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Cumulative impact from major proposed developments threatens local wildlife, corridors

Y2Y calls on federal, provincial and municipal governments in the Bow Valley to work together and assess the cumulative impacts massive developments proposed in the region will have on the future of wildlife connectivity.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) is calling on the federal, provincial and municipal governments in the Bow Valley to work together and assess the cumulative impacts massive developments proposed in the region will have on the future of wildlife connectivity.

Y2Y asks that no development permits be issued and no approvals be granted for development at Three Sisters Mountain Village and Silvertip Resorts until a plan is in place for how wildlife will navigate through the increasingly congested Bow Valley.

“Plans put forward for development across the Bow Valley create the very real risk that residential development, hotels, gaming facilities, conference centres and a gondola could dramatically impact grizzly bears and other wide-ranging species in the Canadian Rockies,” says Y2Y program director, Stephen Legault.

“We’re calling on all the governments in the Bow Valley to work together,” says Dr. Jodi Hilty, President and Chief Scientist for Y2Y. “The Bow Valley is one of the key connectivity zones along this 3,200-kilometre mountain range. How we protect connectivity has continental impacts.”

“If all the proposed development at Three Sisters, Silvertip and Dead Man’s Flats proceeds as proposed, the likelihood that grizzly bears and other wildlife will persist in this valley while being challenged to co-exist with humans becomes increasingly slim,” Legault says.

The group is specifically concerned about three proposed developments. First is the planned build-out of the Three Sisters property, contentious since the 1992 Natural Resource Conservation Board decision to ban development from the nearby Wind Valley and restrict growth at Three Sisters.

Homes for as many as 11,000 people may be built along the slopes of the Bow Valley, extending Canmore’s footprint another four kilometres and restricting wildlife movement between Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country to a narrow corridor only a few hundred metres wide.

“The best science on protecting wildlife movement corridors tells us that for a corridor as long as the one that skirts the Three Sisters development through the Bow Valley you need at least 850 metres below steep slopes and cliffs. And that’s being conservative,” says Legault.

“With all the existing development, and the TransCanada highway, that is no longer possible. We need all the space that is left for there to be any hope for the long-term function of the wildlife migration routes through that landscape.”

The second issue is a plan for development of a massive resort centre at Silvertip property.

“The expansion of already approved plans at Silvertip Resort for 13 new boutique hotels and up to 1,200 residential and 800 staff accommodation are troubling,” adds Legault. “The addition of a gondola to the ridge of Mount Lady MacDonald, a conference centre, underground shopping and a gaming facility will bring up to 250,000 more visitors to the Bow Valley annually, and add another 5,000 people to the population of Canmore.”

Finally, the proposed light industrial development in the hamlet of Dead Man’s Flats, part of the M.D. of Bighorn, must be addressed because of its impact on connectivity.

“Development proposed by the M.D. will plug up one of the few safe places, a designated wildlife crossing where wildlife can pass under busy Highway 1, further compounding an already challenging situation,” says Legault. “Doubling the size of Canmore in the next five to 10 years creates a grim situation for wildlife connectivity in this region and puts the future of the Y2Y vision at risk,” says Legault.

For further comment:

Stephen Legault, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Program Director for Crown, Alberta and NWT
or 403-609-2666 ext 107

Background

The group is calling on all levels of government to do the following:

  • Form a Bow Valley Connectivity Task Force that includes all levels of government, First Nations, scientists and other community members to determine the prospects for long term wildlife connectivity based on the cumulative impact of all proposed development in the Bow Valley before any approvals are granted;
  • Insist that the wildlife movement corridor for the Three Sisters property be at least 450-m wide below steep slopes and cliffs — conservatively agreed upon by scientists to be 25 degrees;
  • Ensure that the wildlife underpass at Dead Man’s Flats is functioning fully and that development in the M.D. of Bighorn doesn’t put that infrastructure at risk;
  • Maintain the ecological and cultural integrity of the Bow Valley Wildland Park, where the Silvertip gondola is proposed. Restrict any approvals to changes to the existing plans until the overall integrity of the Bow Valley for wildlife movement can be determined;
  • Invest in further cross-valley wildlife movement by making investments in new “green infrastructure” through wildlife underpasses and overpasses to ensure continued connectivity.