CANMORE, ALTA. -- Three Sisters Mountain Village has received an important wildlife corridor approval from the provincial government in a decision some residents say "blindsided the community."

The developer’s version of the forested corridor meant to allow wildlife to bypass a pending housing project in the congested Bow Valley was denied by provincial government staff in 2018 after a lengthy process, mostly for being too narrow in two different places.

But in early February of this year, TSMV re-applied to Alberta Environment and Parks only to have it approved a month later.

"We massaged the data from the 2018 decision that was put out by the province to meet their two needs," says David Taylor, president of TSMV. “(It’s a) long time coming. We’re happy with this decision."

But Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) says the decision is political and left them out of the final consultations despite years of close involvement.

"We feel like it was a political decision, we feel like it is not reflecting current up to date wildlife science," says Hilary Young, senior Alberta program director for Y2Y.

She says her group spent nearly a year trying to get the field data collected by the province and the company that would support the newly approved design that would now have wildlife such as elk, cougars and grizzly bears bypassing development on slopes previously thought to be too steep for regular travel, in a corridor that is close to the province’s own recognized minimum width.

"We asked to see the data that would support (the belief) the animals would move on those slopes," Young says. "We never were able to get that data. They never gave it to us."

The overall development plan — of which the wildlife corridor is one part — will still need to be approved by Canmore council.

The company says it hopes to have that application ready to present by mid-summer.

Alberta Environment and Parks did not respond to a request for comment.