Anyone who lives in the Bow Valley knows how fortunate we are to call this place home.
From the snow-capped mountains that define our community, to the abundance of wildlife that live right outside our door, there are very few places as unique as Canmore.
While it’s these natural attributes that make our community a wonderful place to live, living here is also a privilege and requires all of us, including developers, to approach planning and development with an extra level of care and responsibility. Few organizations take this responsibility more seriously than Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV).
Since agreeing to the terms of reference with the Town in 2018, TSMV has done its due diligence to ensure its area structure plans (ASP) for Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek address the needs of our community and protect our natural environment.
Unfortunately, public discourse over the past few months has become polarized and created a false dichotomy that development and protecting the environment are mutually exclusive endeavours that cannot go together. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
For decades, local developers have been proactive in identifying, creating, protecting, and monitoring wildlife corridors. Silvertip Resort was the first development to identify the need to set aside portions of its land to create wildlife corridors for large mammals in 1992. At the time, the Town of Canmore and Silvertip agreed to integrate wildlife corridors into the resort development plan and set aside one third of its private land for wildlife connectivity. Ongoing monitoring of the corridors has confirmed that these efforts have been effective.
Eagle Terrace is another example of a development project that has proven development and environmental protection can be done in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way.
When Eagle Terrace was first developed, the developer permanently set aside 58 per cent if its privately-owned land to ensure wildlife corridors would be functional. This included a donation of 74 hectares of private land to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
TSMV has gone further.
Both ASPs have incorporated provincially approved corridors. That means more than 60 per cent of TSMV’s privately-owned land has been protected to allow animals to move freely through the valley. That equates to more than 1,500 acres of land dedicated to improving connectivity for elk, deer, cougars, wolves, and bears.
To provide some context, one acre of land is equal to a small soccer field, so try to envision 1,500 soccer fields on which animals can freely roam. Those 1,500 acres are roughly equivalent to three-quarters of the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park lands.
Of course, designating land for wildlife corridors is only the first step. It is critical that the entire community adheres to the rules and stays out of the wildlife corridor, or the corridor will not function properly.
TSMV’s proposed development plans have also been informed by dozens of reputable third-party consultants who have decades of experience in their respective fields. This includes an environmental impact statement that is more than 430 pages long that has been reviewed by an independent, third-party consultant hired by the Town of Canmore.
While I encourage everyone to read the report, it concluded that through mitigation, such as attractant management, providing alternatives to recreating within the wildlife corridor and installing a wildlife fence and implementing an adaptive management plan to monitor the effectiveness of the mitigations, the project is not expected to contribute to any of the serious risks identified for wildlife. In fact, the report included over 100 wildlife mitigations to ensure people and wildlife can peacefully live next to each other.
TSMV has also recognized the importance of mitigating climate change and has introduced a bonus incentive policy that will cap the number OF units that can be built unless there are meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Both ASPs also include a street network designed to encourage walking, biking and transit use to reduce congestion and greenhouse gases, and up to 40 per cent of the land in Three Sisters Village and 15 per cent of the land in Smith Creek, will be parks and open space creating recreational opportunities for mountain biking, dog parks and more.
When you consider each of these environmental commitments collectively, not only does it prove that development can be undertaken in a sustainable way, but it also confirms that TSMV is committed to helping our community become a better place to live, work and play by protecting what we cherish most – our environment.Brian Talbot is a partner with Devonian Development Corporation and has worked in Canmore since 2003 and lived in Canmore since 2006.