May’s MLA Report

The Three Sisters Szmurlo
Cameron Westhead MLA Banff-Cochrane
Cameron Westhead
MLA Banff-Cochrane

There has been much community interest in the designation of the wildlife corridor in the Smith Creek area of the Three Sisters Mountain Village lands. I’ve been following this issue personally, since I know how important it is to the functionality of the existing corridor and underpasses, and the strong environmental ethic of residents. I’d like to outline the steps taken to ensure your thoughts were heard.

The Alberta Government and I are committed to openness and transparency in consideration of TSMV’s application, the science, and public input. In the past, corridor decisions were made without a transparent public process, but we will take the necessary steps to get this right. To help inform the decision-making process, it was critical that we heard from Albertans. That’s why Environment and Parks staff attended recent open houses, and invited feedback from the public.

The application from TSMW was received January 26, reviewed for completeness, then posted on the AEP website for public comment, which was accepted until April 20. Comments are anonymized and then posted online during the process. A draft decision could be released in late April at the earliest, with another opportunity for you to provide feedback when that occurs.

Regarding the open house held by TSMV in March, Alberta Environment and Parks officials including the statutory decision maker were present to hear directly from residents. The Alberta Government encouraged TSMV to hold these open houses to provide as much opportunity as possible for the public to share their thoughts regarding TSMV’s application. Feedback from the event will go into a report which will be given to the government, and then posted online. TSMV will produce a word for word report of this feedback and provide responses.

In reviewing the corridor designation application, science is key to this decision. A senior wildlife biologist from the Ministry of Environment and Parks analyzes the reports and studies. Other factors that inform the decision are scientific literature, “grey” literature (literature published by stakeholders), and feedback provided by the public and ENGOs. Scientists also look at the bigger context, such as how wide and long other corridors in the Bow Valley are, as well as other cases in North America.

The opportunities over the past several months I’ve had to personally meet with residents and stakeholders about this important decision, as well as the written feedback I’ve received from you has been extremely valuable. I met with the statutory decision maker and Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, to convey the feedback you gave me. I am assured that they also understand the importance of this decision, and that your input will be taken into consideration.

I’d like to thank the community for your strong interest and participation in this process. We all benefit when residents are engaged in a productive and respectful conversation such as this. I encourage you to continue to stay involved. I highly value your feedback and appreciate hearing your thoughts and priorities.

Cam Westhead
MLA for Banff-Cochrane