The site is private land, and a substantially sized 8.64 ha (21 ac) parcel with a history of livestock grazing. By comparison, this land area is about 1/3 the size of Spring Creek Mountain Village situated north of the property. The land is a fire-disturbed landscape currently vegetated with native species that comprise of four distinct ecosystem types. Ultimately, the Proposed Concept is anticipated to result in a net positive benefit once offsetting is complete.
Policeman’s Creek and Spring Creek converge on the site in the northeastern section of the land. The site is currently in a natural state that is used by a significant contingent of people walking, hiking, skiing, and biking through the site and adjacent areas.
The site is surrounded by existing development. The site is near existing residential, to the commercial center and downtown Canmore, to schools and to infrastructure as well as Millennium Park.
Table 1: Surrounding Land Uses
Spring Creek RV park, however, the RV park is currently being constructed into a high-density mixed use development – Spring Creek Mountain Village (SCMV). SCMV has approval for 800-1200 new residential dwellings, 200 hotel rooms and other neighbourhood uses.
A residential parcel with horse grazing that was developed in similar nature to this proposal. Transportation corridors including CP Rail, Bow Valley Trail, and the Trans Canada Highway 1 and a frequently used heliport.
Canmore Wasterwater Treatment Facility, Canmore Nordic Center Provincial Park, Access Roads, and a non-designated recreational trail network and the Waste Transfer Station and Materials Handling Facility, Canmore Ranch.
Access road heading northwest from the Canmore Wastewater Treatment Facility. Millennium Park which is a premier outdoor venue for team sports consisting of an outdoor park with bleachers, a sports field, fenced ball diamond picnic tables and washrooms.
The land is a fire-disturbed landscape currently vegetated with native species that comprise of four distinct ecosystem types:
treed areas dominated by mature spruce trees.
primarily willow and grassy species indicative of post burn ecosystems.
dominated by regenerating balsam poplar and willow.
Shrubby swamp: predominately dry, forested swamp comprised of willow and balsam poplar. The Concept completely avoids the shrubby swamp.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was completed by a team of Registered Professional Biologists from Associated Environmental Consultants Inc. The Team was comprised of experts that have dedicated their careers to the needs of wildlife and wildlife habitat, vegetation and ecosystems, fish and fish habitat, and climate change. The Proposed Concept and the EIS were reviewed by the Town’s third-party reviewers who agreed with the findings of the EIS.
The Proposed Concept presented has been revised multiple times to optimize its orientation to avoid important habitat and reduce potential effects on all environmental resources. The EIS adheres to the Town of Canmore EIS Policy in the following ways:
The Terms of Reference was developed by a third-party consultant contracted by the Town of Canmore. The third-party reviewer agreed with the results of the EIS.
The purpose of the EIS is to inform the Town’s decision-making authorities about the Conceptual Land Use Plan and describe how the Plan intersects with key biophysical resources.
The EIS was developed in accordance with a Terms of Reference that set the scope of the EIS and identified the biophysical resources that were to be assessed for the project. The EIS evaluated the Proposed Concept in the context of eight biophysical resources and assessed the potential impacts on these resources. The EIS provides mitigation measures that avoid, reduce, restore, or offset for any potential effects of the project.
In summary, the EIS:
Describes the proposed new land use.
Describes the existing environmental conditions and features on and surrounding the property.
Identifies significant natural ecological features.
Describe potential impacts of the project, prior to mitigation.
Recommends measures to avoid, reduce, or restore these impacts and identifies residual impacts and their significance after the implementation of proposed mitigation.
Recommends if any further studies or monitoring is to be undertaken through the course of mitigation implementation.
Discusses cumulative effects in reference to existing, approved, and future developments in the area.
Results of the EIS
The results of the EIS indicate that the Proposed Concept will have a small impact on a very small, concentrated portion of the site at the northern periphery of the parcel. Effects of the project are limited to the building footprints and surface area required for access roads.
The results of the EIS determined that the Proposed Concept had
a negligible (i.e., no change to existing biophysical condition) impact on six biophysical resources (soils/terrain, fish/fish habitat, water quality/hydrology, land resources use, air quality and cultural resources)
a negligible to low impact (i.e., effects are within understood range of natural variability) on two biophysical resources (vegetation/ecosystems and wildlife/wildlife habitat).
These results were corroborated by the Town’s third-party reviewers.
The sensitive and thoughtful selection of building locations and the amount of development were guided and shaped by the outcomes, findings, and recommendations of the EIS. The project team accepts that some environmental effect may occur because of the project; however, the potential effects are consistent with “normal” developments, and all were evaluated to be either negligible or low in magnitude.
The project has been designed to be fully compliant with all applicable regulations and legislation. All proposed activities will meet or exceed all required municipal, provincial, and federal permits and approvals. Information provided in the EIS outlines the permits and approvals required for this project and how the landowners will achieve a net positive benefit to the property.
Mitigation and Offsets
“The Potential effects of the proposed Concept are predictable and mitigative measures are expected to avoid and reduce those effects.” (Environmental Impact Statement)
Mitigation measures are actions taken that are intended to avoid, reduce, restore and offset for potential effects of a project.
Mitigation measures have been proposed for all potential effects of this Proposed Concept. The Proposed Concept will protect environmentally sensitive habitat such as the shrubby swamp, areas adjacent to the streams, and will include the dedication of Environmental Reserves Easement which will be developed in collaboration with the Town of Canmore. Ultimately, the Proposed Concept is anticipated to result in a net positive benefit once offsetting is complete.
The number of trees removed have been quantified and will be replaced during offsetting. The Concept has created a balance between wildfire risk, maintenance of aesthetic quality, and preservation of wildlife habitat value. The Steep Creek hazard is completely avoided because no proposed structures will be located within the hazard area.
Residual effects are effects that remain following mitigation. All residual effects of this Proposed Concept will be offset by improvement to areas that have been disturbed in the past.
Table 2: Residual Effects
Soils and Terrain
Negligible residual impacts expected with mitigation.
Vegetation and Wetlands
Low residual impacts due to a reduction in native vegetation cover.
Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat
Low to Negligible from alteration of habitat and more human activity.
Negligible and long-term residual effects from habitat loss adjacent to and within SCLHP. If in the future the TSMV is approved, the TSMV may result in movement deflections of wildlife caused by wildlife exclusion fencing in their proposed plan. Negligible effects are anticipated because wildlife is habituated to presence of people, the Conceptual Plan considers wildlife movement and human-wildlife conflict, and the majority of the Project Area will remain in a natural state.
The scope and level of investigation of the Cumulative Effects assessment completed for this project was based on the Terms of Reference developed by the Town of Canmore and their third-party reviewer for the EIS. The cumulative effects assessment considered past, present, and reasonably foreseeable developments and their potential effects on the same biophysical components discussed for the project. Historic imagery was reviewed and interviews were conducted with adjacent land users. The review of historic imagery determined that the area has been fragmented for quite some time.
The proposed project, when viewed from a cumulative effects perspective, is small in comparison to other proposed developments and the existing amount of disturbance realized by the Town itself. For example, the Conceptual Plan is intentionally oriented along the northern-most periphery of the property to avoid and reduce the overall disturbance the project will have on the larger, regional landscape.
The Proposed Concept brings clarity and certainty of land use to this large, undeveloped tract of private land after over 30 years of grandiose development aspirations for a significantly larger development compared to the current landowners' proposal.
Key mitigation to avoid, reduce, or offset potential effects of the project include, but are not limited to:
The development of a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) in advance of construction that addresses potential spills, erosion and sediment control, dust management, and monitoring requirements.
The requirement to retain a qualified environmental monitor to direct construction activities and enforce the CEMP.
The incorporation of wildlife-friendly design (e.g., lighting, building siting) to avoid or reduce the effect on wildlife and reduce the potential for wildlife-human conflict.
Timing construction activities to avoid effects on wildlife during sensitive seasons (e.g., nesting birds).
Planting trees and shrubs within 20 m of Spring Creek to compensate for habitat loss from the proposed clear span bridge construction and to improve wildlife habitat value, erosion, and flood resiliency of the stream.
Disturbance of 2.0 acres within the proposed project footprint in the SCHLP will be offset by improvement to habitat in other areas of equal amount. Trees will be planted in low shrub ecosystems on the southern section of the site and will replace the number of trees removed due to Alberta FireSmart requirements. Riparian areas will be improved by planting native species and establishing an Environmental Reserve Easement amounting to 3.5 acres. The improvements to the riparian areas will improve flood resiliency, create new wildlife habitat areas, and support the Town of Canmore’s initiative to plan ahead for climate change.
The Proposed Concept concentrates any users to a contained area (northwest portion) and will result in a net reduction of human activity after construction is complete. The presence of owners will also dissuade public users from using the site for dog walking and trail use. Wildlife habitat loss will be offset with an Environmental Reserve Easement of 3.5 acres protecting wildlife from human activity. Any fencing will meet the recommended standard for wildlife use.
The small amount of residential development proposed will pursue the goals of Council’s Climate Action Plan to further provide mitigative offsets. Offsetting in this case will improve the land from its current condition. Offsetting will also improve climate resiliency for all land downstream of the property, improving the flood resiliency of Spring Creek by enhancing the riparian vegetation and reducing erosion potential along the stream bank. Offsetting will include flood mitigation, improvements to vegetation along Spring Creek and Policeman’s Creek, improved wildlife habitat value, and planting native trees throughout the property to compensate those trees removed to protect against wildfire.
In addition to reducing disturbances from flooding from Spring Creek and Policeman’s Creek, the small amount of residential development proposed will pursue the goals of Canmore’s Climate Action Plan to further mitigative offsets.
The offsetting work proposed following construction is expected to eliminate all of the residual effects of the project and result in a net positive benefit to the SCLHP and the surrounding landscape.
More on Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat
In addition to the work done in the Environmental Impact Statement (2021) for this proposal, wildlife and wildlife habitat was evaluated by the Bow Corridor Ecosystem Advisory Group (BCEAG) (updated in 2012). The objective of the BCEAG study was to establish a network of corridors and habitats for wildlife use in the Bow Corridor.
The focus of the study was on area and vegetation suitable for large mammal species, and standard minimum areas for female grizzly bears who require larger tracts of land. The study set standards to use for determining where and what types of areas contribute to wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Three types of areas were identified:
1. Wildlife Corridors,
2. Regional Habitat Patches
3. Local Habitat Patches.
Impacts due to sensory disturbances such as human disturbances were not given the same weight in the RFS modelling as areas and vegetation.
Habitats may be ecologically available for grizzly bears, but not functionally available due to the level (frequency and amount) of human disturbance.
South Canmore Local Habitat Patch
The site is private land and a portion of the land is located on the northern periphery of the South Canmore Local Habitat Patch (SCLHP), which is described in the 2012 Bow Corridor Ecosystem Advisory Group (BCEAG) report. In total, based on the current Conceptual Plan, 0.42 ha (1.04 ac) of land will be disturbed for buildings and 0.49 ha (1.21 ac) for roads and driveways, amounting to 0.5% of the SCLHP. Most of the identified Local Habitat Patches are Crown land administered by the province. Private ownership is rare within a Local Habitat Patch and the current landowners will seek to keep 89% of the land mass in a natural condition with only11% comprising structures and roads.
Studies referenced in the 2012 BCEAG report determined that some of the SCLHP is compromised, it is too small to meet the intended habitat needs, and is not functioning as intended. While the SCLHP does not meet the criteria for a Local Habitat Patch (as defined in the 2012 BCEAG report), it does provide habitat for species such as deer, coyote, or elk; species that have adapted to regular human use.
The Bow Corridor Ecosystem Advisory Group note that even if it were completely intact, the SCHLP is not large enough to meet the minimum standards set for a functional habitat patch.
Since its establishment in 2009, habitat in the SCLHP has been fragmented and continues to be disturbed by frequent and ongoing incursions by humans. People are walking, hiking, and skiing, dogs are on and off leash, and large trucks are travelling on roads to and from Canmore’s Waste Transfer Station, Wastewater Treatment Plan and Materials Handling Facility. The roads fragment the Local Habitat Patch, and the SCLHP is functionally isolated from the larger Regional Habitat Patch (in this instance, the Bow Flats Habitat Patch) by Highway 1 and CP Railway. Noise originating from CP Railway, Highway 1, a helicopter heliport, and the Town’s industrial infrastructure (e.g., the Waste Transfer Station) is a significant, constant disturbance to wildlife that can be detected from all locations within the SCLHP and beyond.
The property is a privately-owned parcel of land with a history of livestock grazing. The site is currently in a natural state that is used by a significant contingent of people walking, hiking, skiing, and biking through and around the site and adjacent areas.
The STRAVA Heatmap confirms the high extent of human use on the site, and because not all people use STRAVA, human use on this Local Habitat Patch is likely significantly underestimated. This significant, constant disturbance has a large impact on how well the SCLHP functions as habitat for wildlife.
The shape of the SCLHP meets the description of the BCEAG’s consideration of a cul-de-sac, providing no functional connectivity to adjacent habitat patches or wildlife corridors. Bounded in the north by the Town of Canmore, the SCLHP is highly fragmented within its boundary by the Wastewater Treatment Plant, Materials Handling Facility, and Waste Transfer Station, and isolated from natural ecosystems to the east by Highway 1 and CP Rail, and in the south by the communities of Prospect and Three Sisters. Although isolated from other natural landscapes, the SCLHP provides suitable habitat for those wildlife species that are well habituated to human use and disturbance, and the proposed project is not expected to change that from existing conditions.
Wildlife Network in the Bow Corridor
In total, the Conceptual Plan will only disturb 0.5% (or 1/2%) of the SCLHP for buildings, roads, and driveways. 89% of the total land area will be maintained in a natural state.
It is noted that there are other land uses within the South Canmore Local Habitat Patch to the south of the property. These include Canmore’s Waste Transfer Station, a Materials Handling Facility, and a Wastewater Treatment Plant.