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April 2nd, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 13
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ESRD investing in wildlife
corridors for backcountry
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Credit, Adam Ford, HighwayWilding.org
In Banff National Park a wildlife overpass on the Trans-Canada Highway provides a safe crossing for wildlife.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
With the likely expansion of Highway 3 scheduled by the Department of Transportation, the province is trying to ensure the health of the backcountry.

Alberta is investing $3.7 million on two parcels of land totalling 410 acres near the Crowsnest Pass for wildlife corridors to encourage biodiversity.

Representatives from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) announced the purchase to council on March 25. They also explained how the Backcountry Trail Flood Rehabilitation Program.

Teresa Stokes, Senior Advisor with ESRD, says the one of the parcels is near the Rock Creek Corridor while the other is near Hillcrest.

According to the Miistakis Institute for the Rockies, the Rock Creek Corridor is an important block of wildlife habitat, home to moose, dear, elk, cougars, bears and other species. It is also bisected by Highway 3, which has created problems. The Insitutite says the corridor has the highest rate of wildlife mortality of any portion of Highway 3 between Highway 22 and the B.C. border.

In her report on the Crownest Pass “Road Watch” program, Tracey Lee, a research associate with the Miistakis Institute, writes that transportation routes like Highway 3 can have harmful effects on wildlife populations.

“In terms of wildlife the highway may limit wildlife movement; reduce useable habitat; or cause wildlife death due to collision with vehicles. Mortality data from the Pass indicates that approximately 200 large mammals are killed in vehicle collisions a year,” she writes.

In an email interview, Sarah Jackson, public affairs officer with ESRD, says the corridors will increase the value of existing habitat for wildlife by giving them access to more resources. They also give wildlife a chance to mate with distant members of their species, preventing genetic isolation.

“A wide variety of species benefit, including ungulates such as elk and deer, black and grizzly bears, cougars, foxes and small mammals and birds,” she writes.

Jackson says the Pass is of particular importance these species in their travelling up and down the Rocky Mountains.

“The Pass represents an area of high value in the Rockies as part of what is called the Waterton Front,” she writes. “The Rockies are narrow here and wildlife relies on areas both inside and outside the Park to survive.”

Stokes says the land parcels are being purchased because the province is projecting future development in the area, including a possible highway twinning.

As part of their South Alberta highway projects, the Department of Transportation has undertaken long term planning studies on upgrading Highway 3 to freeway standards but the project is in their 20-year plan, not the immediate future.

The Land Stewardship Fund is financed by public land sales and administers The Land Trust Grant Program and The Land Purchase Program, which is overseeing the purchase of the 410 acres. The program began in 2010 and will be reviewed next year.

Backcountry Trail Flood Rehabilitation Program

Andun Jevne, Backcountry Trail Flood Rehabilitation Lead, says the province will be working with the Crowsnest Quad Squad to repair some of the trails damaged in the June flood.

“The restoration of these trail systems are seen as very important to the economic, environmental and social benefits of public lands,” says Jevne.

Between now and March 2017, the province is putting $10 million into this project to rehabilitate local trails. Salaries, signage, bridge building and infrastructure are included in this sum.

ESRD will be restoring both motorized and non-motorized trails and will be removing trail systems from highly erodible areas.

Jackson could not confirm how many kilometres of trail will be restored as the province is still evaluating how much damage has been done to the backcountry.

“We will be studying the trails and evaluating what work needs to be done in order to complete restoration. Some of this work will need to wait until spring, when the snow melts and the trails can be evaluated,” she writes.
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April 2nd ~ Vol. 84 No. 13
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