How many call Banff home?

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Once again, the issue of how many people call Banff home has arisen.

In most communities, an influx of residents is seen as positive; that the community is a draw for those looking for work, new lives and new opportunities.

But when your town boundaries are written in stone by the feds, with no land available for new development, in-town pressures are created as people move in, particularly housing pressures.

Trouble is, now the Province is not only ignoring Banff overtures to be recognized as a unique resort municipality that hosts millions of people a year (along with Canmore and Jasper), it is now ignoring the shadow population when it comes to the Town’s census.

What’s interesting is that the shadow population issue is a tinier version of the resort municipality issue – that Banff provides services and infrastructure to far more than its permanent population.

So when Town of Banff staff say $179,000 in grants is lost by not counting the shadow population of 793 in the census, it’s a problem. You may argue that the Town’s population limit is an anticipatory target, or a fixed cap, but the reality is, Banff is a popular locale and people will continue to want to move to the mountain town.

The issue of $179,000 going away, of course, pales in comparison to the issue of the cost to Banff playing host to millions of visitors from around the world each year; without suitable recognition by the Province of its importance to the provincial economy by granting resort municipality status.

Perhaps the Government of Alberta should insist its own Travel Alberta organization desist in highlighting Banff and other mountain towns as the best places to visit in the province.

While it’s all well and good that Travel Alberta reaches out to the world with suggestions that locations like Banff are premium tourist destinations, the swarms do provide challenges – such as providing good roads, parking, drinking water, waste disposal and many others – funded with taxpayer dollars.

The reality is that Banff, the town, and Banff, the national park, are unique among all other communities and parks in this county, and should be recognized as such.

Oh, give them a home …

Sometimes it’s downright comical how slowly turn the wheels of government.

Here we have re-introduced plains bison living the life in Banff National Park, after exhaustive efforts and planning to ensure they are able to adapt and call the Panther Valley Home. They’re breeding, learning to live in the wild, no doubt having brushes with wolves and bears.

At the same time, the big animals’ status remains cloudy as far as being identified as wildlife goes.

Still, that’s better than the situation where the last few “wild” caribou were wiped out in an avalanche a few years ago. Caribou numbers were allowed to dwindle to just a handful, then they were wiped out in the blink of an eye – possibly to return with a program similar to the re-introduction of bison? Sometime in the future?

With bison to be released from an enclosure into the wild this year, there’s no time like the present to settle on their status. A worst-case scenario would be a release, then a wander onto provincial lands where they might be deemed a pest of some sort and destroyed.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook