Kananaskis: Celebrating 40 Years

While Kananaskis is celebrating 40 years of conservation and management, the conversation about how we best manage this unique area is ongoing.  There have been a lot of changes in Southern Alberta over the past 40 years, which means we need to adapt our approaches as well.

The Calgary’s population has grown by over a million people, more than tripling in the past four decades, increasing recreational and industrial pressure on the area, but also increasing the number of people who care about Kananaskis.  CPAWS Southern Alberta has decades of experience influencing management planning for K-Country. Our two thousand members in Alberta regularly camp, hunt, fish, ride, hike, paddle, ski, and otherwise experience the many recreational and wilderness opportunities there.

The conversation of what Kananaskis is, and how it is used, is far from over. Just this month the Calgary Olympic Bid Committee proposed the Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis as the potential venue for alpine events.  Nakiska was constructed specifically for the 1988 Calgary Olympics and is still a world-class skiing venue. While CPAWS has long opposed Olympic events and development in the national parks and we were pleased to see that no Olympic venues were proposed for the national parks, we also believe that no Olympic proposal should have negative long-term impacts on any of our natural places.

While Nakiska is a more appropriate venue, Kananaskis is also under a lot of pressure. Should the bid go forward, we will be working to ensure that important ecosystems in Kananaskis are also protected from development pressures brought by the Olympic games. This would include no expansion of the ski hill footprint, a proper transportation strategy, and no construction of additional facilities that would damage or add pressure to this important area.

This week, the government also released the Lower Kananaskis River – Barrier Lake Redevelopment plan for Bow Valley Provincial Park.  The entire area of this plan is within a wildlife corridor connecting patches of sensitive habitat, and the area around the Barrier Lake site is critical for wildlife movement.

The new plan helps focus recreational activity away from the important wildlife corridor, shrinks facility zones while expanding the Preservation Zone and reduces random trail development. All of these steps will reduce impacts to Bow Valley Provincial Park or prevent them from growing. However, we also think that more can be done to protect and educate Kananaskis Country users about the ecological importance of this area. In particular, new camping areas announced for Barrier Reservoir, new facilities and a lack of defined carrying capacity could potentially exacerbate conflicts with wildlife in this region.

Whether it’s Olympic venues, redevelopment plans, logging, or recreation, Kananaskis needs to be managed to protect nature first. Kananaskis Country is part of our heritage in Southern Alberta.  It’s a place we can go and connect with nature and enjoy all that our Rocky Mountains have to offer.  But it is also a place we share with wildlife and our headwaters lands.  We need to ensure we are honouring the long legacy of Kananaskis Country and protect this important place now and in the future.

Katie Morrison
Conservation Director
CPAWS Southern Alberta