An information session was held on Thursday to give the public a chance to add input to a wildlife corridor that is being proposed for the Smith Creek area in Canmore.

QuantumPlace Developments has submitted a proposal to the province for the Smith Creek Along Valley Wildlife Corridor and says the project has been in the works for some time.

“The corridor has been an ongoing discussion for a long, long time. In fact, the basis of the corridor we’re talking about today has some roots back to 2002,” said Chris Ollenberger, Managing Principal QuantumPlace Developments. “What we’re seeing today is probably the culmination of almost three years of work.”

The province is currently evaluating the proposal and the developer says it has been studying the area for ten years and taken a number of steps to ensure the corridor is in the right place.

“Most of what we’ve done today with this wildlife corridor is actually go out and walk where the animals are walking. We have telemetry data, we have GPS data, we have collar data, we’ve been working on this for quite a long time so the best actual users, the animals that are going to use the corridor are the best judge of where it should be. That was the basis of where we put it so putting a line on a map saying ‘it should go here’, probably isn’t as good as doing a lot of research and making sure that where animals are using the wilderness today is where it should go,” he said.

The developer says the application is the final link to completing the wildlife corridors through Canmore on the south side of the valley and that Three Sisters has invested several million dollars to ensure it is done properly.

“This is the last section of the corridor, its actually been done in several stages so there are already kilometres of corridor approved and its always been done in the stage before the development occurs. We identified the corridor, that’s exactly what we’re doing here with the Smith Creek proposal. As well as identify the corridor, show where it is, make sure it works, okay there we go, now inside of that, next to the highway, what does the development look like?” said Ollenberg. “Three sisters has invested several million dollars into this project to make sure that the studies were correct and everything had been done properly and we hired the best scientist we could find.”

Hilary Young is the Alberta Program Director for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and she says the group has some concerns about the proposed wildlife corridor.

“The Y to Y region as a whole is one of the last intact mountain ecosystems in all of North America so it’s very important for us to maintain the genetic diversity, moving through corridors and that we connect as many of the protected habits patches as we can so that animals can continue to move between populations,” she said. “If populations become isolated, they often, over time, will begin to inbreed and then you lose the genetic diversity that makes them healthy and robust and over time those local populations can wink out or become extinct.”

Young questions the placement of the corridor and says Y to Y has come up with a plan of its own.

“We’re opposed to development that we feel is going to have a really direct impact on wildlife populations in the valley and continentally but we’re not opposed to development in Canmore. We’re not opposed to the idea of Canmore growing, we think there’s ways that it can be done responsibly,” she said. “Our design for the corridor is at least 450 metres in width on slopes that are under 25 degrees and we’re aiming strongly to minimize any slopes at all that are 25 degrees or larger within the corridor itself and that’s because every study that’s been done on animal movement in the Bow Valley shows that animals prefer to spend their time on slopes of 25 degrees or less, 95 percent of the time, so a significant amount of time."

She says it is hard to comment on the proposed plan as the developer has not been transparent with some of its data.

“Our challenge has been that we have not, the developer has not been transparent about how they came up with their slope line. We also haven’t seen any of the data that they’ve used to come up with their corridor proposal and so it’s been hard for us to comment on how they have put their proposal together in that sense."

Ollenberg says reaction to the project has been mixed and that the open houses are an opportunity for the community to add input and get a clearer picture of the proposal.

“It’s exciting to talk about it with people and make sure that they’re fully informed about the background and how big it is and where its located and all that good stuff like that so we’re pretty excited to host our open house today.”

Two open houses will be held on Thursday at 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. at the Coast Canmore Hotel and Conference Centre.