As a practicing wildlife biologist and 25-year resident, I have serious concerns about Three Sisters Mountain Village’s development plans for our valley (see www.tsmv.ca).
The draft area structure plans, which could more than double Canmore’s human population (adding 10,000-16,00 residents), ignore several agreements, bylaws and guidelines that our community established to share the valley with healthy wildlife.
The ASP includes proposed development outside Canmore’s eastern municipal growth boundary, put in place to contain our development footprint.
The plan calls for Thunderstone Quarry to become a major shopping mall once mining is complete, instead of being reclaimed, as intended under current Wildlife Conservation zoning.
Instead of keeping the upper third of the unfinished golf course (on undermined land) as a buffer to the wildlife corridor as per a 2004 agreement, TSMV wants to blanket it with residential, recreational and commercial development – Three Sisters Village.
Rather than respect the existing across-valley wildlife corridor that feeds the Stewart Creek wildlife highway underpass (~400 wildlife crossings per year), TSMV proposes to "relocate" it to an adjacent area that is undevelopable due to flood risk. The existing corridor would be covered with houses.
In an effort to compensate for the lack of leftover space for wildlife, TSMV proposes to fence the entire development to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the remaining slivers. Meanwhile, Canmore's early experience with wildlife fencing at Centennial Park has seen numerous elk intrusions in the initial weeks, and Banff Park's decades of experience with highway fencing has seen multiple grizzly and black bear, deer, elk and bighorn sheep intrusions every year.
The net result of all this will be an inadequate network of wildlife corridors that are too steep and too narrow for most wildlife to get around the south side of town.
This same system of corridors was rejected by the former Alberta Government and does not in my opinion adhere to the latest wildlife corridor science. Unfortunately, the faulty network got approved anyway, shortly after the UCP came into power.
It will now be up to the citizens of Canmore and our Town Councillors to uphold the agreements, bylaws, and science that the UCP and TSMV have willfully ignored.
Finally, we must not forget that the owners of TSMV (Don Taylor and Blair Richardson) already made money on this property when, in a stroke of impeccable timing, they sold it before the 2008 financial collapse then bought it back out of receivership in 2013.
If anyone can afford to develop the property in a way that honours Canmore's commitment to human-wildlife coexistence, it is them. Instead, they have released a proposal that ignores past agreements, disregards the latest wildlife science, and has in my opinion a disturbing undertone of insatiable greed.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the letter contained factually incorrect information regarding the 1992 Natural Resources Conservation Board limits on development.