CANMORE – A major land developer says the Government of Alberta has approved a revised application to establish a wildlife corridor at the eastern edge of the Town of Canmore.
In an announcement released Friday (Feb. 28) by Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV), it said its revised application for a Smith Creek wildlife corridor has been approved, marking a final approval the land developer needed to complete its development area.
"The Government of Alberta's decision provides Three Sisters Mountain Village and the Town of Canmore with clarity needed on the final piece of the corridor system," the release said.
"The decision represents the largest addition to designated corridor lands since the approval of the Along Valley Corridor in 1998."
TSMV said it addressed previous feedback it received when the application was denied in 2017, including a realignment of the Across Valley Corridor to place it over an area with creeks, as well as to add a wildlife crossing over the Trans-Canada highway, leading to habitat surrounding the Bow River.
"Another feature of our approved proposal is the significant widening of the existing 1998 Along Valley Corridor and the protection of a prime wetland feature," the release said.
In 2018, 17 months after the initial application was submitted, Alberta Environment and Parks denied the application stating the width of the proposed corridor at the eastern end of Smith Creek is "not satisfactory."
“The application contains several positive aspects to maintain wildlife movement, but there are deficiencies which must be addressed to ensure that the wildlife corridor will achieve the purposes stated above over the very long term,” wrote Ramcharita in his decision issued June 26, 2018.
At that time, the province sought public input on the proposal, which included a review of 439 letters as well as two public information sessions.
TSMV represents 80 per cent of the land left remaining inside the Town of Canmore's urban growth boundary that can be developed and its property extends all the way to the Thunderstone Quarry and interchange for Dead Man's Flats.
"Roughly 70 per cent of TSMV-owned lands in the Smith Creek area have been set aside for the wildlife corridor," the TSMV release said.
"Three Sisters included 412 acres of privately-owned land within the approved proposal, leaving approximately 172 acres currently owned by Three Sisters available for development north of the Smith Creek Along Valley Corridor. The existing corridor, with the newly approved Smith Creek Wildlife Corridor added, means that TSMV will set aside more than sixty per cent of their privately-owned land—1,500 acres—to be dedicated to improving connectivity for elk, deer, cougars, wolves and bears. One acre of land is equal to a small regulation soccer pitch—try to envision 1,500 of those. It’s equivalent to three-quarters of the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park lands.”
The release also said the approval recognizes “the wealth of peer-reviewed data available, stretching back to the late ‘80s.”
It said significant scientific work from various academic, government and commercial agencies have been done to fully understand how wildlife use the space. In addition to this, TSMV said its has 15 years of GPS tracking telemetry, field tracking and wildlife trail use counts.
“Understanding the boundaries of the Smith Creek Corridor is critical for Canmore Council, community members and TSMV when considering how development in these areas can proceed; and to be able to plan for development through an Area Structure Plan,” the release said.
“TSMV is currently pursuing two Area Structure Plans: Three Sisters Village (formerly “Resort Centre”) and Smith Creek. These ASPs will also address some of the feedback received through community engagement, including the importance of mobility options, affordable housing, economic diversification and commercial space.”
A delegation to council by Rick Blackwood from the Government of Alberta concerning the subject is expected to take place at the next regular council meeting on Tuesday (Mar. 3).
More to come on this story.
– with files from Tanya Foubert
Editors Note: Updated with a photo of the proposed corridor.