Conservationists are applauding officials in Canmore for putting the brakes on a contentious development proposal in the Three Sisters wildlife corridor.

On Tuesday, town council unanimously rejected a request submitted by Three Sisters Mountain Village to expand the scope of its Resort Centre project to include more housing, retail and commercial uses.

Stephan Legault, program director with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), says the town made the right decision.

"The extraordinary pressure to build and develop in the valley feels like it has eased off a little bit," he said.

"So, it's a pretty good day in the Bow Valley and we're really hoping that both the town and the province will continue with this positive momentum."

Corridors

The developers were required to include a wildlife corridor in their proposed plans.

Y2Y argued the wildlife corridor provided for the developments was situated in an area too steep to be useful for the animals. 

QuantumPlace Developments — the company behind the project — contended the corridor was appropriately planned. 

The developer has put a second proposal, Smith Creek, on hold while the province reviews the wildlife corridor application and takes into account public input about the proposal. 

elk

Canmore's decision to deny permission to expand the scope of a development in the Three Sisters area is good news for local wildlife, according to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. (Stephen Legault)

Legault says he now wants the province to step in and conduct a wider-scale cumulative impact assessment.

"This is an opportunity for residents of the Bow Valley to reflect on our future," Legault said in a release.

"Y2Y is not opposed to development in the Bow Valley. Our issue with Resort Centre and Smith Creek is due to their scale. Scientists tell us that we could already be close to, if not past, an ecological threshold for long-term animal movement in the Bow Valley. Council listened to concerns raised by scientists and the community. We're proud of them."

4,200 additional units

Adam Linnard, program associate for Y2Y, said the situation in Canmore shows how people and nature can co-exist.

"The Bow Valley is one of the most heavily developed valleys in North America where animals like grizzly bears, cougars, wolves and elk live successfully side-by-side with people," he said in a release.

There are already about 1,350 units on Three Sisters, with a population of around 3,000.

Originally approved by the province in 1992, the proposed new development would have added about 4,200 units, effectively tripling the area's population to around 9,000.