The Great Sand Hills (map) is a national ecological treasure that needs to be protected from degradation. The main threat to the Great Sand Hills comes from natural gas exploration and development.
Controversy has existed between local ranchers and environmentalists, who support conservation, and industry proponents and local people who support increased development activities. The gas industry provides up to 60 percent of families in the area with their main source of income.
The Great Sand Hills are the largest remaining area of protected native prairies in good ecological condition in Canada. Currently there are 197,099 ha of land protected in the Great Sand Hills. That's 117,845 ha in ES1 (prime protection) and 79,245 ha in ES2 (special management).