided in two by the British Columbia - Washington border. In British Columbia this ecosection is drained by the Columbia, Granby, Burrell, Eagle, Sandner, Big Sheep, Beaver, lower Salmo and lower Pend Oreille streams; the Columbia River has been dammed at Robson creating a reservoir out of Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes, as well dams in the lower Kootenay River and the Pend Oreille at Waneta provide run of the river power; Christina and Whatshan lakes are the only natural large lakes here. In Washington it is drained by the Columbia, Pend Oreille, Deep, Onion, Rocky, Lost, Sullivan and Harvey streams; the Pend Oreille river has been dammed at Metaline Falls for un of the river power and the Columbia River has been dammed at Grand Coulee, Washington creating a large reservoir that backs up into this ecosection; there are few natural large lakes Sullivan and Thomas being the largest two.

    This ecosection receives considerable moisture from northwesterly Pacific storms coming across the Columbia Plateau; as well it receives increased summer temperatures because of its proximity to the Columbia Basin to the south. The Columbia River valley in British Columbia receives the highest summer temperatures in the entire ecoprovince. The area is only receives cold Arctic air when large systems override the entire interior of the province and even it is usually only short-lived. The driest type of Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests occur in the Columbia River valley south of Castlegar and the lower Granby River valley, elsewhere the valleys are dominated by moist forests; at higher elevations on the middle and upper slopes moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests dominate. Alpine vegetation is rare here only occurring in the northwestern ridges of the upper Granby River watershed. The dry Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests are more widespread in Washington in the Columbia and Pend Oreille valleys and the moist Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests dominate the uplands. Moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine forests are rare, only occurring on the highest ridge between the Columbia and Pend Oreille valleys. The vegetation in the Columbia valley, especially from Castlegar to the Canada/U.S.A. border, has been severely impacted by acid rain from the Trail smelter.

    In British Columbia cities include Castlegar, Trail and Rossland and smaller communities and settlements of include Fauquier, Needles, Robson, Fruitvale, Salmo and Christina Lake; while in Washington Colville is the largest settlement, others include: Northport, Ione, Newport and Chewelah. The Crowsnest Highway (No. 3) crosses the southern area in British Columbia from Grand Forks to Creston; Highway 3A connects Castlegar with Nelson; Highway 3B connects the Crowsnest Highway at Nancy Greene Lake to Fruitvale; and Highway 6 connects Vernon to Nakusp and Salmo to Nelway. There are numerous highways in Washington following all the major river valleys as well, State Highway 20 runs across the uplands from the Okanogan Valley to the Pend Oreille valley. This area has been heavily industrialized and impacted by: sulphur fumes from the smelter at Trail, ponding of the Pend Oreille River in both British Columbia and Washington and by logging. There are three large protected areas in British Columbia: Granby, Gladstone and Syringa parks. There are no large protected areas in Washington.

SRT - Southern Rocky Mountain Trench Ecoregion
This ecoregion is a long wide, flat-bottomed valley that dissects the Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince into two unequal mountain blocks. The origin of the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench was not created by either lateral displacement or strike-slip faulting, like its northern counterpart. Rather it seems to be a weak, erosional line between the older continental margin and the accreted terranes in the Cassiar Belt that has been eroded by downwasting of streams and glaciation into an apparent linement. Cold Arctic air from the sub-boreal part of the province is able to move down the Trench easily, while in the summer months the southern part of the Trench is the driest part of the ecoprovince, being in a rainshadow of easterly flowing Pacific air and by being affected by hot air invading from the Great Plains in Montana. It contains four ecosections:

  • BBT - Big Bend Trench Ecosection This is the narrowest section of the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench it is located in the central part of that Trench. Most of this intermountain plain has been flooded by the Kinbasket Lake reservoir, leaving only the upper slopes in a natural state. The boundaries between its two mountain neighbours is purely physiographic. This Ecosection has high precipitation, as moisture rises over the Rockies to the east. Historically this ecosection was drained by the northward flowing Columbia River and the southward flowing Canoe River, and other than a few streams that end in the Trench, only the Succour and Whitepine creeks now run free. Logging has occurred upslope from the reservoir. Donald Station is the only settlement in this ecosection. There are no large protected areas here.

  • EKT - East Kootenay Trench Ecosection This is a broad, flat, glacial intermountain plain that lies in the southern portion of the Rocky Mountain Trench. It extends from Dutch Creek on the west side of Columbia Lake, past Canal Flats south onto the Tobacco Plains of Montana. Most of the sedimentary bedrock outcrops are of Purcell Mountain volcanic origin that were laid down in a shallow sea on the western margin of the North American Craton before the mountain building episodes of about 200 million years ago. Glaciers moved southward down this valley pushing into Montana, when the ice stalled and began to melt lakes formed along its margin filling with buff-coloured silts or depositing deep sands and gravels. This ecosection is drained by the Kootenay River flowing southward, it is jointed by the Findlay, Skookumchuck, Lussier, Wolf, Wasa, St Mary, Wildhorse, Bull, Little Sand, Elk and Gold streams. In Montana it is drained by the Tobacco River that flows into the Koocanusa Lake. The southern area of this ecosection has been flooded by a dam in Libby, Montana; the Koocanusa reservoir extends north as far as the mouth of the Bull River; Premier and Wasa are the two largest natural lakes.

    This area is in a distinct rainshadow from Pacific air moving over the Columbia Mountains to the west; or from low pressure systems in Alberta and Montana pushing moist air over the Rocky Mountains to the east. Surface heating in the summer moves the clouds from this valley giving clear skies and hot temperatures. During the winter and early spring months, the Rocky Mountain Trench serves as an access route for outbreaks of cold, dense Arctic air coming from the central interior of the province. During large outbreaks, the cold air remains in the trench often trapped in a temperature inversion by Pacific air thus giving the valley dense cloud cover while the adjacent mountains are cloud-free. The dry, sandy sites on the Tobacco Plains, Wycliffe Prairie and Premier Ridge are dominated by dry Ponderosa Pine forests; the remainder of this areas has dry Interior Douglas-fir forests; Montane Spruce forest occur on only the highest parts of Premier and Wasa ridges.

    There are two city in British Columbia: Cranbrook and Kimberly; as well there are many smaller communities and settlements, including, Canal Flats, Skookumchuck, Tata Creek, Wasa Lake, Fort Steele, Marysville, St. Eugene, Bull River, Wardner, Jaffray, Elko, Baynes Lake and Grasmere; while in Montana, Eureka is the largest community. This area has been logged and burned extensively throughout the past century, agriculture - mainly free-ranging livestock grazing and hay production has also taken place throughout and much of the trench is privately owned. The Crowsnest Highway (No. 3) passes through the southern portion from Cranbrook to Elko; the Rooseville to Radium Highway (No. 93) passes north up the Trench from Whitefish, Montana to Canal Flats. Highway 95A connects Kimberly with Cranbrook and Tata Creek. In Montana Highway 37 connects Eureka with Libby along the east side of Koocanusa Lake. There are no large protected areas in this ecosection; however, several private ranches have been purchased for their wildlife production and conservation purposes of Koocanusa Lake. There are no large protected areas in this ecosection.

    UCV - Upper Columbia Valley Ecosection
    This ecosection is a broad intermountain plain, that is widest in the southern portion and becomes much narrower in the northern portion past Parson. Most of the sedimentary bedrock outcrops are of Purcell Mountain volcanic origin that were laid down in a shallow sea on the western margin of the North American Craton before the mountain building episodes of about 200 million years ago. Deep glacial lacustrine deposits occur along the banks of the southern area; and a large meltwater channel occurs in the lower Spillamacheen River - Francis Creek area. The main stream in this ecosection is the northward flowing upper Columbia, but portions of Dutch, Toby, Horsethief, Francis, Forester, Bugaboo, Bobbie Burns. Spillamacheen, Kicking Horse, Blaeberry, Kindersley, Sinclair, Stoddart, Shuswap and Windermere also cut through this ecosection. The most significant water body is the Columbia wetlands that extend uninterrupted form Athalmer to just south of Donald Station; Columbia and Windermere lakes are the two largest here.

    This area is in a distinct rainshadow from Pacific air moving over the Columbia Mountains to the west; or from low pressure systems in Alberta and Montana pushing moist air over the Rocky Mountains to the east. Surface heating in the summer moves the clouds from this valley giving clear skies and hot temperatures. During the winter and early spring months, the Rocky Mountain Trench serves as an access route for outbreaks of cold, dense Arctic air coming from the central interior of the province. During large outbreaks, the cold air remains in the trench often trapped in a temperature inversion by Pacific air thus giving the valley dense cloud cover while the adjacent mountains are cloud-free. The dry, silty and sandy sites on the benchlands have dry Interior Douglas-fir forests; these forests become moister further north from Brisco to Golden. Montane Spruce forests occur on the higher benches on the western side against the Purcell Mountains and in the Spillimacheen/Francis valley. Moist Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests on the higher benches against the Dogtooth Ranges in the northwest and the Brisco Range in the northeast. Moist Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests occur only on the highest portions of Steamboat and Jubilee mountains.

    There are three cities in this ecosection: Invermere, Radium Hot Springs and Golden; and several smaller settlements that include: Fairmont Hot Springs, Windermere, Wilmer and Edgewater. This area has been logged, including Christmas tree production and farmed, generally hay crops and free-ranging livestock and more recently it has seen the impact of recreational development, especially above Windermere Lake, but also in the Radium Hot Springs area. The Rooseville to Radium Highway (No. 93) and the Kootenay - Columbia Highway (No. 95) is located on the east side of the Trench, they connect Cranbrook with Golden; as well the Westside Road has been upgraded along the western benches from Dutch Creek, past Invermere to Spillimacheen. The Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area is the largest protected area; as well the lower portion of the East Side Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area and a small western portion of Kootenay National Park have also been established here.

  • UFT - Upper Fraser Trench Ecosection
    This is a broad, flt, intermountain, glacial plain. Glacier moved down from the adjacent Cariboo Ranges and Rocky Mountains or entered from the central interior all coalescing and moved southward down the trench it left behind deep glacial sediments. This Ecosection is the northern-most portion of the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench and extends from the Blackman River in the south north to Sinclair Mills, south of the mouth of the Bowron River, in the north; it is bounded on both sides by steep mountains. This ecosection is drained by the upper Fraser River that runs north-westward through the northern two-thirds of this ecosection; while the McLennan/Canoe rivers flowed southeast in the southern third, (however, only the McLennan River now runs free, the Canoe River has been flooded with the erection of the Mica Dam). Many streams that begin in the adjacent mountain join the Fraser River, the larger streams include: the upper Fraser, Rausch, Holmes, Morkill, Torpy, and Goat rivers; Canoe Reach of the Kinbasket Lake reservoir occupies much of the southern third of the valley.

    The climate is moderately moist and cool, however there is an area with a distinct rainshadow from Valemount to McBride. Moist air arrives from the central interior bringing moist conditions to much of this area as that air is forced to rise over the adjacent mountains. Cold Arctic air invades from the central interior providing periods of extreme cold and heavy snow conditions for considerable periods during the winter and early spring. Cold, moist Sub-Boreal Spruce forests occur above the Fraser River and on the adjacent benchlands from the Torpy River to the Canoe River; in the northern portion extensive wetlands and muskegs have developed. Elsewhere wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forest grow on the benchlands throughout the ecosection.

    The major communities are McBride and Valemount. The Yellowhead Highway (No. 16) from Prince George to Jasper passes through here, and the Yellowhead South Highway (No. 5) connects Valemount with Kamloops. Logging has occurred on the productive forest land, and agriculture has been developed in the rainshadow areas around McBride. The east half of Grizzly Den – Sugarbowl and the northern half of West Twin parks are the only large protected areas here.

WRA - Western Continental Ranges Ecoregion
This ecoregion has high, rugged mountains, with deep narrow valleys. There are a number of bold mountains that typify the Park Ranges (the dominant ranges throughout most of this ecoregion) - Mount Robson, the highest in this ecoregion, presents a bold front, typical of the Park Ranges, to viewers driving the Yellowhead Highway, but there is also several others such as Stephen, Assiniboine, King George, little known Harrison, Joffre, Abruzzi and Marconi mountains which typify the Park Ranges. The climate here is mainly continental, but rain shadows do occur within the internal valleys, as the Pacific air masses rise over these ranges on its journey eastward. Cold Arctic air often stalls along the eastern boundary in Alberta, but occasionally invades this area bring cold air and wind. Most of this ecoregion occurs in British Columbia, but the southern two ecosections extend over into Alberta. It contains three ecosections:

  • CPK - Central Park Ranges Ecosection
    This is an area of high, rugged mountains of the Park Ranges, many of which are ice-capped, including one of the largest icefields – Columbia, in the southern Rocky Mountains. The mountains are underlain by deep layers of sedimentary limestone and quartzite rocks that have been little deformed, thus presenting bold faces and steep slopes. Valleys are often short and steep. Glaciers moved down the slopes to the Rocky Mountain Trench to the west or into the North Saskatchewan and Bow river valleys to the east. Several large icefields remain along the Continental Divide, the Columbia Icefield is perhaps the best known, other large ones include: Chaba, Clemenceaux, Lyell and Freshfield. This ecosection is located mainly in British Columbia, but it includes part of Alberta lying on the west side of the Athabasca-Summit-North Saskatchewan-Bow lineament from Whirlpool River south to near Kicking Horse Pass. In the British Columbia portion streams such as, Dawson, Wood, Sullivan, Bush, Valanciennes, Bluewater, Waitabit and Blaeberry all rush westward into the Kinbasket Lake reservoir; in Alberta the mains streams are the northward flowing Whirlpool, Athabasca, and the southward flowing Alexandria, Arctomys, and Howse streams.

    The climate is cold and wet; moist air rising over the entire ecoprovince to the west drops considerable moisture to this area; as well low pressure weather systems centered over Alberta can stall over this ecosection bringing moisture from the east. Arctic air can arrive via the Athabasca Valley in Alberta or the Rocky Mountain Trench in British Columbia bring periods of intense cold and snow. The lower, west facing valleys are dominated by wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests; with the upper slopes have wet Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests in both British Columbia and Alberta. Alpine of sparse vegetation, but more often, barren rock and icefields dominate the upper ridges and mountain summits.

    There are no settlements or highways in this ecosection. The lower Bush, Sullivan and Wood valleys have all been flooded by the Kinbasket Lake reservoir. Logging has occurred in the Sullivan, Bush and Blaeberry valleys. In British Columbia, Cummins Lakes and Hamber provincial parks have been established here; while in Alberta portions of Jasper and Banff national parks are long-standing parks.

    NPK - Northern Park Ranges Ecosection
    This is an area of high, rugged mountains of the Park Ranges, some with mountain glaciers, and moderately wide valleys. The mountains are underlain by deep layers of sedimentary limestone and quartzite rocks that have been little deformed, thus presenting bold faces and steep slopes. Valleys are often short and steep. At 3,954 meters, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, epitomizes the bold front of the Park Ranges. Glaciers moved down the slopes to the Rocky Mountain Trench to the west; or to the northeast to coalesce with the Laurentide Glacier in the Interior Plains. This ecosection lies entirely in British Columbia; the eastern boundary is well defined by the Continental Divide, the British Columbia – Alberta border. In addition to the upper Fraser, this ecosection is drained by: the Forgetmenot and upper Morkill rivers that flow into the Fraser River; and by Ptarmigan and Hugh Allen rivers that flow into the Columbia River via Kinbasket Lake. Moose and Yellowhead lakes are the only large lakes here.

    The climate is cold and wet; moist air rising over the entire ecoprovince to the west drops considerable moisture to this area; as well low pressure weather systems centered over Alberta can stall over this ecosection bringing moisture from the east. Arctic air can arrive via the Athabasca Valley in Alberta or the Rocky Mountain Trench in British Columbia bringing periods of intense cold and snow. The upper Fraser River valley contains cold, dry Sub-Boreal Spruce forests; lower, west facing valleys are dominated by wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forests; while the upper slopes have wet Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests in both British Columbia. Alpine of sparse vegetation, but more often barren rock, dominate the upper ridges and mountain summits.

    Except for the lodge at Mount Robson, there are no settlements in this ecosection. The Yellowhead Highway (No. 16), the only major access here, follows the upper Fraser River from Tete Jaune Cache to Jasper. Logging with its attendant roads has occurred in the Morkill, Holmes, and all the short valleys that enter into the Rocky Mountains Trench, including the Ptarmigan and Hugh Allen watersheds. Mount Robson is the largest representative Provincial Park, while Small River, Swift Current River, Mount Terry Fox and Holliday Creek Arch are four smaller provincial Parks that have been established.

    SPK - Southern Park Ranges Ecosection
    This is a rugged mountainous area that is dissected by long rivers, forming moderately wide linear valleys. It consists of the bold Park Ranges that lie through the western side and middle of the ecosection, and the Front Ranges that occur between the Elk and Bull-White river valleys. While the Park Ranges are little deformed and consist of old sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, often with thick, cliff-forming limestone and quartzite. The Front Ranges, which are, controlled by fold and fault structures that consist of a succession of overthrust sheets that present gentle slope to the southwest and a steep limestone faces to the northeast, the Front Ranges form striking mountains that rise abruptly above the broad, glaciated valleys that separate them. The mountains in this ecosection are almost parallel, with structural ridges, which are deeply incised and partially dissected by long transverse valleys. Glaciers eroded much of the upland surface and left deep deposits in the valley bottoms. This ecosection lies mainly in British Columbia with only small areas occurring in Alberta as far east as the upper Bow and Kananaskis valleys. This In British Columbia this ecosection is drained by the Kicking Horse, Ottertail, Beaverfoot, Upper Kootenay, Vermilion, Simpson, Cross, Albert, Palliser, Windermere, Fenwick, White, North White, East White, Upper Bull, Forsyth, Coyote, Quinn, Blackfoot, Lussier, Diorite, Wildhorse, Brule, Galbraith and Tanglefoot streams; in Alberta it is drained by the tributary streams of the Bow and Kananaskis rivers. Whiteswan Lake is the largest lake in this ecosection.

    Pacific air moving eastward over these mountains have created rainshadows on the leeward sides and moist forests on the windward slopes. Cold Arctic air seldom intrudes into this ecosection, but when it does it brings intense cold and snow that can become trapped by moist Pacific air resulting in temperature inversions in all the major valleys. Moist Interior Douglas-fir forests enters only in southern-most portion of the Upper Kootenay valley; however in the upper Galbraith and Beaverfoot valleys wet Interior Cedar – Hemlock forest grow. Elsewhere cool Montane Spruce forests occur in the valley bottoms and lower slopes. Dry Engelmann Spruce – Subalpine Fir forests are established on all the middle and upper slopes. The alpine occurs on the upper ridges and mountains, but here it is sparsely vegetated and mainly consists of barren rock.

    Field is the only settlement with these mountains. There are two highways that cross this ecosection – Trans Canada Highway (No. 1), which cuts through Yoho National Park along with the Canadian Pacific Railway, from Golden to Banff; and the Kootenay Parkway (No. 93) that cuts through Kootenay National Park. In addition, logging with its attendant roads has occurred in all but the most inaccessible valleys and slopes outside of the protected areas. There are several large protected areas, in British Columbia this ecosection is represented by: Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park, Mount Assiniboine, Height of the Rockies, Top of the World and Whiteswan Lake Provincial parks; in Alberta portions of Banff National Park and Peter Lougheed occur over the mountains just east of the Continental Divide.

 

SAL - Southern Alaska Mountains Ecoprovince

Location – This Ecoprovince is located on the north side of the Gulf of Alaska. It extends from Lynn Canal in the east, across the Alsek, St. Elias, Wrangell, and Chugach Mountains to the Kenai Mountains in the west.

Climate – The climate is cold maritime, caused by moist air in the Gulf of Alaska rising over the high mountains. Intense precipitation in the form snow occurs on the upper slopes and summits. Cold temperatures are the result of latitude and long winters with a short growing season.

Vegetation – The Coastal Western Hemlock zone is reduced to a narrow band near sea level, the subalpine or Mountain Hemlock zone is similarly a narrow belt on the lower slopes. And while the Alpine Tundra zone is extensive most of that is snow or icefields, the vegetative alpine belt is quite narrow and low.

Fauna – Mountain Goats occur in the alpine and subalpine vegetation belts, Sitka Black-Tailed Deer occur in the riparian habitat and along the coast, and Moose occur mainly in the riparian habitat. American Black Bears, including an uncommon phase the Glacier Bear, and Grizzly Bears occur throughout the vegetated areas; the large Kodiak Bear occurs only on Kodiak Island.

In Alaska, Sea Otters once very abundant have been adversely affected by the large oil spill in Prince William Sound; Northern Sea Lions, and Harbour Seals occur near shore and on haul-outs, while Orca, and Humpback Whales occur in the many sounds and Gulf of Alaska.

White-Tailed, Rock and Willow ptarmigan occur in the alpine and subalpine zones. Prince William Sound supports many waterbirds in the winter.

Dolly Varden char are resident fish, and Pink, Chum, Sockeye and Spring Salmon enter the streams and rivers to spawn.

Ecoregion Subdivisions

There is only one Ecoregion and one Ecosection in the British Columbia portion of this Ecoprovince.

CMI - Chugach Mountains and Icefields Ecoregion
This is a rugged mountain area (several of Canada’s highest mountains, such as Fairweather, St. Elias, and Logan, occur here). There are large icefields, including Fisher, Malaspina, Seward,s Bering, and Yahtse glaciers, and the Bagley Icefield. Vegetation consisting of western hemlock forests is restricted to low coastal areas and the Alsek River floodplain.
There is only one ecosection in British Columbia.

  • ALR - Alsek Ranges Ecosection

    This is an area of isolated, very, high rugged ice-capped mountains that lie in the northeastern curve of the Gulf of Alaska and are readily affected by moist, Pacific air. Except for the Alsek River valley, the British Columbia segment is mainly upper slopes and rugged mountain summits, icefields and glaciers; the valleys and lower slopes lie primarily to the south in Alaska. Mount Fairweather, at 4663 m is the tallest mountain in British Columbia. As the Grand Pacific Glacier recedes Tarr Inlet is advancing into British Columbia. The streams in this ecosection are mainly glacier-fed streams, the largest, the lower Alsek River flows through the centre of this ecosection in Alaska.

    Pacific air circulating over the Gulf of Alaska brings periods of heavy rain, such storms can occur throughout the year. Cold Arctic air can override this ecosection, and can easily flow down the Alsek/Tatshenshini valley bringing high winds and extreme cold temperatures for long periods. The coastline outside of B.C. is often less affected that are the uplands. In British Columbia there is only barren rock and large icefields, but to the south, in Alaska, wet cold Coastal Western Hemlock forests grow above the coast and cold, wet Mountain Hemlock subalpine grows just above the lower slopes. Alpine can be densely vegetated, but quickly turn to barren rock with any rise in elevation.

    The First Nations village of Yakutat, Alaska, the only community here is located on the south shore of Yakutat Bay. This Ecosection is almost all in protected areas: in British Columbia it is part of the Tatshenshini – Alsek Park; in the Yukon it is all part of the Kluane National Park; in Alaska, south of the Alsek River it is Glacier Bay National Park and Glacier Bay National Preserve and north of Yukatat Bay it is in the Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. In Alaska the Tongas National Forest is located south of Yakutat Bay to the Lower Alsek River and Dry Bay and on the eastern side of Chilkat Peninsula, where the only roads in this ecosection are located.