This site encompasses the north and west valley walls of the Fraser and Chilcotin Rivers from their junction, about 30 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, westward to the mouth of Big Creek and northward to the mouth of Williams Lake River. Valley walls consist of alternating steep slopes, flat benches and occasional rocky outcrops. Mature and old growth Douglas-fir woodlands are interspersed with open grasslands, and patches of big sagebrush are common in valley bottoms. The Cariboo Plateau to the east and the Chilcotin Plateau to the west are largely underlain by Tertiary lava flows of Miocene age. There are also areas of aeolian sand dune deposits and silt and sand hoodoos. This site supports one of the worlds largest herds of California Bighorn Sheep and the most northerly populations of Spotted Bat, Small-footed and Fringed Myotis (a rare grassland bat species).
This site contains one of the highest (perhaps the highest) concentrations of Flammulated Owls in Canada. This species is at the northern limit of its range here, and it is estimated that over 150 birds breed here each summer, representing perhaps 15% of the Canadian population. The owls are found in the mature to old-growth Douglas-fir forests that are found along valley walls.
In addition to Flammulated Owls, several other species that are at the northern limit of their range occur here. These include the nationally vulnerable Lewis Woodpecker, which has a total breeding population of at least four birds annually, Common Poorwill, Dusky Horned Lark, and Cassins Finch.
At least six individuals of the nationally vulnerable Long-billed Curlew breed annually at Chilcotin Junction. Prairie Falcons and Long-eared Owls nest nearby and hunt in the junction region. The plateau west and north of the site is provincially important for its relatively large expanses of prairie-like grasslands, numerous small lakes and marshes. Provincially rare species such as Sharp-tailed Grouse, Upland Sandpiper and Spragues Pipit (nationally threatened) are known to nest in the area, as well as a wide variety of waterfowl.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Old-growth Douglas-fir habitat could be logged if restrictions regarding deer winter range are relaxed in the future. This would greatly compromise the quality of Flammulated Owl habitat. Wildfire could also destroy these woodlands as well, but fortunately old Douglas-fir are somewhat naturally protected from small, cool fires.
The mature to old-growth Douglas-fir habitat favoured by Flammulated Owl is considered prime Mule Deer wintering range and is thus afforded some protection from logging through the British Columbia Forest Practices Code. The southern part of the site (4,573 ha) has recently been protected within Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park.