The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy (PWC) was established as a British Columbia Provincial Park in 1974 after many decades of calls for protection beginning in the early 1900's when Canada's Governor General, Earl Grey, urged the Premier of BC to protect it after hiking the now named Earl Grey Trail.
The park contains numerous Glaciers and High peaks, alpine meadows, canyons, ridges, and hot springs. It is also important as the headwaters of several large streams and rivers flowing into Kootenay Lake, and Columbia River.
The PWC is considered the largest intact ecosystem still remaining in southeastern BC, and remains almost entirely undisturbed by the roading, logging, and mineral exploration that has impacted much of the Kootenay Rockies Region. The Park contains five of British Columbia's Bioclimatic zones, from interior Cedar and Hemlock forests in the wetter, western portion, to Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir in the drier eastern valleys, as well as Engelmann Spruce and subalpine fir, leading all the way up to Alpine Tundra at the highest altitudes able to support life.
Because of the biodiversity of connected climatic zones the PWC also contains a large diversity of wildlife. The Grassy meadows provide excellent habitat for elk and moose while other habitats accomodate many deer, black and grizzly bear, mountain caribou, mountain goats, and cutthroat trout. Over 68 species of birds have been identified in the region.
The current threat to the area and its biodiversity is development on adjacent lands. These include heli-skiing and heli-hiking, logging, and tourism development, including a proposed large ski resort in the Jumbo Valley. The PWC touches the western shore of Kootenay lake only on a small piece of shore south of Fry Creek, otherwise the wildlife is entirely cut off from the lake leaving this area open to logging and other unrestricted development. There has been much support for inclusion of this important ecosystem into the park however previous governments have been reluctant to consider this due to lobbying by developers and industry.
The park offers many eco-tourism opportunities in the form of hiking trails like the Earl Grey and Fry Creek trails as well as many other remote trails. Horse access is allowed in some areas while motorized access is not allowed anywhere in the park.