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Province, Bighorn land exchange granted extension

“We believe [the lands] are more conducive to industrial development, that’s the reason for the whole swap."

MD OF BIGHORN – A fourth – and hopefully final – extension for a land exchange between the province of Alberta and the MD of Bighorn has been granted until the end of March.

The land swap will see 26.7 hectares (66 acres) switch hands from the province to the MD of Bighorn, while the municipality will swap 8.9 hectares (22 acres) near Dead Man’s Flats.

The plot of municipal land is “high value environmental land,” according to a staff report, while the MD of Bighorn will be receiving land more suited for commercial and industrial development to the east of Exshaw.

“We believe [the lands] are more conducive to industrial development – that’s the reason for the whole swap,” said Robert Ellis, the MD of Bighorn’s CAO.

“There have been some delays caused by subdivision, environmental assessments, actually creating the titles – the province had an issue creating some of the titles. It’s all come together now, but we have exceeded our last agreement.”

The municipality reached an agreement with Alberta Environment and Parks on Aug. 16, 2019. Both sides have been working together for the past 28 months on concluding the deal, which is expected to be finalized before the end of March.

Ellis noted there have been three previous extensions provided.

“There is nothing else that should be an impediment to getting this done,” he told council.

The land set to go into the province’s holdings is near the G8 wildlife underpass on the Trans-Canada Highway close to Dead Man’s Flats, which was constructed in 2004.

The two sides had been working towards the deal for more than a decade since the lands near Dead Man’s Flats were close to the wildlife corridor and underpass.

The lands near Dead Man’s Flats were proposed for an area structure plan and approved in 2015, which led to the Town of Canmore filing an appeal on the basis it would impact the wildlife underpass.

The Municipal Government Board dismissed the appeal in 2017, but the land swap was reached in 2019 that would give the MD of Bighorn land to develop and protect wildlife in the region.

“We’ve come so far now, we just can’t stop so we have to have the extension,” said Paul Clarke, the MD of Bighorn’s deputy reeve.