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Smart Planning

Can people and wild environments coexist?


bear in playground

Can people and wild environments coexist? The Craighead Institute, a Montana-based applied science and research organization, believes they can, but it comes down to smart planning.

Y2Y is an advocate for smart planning, which is why we
awarded The Craighead Institute with a $2,500 2013 Partner Grant for their Wild Planner tool.

Wild Planner

The Wild Planner is a modeling tool that combines development data with wildlife habitat and movement maps. The model helps land planners estimate the least harmful way to develop an area.

“The first phase of modeling looks at the ‘current situation’,” explains Lance Craighead, Executive Director of the Institute. “Through this phase we can determine the easiest routes of travel for wildlife for example, and how those routes change according to present barriers.”

The second phase of modeling approximates the effects of specific development proposals on the landscape from a conservation perspective.

The final phase layers various development scenarios and determines what the future impact will be. “We can look at how a build-out of 20 homes on one parcel of land might impact the amount of wildlife habitat and wildlife movement versus putting those 20 homes on a neighboring parcel,” adds Craighead. “We can also assess the cumulative impacts of several scenarios and find solutions with the least impact.”

Craighead Institute Team
Craighead Institute Team (Jonquil Nelson, Karl Cowan, Lance Craighead, April Craighead, and Brent Brock)


Testing the Model in Canmore

Recreation, resource extraction and residential development break up the Yellowstone to Yukon landscape, fragmenting large intact blocks of wildlife habitat into small and relatively useless pieces. One example of this fragmentation is occurring in the Bow Valley around Canmore, Alberta, where resort development is threatening to cut off the only low-elevation route coming out of Banff National Park.

“Canmore is the perfect place to test Wild Planner,” says Karsten Heuer, President of Y2Y. “We have a lot of wildlife information here as well as a lot of development pressure. In fact there’s a proposal right now that could see housing built for an additional 10,000 people. We need a tool like this. If it works then perhaps it is something that can be used throughout the Y2Y region,” adds Heuer.

When Can I See the Results?

The results of the analysis are not yet in. The Craighead Institute has most of the data to run the analysis in Canmore and throughout the Bow Valley, but they would like to acquire the specific plans from the proposed Three Sisters development to be able to complete all three phases of the analysis.

They hope to have the results by the end of June. Stay tuned for the project update in our next E-Connections later this summer.

Click on the logo below to learn more about the Craighead Institute.


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