Spring 2019

Newsletter Archive


Mount Norquay Gondola Wildlife Assessment

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Mount Norquay Ski Hill is proposing to install a gondola from the Banff townsite to the ski hill base, reduce use on access road, reduce the lease site at low elevation, and increase the lease site at a higher elevation. Miistakis working with Dr. Adam T. Ford and Dr. Tony Clevenger were contracted to better understand if the proposed gondola development could create an environmental gain for wildlife.

Traditionally, recreation and tourism development in the Bow Valley corridor has resulted in a negative impact on wildlife habitat and movement. It is conceivable that a reorientation of development along these lines (reducing traffic in lower-elevation vital habitat, and increasing traffic at higher-elevation, lower-value habitat) could result in a net positive effect on wildlife. The opportunity to create a positive impact on wildlife in Banff by redesigning infrastructure is rare and requires careful study to ensure both negative and positive impacts are understood and monitored.

We undertook three key steps to help identify pathways towards this opportunity:

  1. Hosted an expert workshop involving current and former staff from local wildlife, management, and conservation agencies to understand community concerns. Key finding: focus on impacts to grizzly bears, wolves, cougars, and bighorn sheep. Need to consider wildlife movement, human-wildlife conflict, and habitat security.
  2. Developed statistical models of animal movement from GPS-tagged animals to measure wildlife connectivity. Key finding: negative impacts of proposed changes are unlikely; positive impacts are possible for grizzly bear, wolves and cougars. Further study is needed on bighorn sheep.
  3. Integrated structured expert opinion analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of management options. Key finding: reduce summer use of people on the ski terrain and reduce human use on the access road leading up to the Mount Norquay ski lodge.

The specific mitigation measures needed to create a positive impact on biodiversity are not well known by science. We recommend the need to establish a new rigorously-designed biodiversity monitoring program at Mount Norquay to enable adaptive management by Mount Norquay and to create a new vision for positive environmental changes in the Bow Valley.

Read the full report here.