Environmental teams increase issues about proposed Calgary to Banff passenger prepare

Conservation advocates and consultants are involved that the Calgary-to-Financial institution passenger prepare proposal goes alongside with out addressing a few of the main environmental points in and across the nationwide park.

Liricon Capital Inc., a number one proponent of the personal sector, is touting it as a hydrogen-powered transportation resolution with decrease greenhouse gasoline emissions than driving.

The corporate says it has acquired assist from municipalities and the tourism trade, however the Alberta authorities has instructed the Globe and Mail that it’s going to not put money into the $1.5 billion prepare because it stands as a result of the monetary dangers are too excessive.

Environmental organizations – together with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Yukon and Bow Valley Naturalists from Yellowstone – and a few scientists say the proposal additionally poses environmental dangers.

“This is likely one of the most vital conservation landscapes in North America,” mentioned Tony Clevenger, a senior wildlife analysis scientist on the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State College from Banff, Alta. “It occurs to be one of many busiest by way of transport infrastructure.

“The concept of ​​this new rail line, which might be actually near the present rail line, is admittedly troublesome – not solely within the park, but in addition outdoors the park on provincial land and stony Nakoda (First Nations).”

Issues embody the demise of wildlife alongside the rail line – notably grizzly bears, which have been hit and killed on present tracks – and fragmentation of wildlife habitat in Alberta’s already busy Bow Valley.

Biologist Colleen Cassady St. Clair in Banff Nationwide Park in late June. St. Clair has studied utilizing expertise similar to gentle or sound to warn animals about approaching trains and scale back the demise of wildlife on tracks. (Molly Sehgal)

Josh Welsh, Alberta program supervisor from Yellowstone to Yukon, mentioned passenger rail just isn’t a nasty thought for Banff.

“We see this as a way to doubtlessly present a sustainable transportation imaginative and prescient that may work for wildlife, individuals and the planet,” he mentioned.

However, he mentioned, there is not sufficient data or collaboration to know whether or not it really works for wildlife.

“Bow Valley is already being squeezed out of improvement.”

A current report from the Canmore, Alta.-based group discovered that the mountain city’s footprint has elevated fivefold in 50 years. It targeted on grizzly bears as a result of “for those who handle grizzlies, you handle quite a lot of different issues.”

One other report by scientists, revealed this spring within the journal Motion Ecology, discovered that bears have misplaced about 85 % of their unique habitat within the valley.

“So, while you speak about one other piece of linear infrastructure, which is a prepare line—we’re speaking about reducing off habitat, disconnecting wildlife,” Welsh mentioned.

Devon Earl, a conservation knowledgeable with the Alberta Wilderness Affiliation, mentioned the Calgary-based group has comparable issues.

“We do not assume there was an sufficient evaluation of how wildlife shall be impacted,” she mentioned.

She additionally questions whether or not a prepare will really scale back vehicles on the freeway, making a bus service more cost effective.

Liricon has mentioned that Parks Canada wants to think about growing the entry payment to Banff Nationwide Park for personal passenger automobiles and increasing bus and shuttle service between park points of interest.

Parks Canada mentioned in a press release that its first precedence is to guard the ecological integrity within the nationwide parks, however it’s “at present not reviewing a proposal for passenger rail in Banff Nationwide Park.” It mentioned any evaluation would have a look at coverage and laws, together with the Affect Evaluation Act and park priorities.

Liricon managing associate Jan Waters mentioned a examine exhibits the prepare might carry round 11 million passengers yearly and scale back freeway site visitors.

“The truth that the passenger prepare shall be a zero-emissions hydrogen prepare and considerably scale back vehicular site visitors – implies that human and wildlife mortality on highways shall be dramatically lowered,” she mentioned. “The specifics of hydrogen options and wildlife mitigation shall be decided via consultations.”

The corporate mentioned it’s taking a look at utilizing expertise like gentle or sound to assist animals method trains and scale back the variety of wildlife deaths on the tracks.

Colleen Cassady St. Clair, a biologist on the College of Alberta, mentioned she spoke to Liricon about the concept emerged from a few of the analysis she had accomplished.

Though early trials recommend it might be efficient for some wildlife, she mentioned, “there may be quite a lot of untapped terrain within the alert-based system.”

St. Clair mentioned there will also be challenges with wildlife crossing constructions that go over or underneath the tracks.

Clevenger, who focuses on wildlife crossings, mentioned he heard the corporate was taking a look at underpasses in Banff Nationwide Park to align with these underneath the Trans-Canada Freeway.

“It is so easy and utterly unforgivable,” he mentioned. “You (Canadian Pacific Railway) can’t put an underpass on a brand new prepare line with out placing an underpass on the primary line. It’s important to do each.”

Clevenger mentioned the measure would cut back beforehand compromised wildlife habitat.

A passenger prepare, he mentioned, can enhance the general site visitors within the nationwide park.

“It is a panorama that is overflowing with individuals,” he mentioned. “I do not assume they’ll handle it.”

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