Conservation fund a community initiative
Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 06:00 am
Editor: Re: Against conservation tax
I would like to clarify some misunderstandings about the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative’s (Y2Y) Canmore Conservation Fund concept that have been made evident in recent letters.
The Y2Y mission is about protecting and connecting landscapes so that both people and nature can thrive. With the enormous amount of development pressure as well as the high number of visitors into the Canmore community, co-existence for both people and wildlife is already a challenge. One of the strengths of Y2Y is bringing models from other parts of the region to areas experiencing different challenges.
Given the challenges in the Bow Valley, several years ago we brought individuals from the Kootenay Conservation Program to share their model in the Bow Valley, and folks were interested in exploring this further. The Kootenay model focus is more on land, but some Bow Valley residents were interested in broader uses such as outreach and adapting the model.
The plan for the fund is not about supporting charities, and would not be a financial mechanism for Y2Y. The fund’s purpose, if the community is interested, would be to support the necessary work of ensuring our vital wildlife corridors function as large species like elk and grizzlies need them to, through education and infrastructure. This isn’t something that can be delegated to the Province of Alberta or the Town of Canmore alone. We all have a stake in this conversation.
An Alberta Parks study released at last week’s Canada Parks Summit in Banff found that people account for 95 per cent of camera-captured users of Canmore’s wildlife corridors. Routinely, solutions suggested for this persistent issue centre on education, signage, outreach and enforcement. A municipal conservation fund is one way to see those types of programs advance.
The fund is not being forced on the citizens of Canmore. It started as and continues as a discussion between Canmore citizens and is continuing as such. Y2Y is simply facilitating that conversation.
As presented to council, we initiated statistically-valid, independent polling to gauge our community’s interest in such a fund, and the types of initiatives they would like to see should the fund succeed. Support for a municipal conservation levy was very high – 78 per cent in favour – indicating that it is worthwhile to further explore what the fund might look like. There will be no shortage of opportunities for residents to shape this idea.
In Canmore, we know that conservation efforts are most successful when everybody has the opportunity to craft their direction. If in the end the community doesn’t want to make this investment, then so it shall be.
The model of a municipal conservation fund has successful precedent in communities with far fewer resources than ours. The Kootenay Conservation Program, for instance, extends from Field and Golden to Creston and Trail and has helped protect more than 250,000 hectares of land and invest $150 million into conservation projects in the past 10 years. That’s the power of partnership.
Canmore residents have made it clear that conservation – particularly the functionality of our wildlife corridors – is a collective priority. Given that it is a priority, exploring tools that can help achieve that is the goal. Nothing has been decided. It is just a tool for consideration in the valley and how/whether the tool gets utilized will be shaped by the community.
As members of the community, we all understand what a special place this is and encourage everyone to stay involved in helping keep it that way.
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative program director