Follow-up petition on environmental concerns related to the proposed expansion of the Marmot Basin Ski Area in Jasper National Park, Alberta
Petition: No. 269B
Issue(s): Biological diversity, environmental assessment, and other
Petitioner(s): Jasper Environmental Association, Bow Valley Naturalists, and UTSB Research
Date Received: 26 August 2009
Summary: In this follow-up petition, the petitioners expand on their assertion that removing already protected land from the Marmot Basin Ski Area leasehold to allow for the possibility of further development in the area does not constitute a substantial environmental gain. They are concerned that the proposed developments, as well as potential summer use of the Marmot Basin, could adversely affect the land in question and the wilderness around it, including the three species-at-risk that are present in the area. In addition to questions related to these concerns, the petitioners once again ask the Minister of Environment to respond to two letters about the ski area that were signed by numerous conservation groups and that were sent to the previous Minister.
Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Parks Canada
August 26, 2009
Mr. Scott Vaughan
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
240 Sparks Street - 11th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G6
Dear Mr. Vaughan:
Petition #269 - Proposed consideration of expansion of development at Marmot
Basin Ski Area in Jasper National Park and potential implications for the
three Banff National Park ski hills
We have reviewed the letter from the Hon. Jim Prentice, Minister of Environment, in answer to our petition #269. Unfortunately his response still leaves many questions unanswered.
Our concerns focus on:
- the issue of ‘substantial environmental gain’ in the proposed ‘surrender’ of an already protected strip of land in exchange for the possibility of considerable development that could adversely affect that same strip of land and the wilderness area around it.
- the Minister’s assertion that ‘ecological certainty’ is the equivalent of ‘ecological integrity’
- the area is habitat for the woodland caribou, listed as ‘threatened’ under the Species at Risk Act and critical habitat for this species is still to be delineated and protected as required by the Species at Risk Act.
- possible summer use on the ski hill which could adversely affect caribou and grizzlies and which Parks Canada strenuously turned down ten years ago
- the Minister’s assertion that ‘no decisions have been made’ when we are well aware from past experience that once Parks Canada considers the possibility of development in an area it inevitably gets approval
- the Minister’s reluctance to respond to two letters from our three organizations and co-signed by eight local, regional and national groups in 2007 and 2008 addressed to the Minister’s predecessor
Would you please accept this correspondence as a further petition under the Auditor General Act to be forwarded to the Minister of Environment for his considered response?
[Original signed by Jill Seaton]
Jill Seaton (Chair Jasper Environmental Association)
[Original signed by Mike McIvor]
Mike McIvor (President Bow Valley Naturalists)
[Original signed by Carlos Garcia]
Carlos Garcia (Project Manager UTSB Research)
Jasper Environmental Association
Jasper, AB T0E 1E0
Bow Valley Naturalists
Banff, AB T1L 1B6
Banff, AB T1L 1B4
Regarding the approval by Parks Canada of the Marmot Basin Ski Area
Site Guidelines for Development and Use
Parks Canada – February 2008
1. Substantial Environmental Gain
The crux of Marmot Basin Ski Area’s Site Guidelines is whether the ‘surrender’ of a strip of already protected land in a wilderness area – Whistlers Creek Valley – in exchange for what may be a considerable amount of new or expanded development elsewhere on the lease along with the possibility of development on land adjacent to the ‘surrendered’ strip constitutes a ‘substantial environmental gain.’
In 2006, the Honourable Rona Ambrose announced refinements to the Ski Area Management Guidelines including a definition of the term ‘substantial environmental gain’. It was defined as ‘a positive change in key ecological conditions (wildlife movement and habitat, wildlife mortality, sensitive species/areas and ecosystems) that leads to the restoration or the long-term certainty of maintaining ecological integrity’.
In his response to our petition #269, the Minister states that removal of this area from the leasehold ‘is considered a positive change from the existing situation’. But this ignores the definition of ‘substantial environmental gain’ and completely fails to meet its stated obligations that are to create ‘a positive change in key ecological conditions’. In fact, moving the line of a leasehold on a map does not change any ecological conditions whatsoever.
And if Parks Canada agrees to accept the surrender of a thin strip of already protected land in exchange for the possibility of considerable development that would adversely affect this same piece of land the Agency not only has not caused a positive change in any ecological conditions – let alone key ones – it may very well produce the opposite effect.
Minister Prentice in the covering letter to his response to our Petition #269 states that the Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use are consistent with the Ski Area Management Guidelines of 2006. With respect, we question the logic of this response when it is patently obvious that the definition of ‘substantial environmental gain’ is not being adhered to.
On page 4 of the Marmot Basin Ski Area Management Guidelines, Parks Canada states that in exchange for the lease adjustment it is prepared to consider the following exceptions to the Guidelines:
- expansion of the Developed Area
- extension of the Knob Chairlift outside of the existing Developed Area
- significant terrain modification for a realigned Knob Chairlift if alternatives prove impractical
- development of a new beginner ski area and Nordic ski trails outside of the existing lease boundary
- terrain modification to support the development of a terrain park and mid mountain reservoir
- the development of a skier egress from the Tres Hombres off-piste area
- the development of a new ticket and group sales building in one of the parking lots.
In addition to the above – and dependent on a ‘caribou risk assessment’ – Parks could also consider allowing development of two ski lifts directly adjacent to the surrendered area. But at a minimum, off-piste skiing on those slopes would continue.
Extension of the Knob Chairlift towards the summit of the basin would make it easier for skiers to access the wilderness valley and any ski lifts adjacent to the ‘surrendered’ area will cause wary wildlife – including the threatened woodland caribou – now using that area to abandon it.
In his reply to our petition the Minister lists the problems that Parks Canada has endured with the four national parks ski hills over the past decades with their constant demands for more development and their unwillingness to prepare long-range plans. If the Marmot Basin example is anything to go by Parks Canada, instead of exercising its authority with them, is now attempting to appease them by opening the door to the possibility of future development in what has always been a protected area. This does not augur well for the ecological integrity of Banff National Park when negotiations with its three ski hills commence in the future.
The Minister, in his response to our Petition #269, acquiesced to this decision of Parks Canada stating that removing the area from the lease will ‘result in providing a greater degree of protection and certainty that the area will not be developed’. One has to look no further than the present proposal to allow a licence-of-occupation for Nordic/Beginners outside the Section 5 south boundary of the ski-hill lease featuring cleared runs, ski-lifts, childrens’ snow park, magic carpets and washroom facilities to realize that it is relatively easy for Parks Canada to give business interests what they want both now and in the future even outside the lease boundary.
We quote here from a response by Mr. Dave Poulton, past Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to Mr. Alan Latourelle CEO of Parks Canada on June 1, 2006 regarding the Draft Revisions to Ski Area Management:
‘The change to the leasehold only assumes significance if one assumes that future regulators will not have the will to maintain an area undeveloped, and must therefore have the authority to consider the question taken away from them. There is a striking contrast in that case: we take regulatory discretion away from our successors as a way of us compensating for using that discretion in a way today which we would not like to see followed in the future. Certainty is only of real value if coupled with the pursuit of ecological integrity, today and in the future, in a consistent and concerted manner.’
In response to our Petition #269 the Minister, in his covering letter, sees the approved Marmot Basin Ski Area Guidelines as being consistent with the Jasper National Park Management Plan, the Canada National Parks Act and the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
The Canada National Parks Act – and consequently the May 2000 Jasper National Park Management Plan – stresses: ‘Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity through the protection of natural resources, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering park zoning and visitor use in a management plan’. We maintain that giving a very doubtful ‘ecological certainty’ priority over ‘ecological integrity’ goes against the spirit and intent of both the Act and the Plan.
The Species at Risk Act (SARA) stresses: ‘Canada’s protected areas, especially national parks, are vital to the protection and recovery of species at risk’. A recovery plan for the woodland caribou is now two years overdue and critical habitat for this species has yet to be identified in this national park and World Heritage Site. To contemplate any development in, or adjacent to, what Parks Canada already admits is ‘valuable habitat’ shows a pronounced disregard for an Act that involved thousands of Canadians from coast to coast and which took more than nine years to bring to fruition.
From the Comprehensive Environmental Study carried out under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) on the Proposal to Develop a Chairlift and Ski Runs on Eagle Ridge (Marmot Basin) in 2000:
- ‘The important point is that the Eagle Ridge lift must not and does not ease the difficulty for skiers to access the out of bounds terrain behind Marmot peak, or the upper part of Whistlers Creek. This was a critical issue in the original plan approval, and continues to be an important objective to maintain the security and effectiveness of the goat and caribou habitat behind the ski area’.
This warning is now being ignored by Parks Canada.
The Minister’s letter states that ‘magnitude’ is one of the criteria to be considered in order to determine if an ecological gain is substantial. Marmot is proposing to surrender 119.6 ha of wilderness land. However in exchange – among other things – it is asking for:
- an extension of the Knob Chairlift towards the basin summit – 76 ha
- development of a new beginners’ area and Nordic ski trails in a 60 ha licence-of- occupation outside the south lease boundary
- possible development in Whistlers Creek Valley of two ski lifts affecting another 120 ha
For a total of definitely 136 ha and possibly 256 ha. How does this substantial gain in developed land constitute the ‘magnitude’ criteria for a substantial ecological gain?
In answer to our Question #2 in Petition #269 regarding potential development in the Whistler Creek Valley the Minister states: ‘No specific proposals have been received for the noted potential initiatives (summit ski lift, terrain modification, two lifts in the valley, new cross-country area outside the boundary) and no approvals by Parks Canada have been given for them’. However, the Site Guidelines were approved on the basis of a Strategic Environmental Assessment that entertained the possibility of development of all four of these initiatives – in spite of very strong opposition from environmental groups and other members of the Canadian public.
With regard to public input on the Site Guidelines, the Minister’s letter acknowledges: ‘Perspectives ranged from those who challenged key concepts, in particular initiatives related to achieving substantial environmental gain’. The other end of the range is not listed so we presume there wasn’t one.
The Minister assures us that these views ‘were carefully considered’ but there is no indication as towhat extent the views on ‘substantial environmental gain’ voiced by the conservation groups and other Canadians shaped the final version of the approved Guidelines.
Parks Canada has clearly raised expectations for Marmot Basin in the negotiations for further ski development. In their Statement of Concurrence laid out in the approved Site Guidelines Marmot Basin thanks Parks Canada ‘for the collaborative approach in preparing these Site Guidelines and their intent to support the initiatives contained herein which, from a policy perspective Parks Canada has determined to be acceptable.’ In our experience, Parks Canada, having raised expectations about the possibility of development finds it very difficult, if not impossible, to curtail such proposals or plans.
We would like to draw the Minister’s attention to our Petition #269 of November 20, 2008 and its list of concerns, namely:
- Parks Canada’s legislated mandate to protect ecological integrity as its first priority
- the advice of Parks Canada specialists that the exchange would not constitute a ‘substantial environmental gain’
- the already protected status of the proposed exchange wilderness area
- the lack of data on wildlife, water resources, vegetation and soil stability
- the presence of a threatened species under SARA and two others of special concern under COSEWIC
- the considerable amount of development which Marmot would be allowed to propose – some of which would adversely affect the wildlife habitat of the surrendered pristine strip and, by extension, the movement corridor of the wilderness valley
- the considerable gain in developed land compared to the area of the surrendered land
- the effect on the viewscape from Whistlers Peak – one of Jasper’s most important summer visitor destinations
- the relative ease with which any future government that wants to accommodate business interests may gain an amendment to the Canada National Parks Act shows ‘ecological certainty’ to be a false claim and therefore cannot be used to supercede ‘ecological integrity’
To these concerns must now be added further ones listed above and occasioned by the Minister’s response to our petition.
2. Summer use
In reply to our concerns listed in Petition #269 about summer use on the ski hill the Minister states: ‘… the Marmot Basin Guidelines do not provide any direction for, nor consideration of, potential visitor use initiatives related to potential summer use at Marmot Basin’. However, the approved Guidelines for Marmot Basin devote one and a half pages to discussion on possible summer use. The list of criteria needed for this to go ahead focuses mainly on ‘learning about the park and world heritage site’ while there should be ‘No significant increase in wildlife-human conflict, wildlife displacement, access to sensitive areas or in human caused wildlife mortality’.
It is also obvious from Marmot Basin’s Vision Statement that summer use is very much in their plans: ‘Summer use will include use of chairlifts and chalets, including the ability to host dinners and special functions and be complimented (sic) by soft outdoor activities to include but not limited to interpretive guiding, hiking, photography sessions, chair lift sightseeing, bird watching trips, etc.’ Parks Canada reviewed the vision as the first step in the planning process and according to the Minister’s response, the Site Guidelines are based on the vision. Once again, Parks Canada is opening the door to possibilities and generating expectations.
In 1999 Parks Canada fully recognized the importance of Marmot Basin to wildlife in summer. In its Review of Comprehensive Environmental Study on the proposed Eagle Ridge chairlift at Marmot Basin Parks Canada clearly stated that because of ‘wary wildlife’ a ‘summer use program is neither proposed nor contemplated’. Now, ten years later, it is agreeing to consider summer use for that same proponent although three of the species that use that area – woodland caribou, grizzlies and wolverine – are now listed as species at risk.
The Tonquin herd of the South Jasper woodland caribou population appears stable and in fact may be increasing in numbers. If so, the basin – with its prolific growth of lichens – which was once part of their habitat before development drove them out, may well become important to them again. This area should not be compromised by human use in summer particularly as critical habitat for this threatened species has not yet been delineated.
In 2005, Marmot’s own Environmental Screening Report for Egress from Tres Hombres Run reported that grizzlies ‘are seen travelling through the Marmot Basin leasehold throughout the non-denning period through May to October, most often in the spring and fall’
In Grizzly bear monitoring in and around the Mountain National Parks: Mortalities and Bear/Human Encounters 1990-2008 – Parks Canada states ‘there are no quantifiable grizzly bear population estimates for any of the Mountain National Parks based on inventory or other recognized methodology’. Surely this would indicate a definite need for use of the precautionary principle – a principle Parks Canada describes in a June 2009 document – True to Our Nature – as being ‘simple common sense’. Marmot is recorded as being good habitat for grizzlies but summer use would allow visitors into this habitat raising the possibility of bear/human encounters and/or abandonment of the area by this 'species of special concern'
In a 2009 background paper Grizzly Bears: Habitat Security and Mortality Targets, distributed by Jasper National Park management in anticipation of the upcoming Jasper National Park Management Plan Review, Parks Canada identifies grizzly bears as a priority species stating:
- Grizzly bears are widely accepted as an indicator of the health and diversity of mountain ecosystems, and as a measure of sustainable land use practises.
- In the mountain parks, habitat security and grizzly bear mortality are used as measures of ecological integrity.
- Habitat security reflects both the physical quality of the habitat and the level of human disturbance. Grizzly bear habitat is considered secure when the probability of meeting humans is low, thereby reducing the risk of dangerous behaviour.
In the proposed direction for the revised management plan the following are listed:
- Maintain or improve existing habitat security levels in all LMUs.
- Identify strategies to improve habitat security in areas that are now below the 68% target. Revise mortality thresholds for grizzly bears in the four contiguous mountain parks to reflect the focus on adult females.
- Maintain the current target of keeping the human-caused mortality of independent female grizzly bears below 1.2% annually, based on a four-year running average.
How is it possible for one branch of Parks Canada to negotiate the theoretical approval of summer use on the ski hill with the adverse effects this could have on three species at risk when another branch of Parks Canada is working to identify means to protect these species from continued population declines?
3. Accountability for predecessor’s decisions
A last point we would like to make is that of the Minister’s responsibility for the actions of his predecessor. In question #17 of our petition #269 we asked that the Minister audit that Hon. John Baird had neither acknowledged or responded to two previous letters regarding the ski hills – dated October 22, 2007 and July 21, 2008 – and signed by ten regional and national conservation groups. The Minister replied that the letters were sent to his predecessor ‘who now holds a different position in government’, implying that this was not the present minister’s responsibility.
However in Report 4 of the Access to Information Review Task Force published in August 2001, Dr Ken Kernaghan wrote: ‘… in recognition of the need to ensure that someone in government is answerable for each government decision, ministers are required to answer to Parliament, by way of explanation, for departmental actions taken during their predecessors' term in office.’
Since 1981 Parks Canada has clearly acknowledged1 the importance of Whistlers Creek Valley to wildlife. This has now been further strengthened by three species present in the area listed as being ‘at risk’ under SARA and COSEWIC. The area is entirely under Parks Canada’s discretion and control. On what basis does the Minister believe that Parks Canada under any future government would allow development in this area given the Agency’s first priority under the Canada National Parks Act to protect ecological integrity?
Given all the facts that have been cited above and in our previous Petition #269 what evidence can the Minister give us that the proposed exchange can be termed a ‘substantial environmental gain’ considering the definition set out for this term in the 2006 Ski Area Management Guidelines?
Would the Minister please tell us when Parks Canada will be delineating and protecting the critical habitat for the threatened Southern Mountain Woodland Caribou population which is required by the Species at Risk Act and which is now more than two years overdue?
top of page In view of the possibility of considerable development being considered in a licence-of-occupation outside the south boundary how can the Minister maintain with such assurance that the proposed surrendered area in the north part of the lease will not be developed in the future if it is removed from the lease?
The Minister assures us that the views expressed by the conservation groups and other concerned members of the Canadian public ‘were carefully considered’. Exactly what specific changes were made by Parks Canada to reflect the concern shown in the public input to the draft Guidelines?
How is it possible for Parks Canada to negotiate the possibility of summer use on the ski hill with the adverse effects this could have on three species at risk while at the same time it is working – or should be – to identify means to protect these species from continued population declines?
Will Parks Canada please list any instances where approval for a proposal from a developer in the Rocky Mountain National Parks has been denied after the Agency agreed to consider it?
May we once again request that the Minister re-examine the two letters of October 22, 2007 and July 21, 2008 to the previous Minister of Environment and give us his considered response?
1Parks Canada 1981. Long-Range Proposals for Marmot Basin Ski Area
Leeson, B.F. Environment Canada – Parks 1986. Initial Environmental Evaluation. Marmot Basin Ski Area Long Term Development, Jasper National Park.
CEAA June 2000. Comprehensive Environmental Study (CEAA) A Proposal to Develop a Chairlift and Ski Runs on Eagle Ridge - Iris Environmental Systems
Parks Canada, 2007 Draft Marmot Basin Strategic Environmental Assessment
Parks Canada, 2008 Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use
6 January 2010
Ms. Jill Seaton
Jasper Environmental Association
P.O. Box 2198
Jasper AB T0E 1E0
Mr. Mike McIvor
Bow Valley Naturalists
P.O. Box 1693
Banff AB T1L 1B6
Mr. Carlos Garcia
P.O. Box 1477
Banff AB T1L 1B4
Dear Ms. Seaton, Mr. McIvor and Mr. Garcia:
Attached please find the response to environmental petition no. 269-B, of August 26, 2009, pursuant to Section 22 of the Auditor General Act, regarding the “proposed consideration of expansion of development at the Marmot Basin Ski Area in Jasper National Park and the potential implications of such expansion for the three Banff National Park ski hills.”
Since the petition’s questions, in many instances, are similar to those of the previously submitted Petition 269, this response provides additional information while referencing the response to the previous, as it thoroughly and comprehensively responds to the majority of issues and questions raised in both petitions.
As you know, Parks Canada’s fundamental responsibilities are protecting heritage resources and facilitating opportunities for public education and memorable visitor experiences. In achieving this integrated mandate, the requirements of the Canada National Parks Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Species at Risk Act will continue to be met. Ensuring the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity is the first priority when considering all aspects of managing the national parks of Canada. These requirements and responsibilities form the foundation for decisions related to ski areas.
The Ski Area Management Guidelines (2006) outline how these requirements will be met at national park ski areas. The Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use was approved by the Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada, in February 2008, following a public consultation process. They are consistent with the Ski Area Management Guidelines, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plans and Program Proposals.
The Marmot Basin site guidelines outline maximum growth limits and parameters to guide potential future development and use proposals to ensure ecological integrity while supporting quality visitor experiences and the needs of the ski area.
The site guidelines are also one component of an overall comprehensive and integrated approach that is aimed at carefully managing the ski area in a manner that complements broader park initiatives to protect ecological integrity and enhance visitor experience.
The Marmot Basin Site Guidelines for Development and Use represent a significant achievement in that negotiated, permanent limits to growth have been established for the ski area. Along with commercial growth limits for the community of Jasper and the Outlying Commercial Accommodations, these initiatives, on the long term, will represent one of Parks Canada’s greatest achievements to ensure ecological integrity while supporting quality visitor experiences and the needs of the tourism industry.
Thank you for your continued interest in Canada’s national parks.
[Original signed by Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment]
The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Response to Public Feedback on the Draft Site Guidelines for
Marmot Basin Ski Area
|Key Issues Raised by the Public||Considerations||Response|
Some members of the public and environmental organizations feel that the removal of the Whistlers Creek area is not a substantial environmental gain because they feel it does not result in a positive change in ecological conditions.
The Ski Area Management Guidelines indicate that a leasehold reduction or reconfiguration that results in better protection of sensitive areas in exchange for development in less sensitive areas is an example of substantial environmental gain that can be considered.
The removal of the Whistlers Creek bed area and surrounding up-slopes is a substantial environmental gain because the reconfiguration removes a large portion from the leasehold, resulting in a greater degree of protection and certainty that the area will not be developed in the future, and that uses will be carefully managed in the future. This is considered a positive change from the existing situation.
The Site Guidelines have been adjusted to clarify the rationale as to why the removal of the Whistlers Creek bed area and surrounding up-slopes is considered a substantial environmental gain by Parks Canada.
Perception that Parks Canada is considering lift development in Tres Hombres and Outer Limits – an area known to be used by woodland caribou – a species at risk.
Parks Canada is NOT prepared to make a decision on these areas in the absence of objective, scientific information. Lift access in these areas is NOT being considered at this time because of the uncertain impacts on caribou. In addition, a national strategy for the management of caribou is currently being developed. Based on this strategy, local action plans will be developed where necessary. It is therefore inappropriate to determine how potential changes to Outer Limits and Tres Hombres should be managed in advance of this direction. For these reasons, a multi-year, independently led, caribou risk assessment will be undertaken to determine whether or not development should be considered in the areas. Once the risk assessment is complete, a decision on whether to consider potential development will be made.
The Site Guidelines have been adjusted to reflect this precautionary approach and to clarify how a decision on the future management of these areas will be made.
The 1981 Marmot Basin Long Range Plan precluded development to Marmot Peak and in the Tres Hombres/Outer Limits areas due to wildlife, vegetation and viewscape concerns. Some environmental organizations are wondering why Parks Canada is now prepared to considered these areas for development.
Since the 1981 plan was approved, the Ski Area Management Guidelines were announced. They now provide the direction for management of the ski areas and allow the possibility to consider exceptions if there is substantial environmental gain.
The site guidelines identify specific ecological parameters and information requirements that must be met in advancing any development proposals. These are focused on the key ecological issues. With careful planning and mitigation there is the potential to address some of the issues identified in 1981. As such, on a policy basis, extension of the Knob Chairlift can be considered. Informed decisions will be made through a long-range plan and application of CEAA.
As noted in the preceding issue, development is currently NOT being considered for Tres Hombres or Outer Limits.
The rationale for considering the potential development to Marmot Peak has been more clearly elaborated in the site guidelines.
Marmot Basin must clearly address the information requirements and ecological parameters in a long range plan before a decision will be made.
The site guidelines are a policy level document outlining potential initiatives that can and cannot be considered. No decisions have been made concerning specific development proposals. Development decisions will be made through a long range plan.
Some environmental organizations feel the site guidelines trigger a comprehensive study under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).
The site guidelines do NOT address specific proposals therefore CEAA is not triggered. A strategic environmental assessment has been completed consistent with the Cabinet Direction on the Assessment of Policies, Plans and Program Proposals. Development proposals will be advanced through a long-range plan at which time CEAA will be triggered.
The site guidelines have been adjusted to reinforce that they are based on potential initiatives the ski area might pursue rather than specific development proposals. CEAA is not triggered because no specific projects are being proposed or considered at this time.
Some environmental organizations are advocating that a strategic environmental assessment be done on the Ski Area Management Guidelines
Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) was integrated into the development of the Guidelines, and all relevant environmental factors included in the Guidelines directly. No separate SEA report was produced.
Notification of the SEA of the Guidelines has been placed on the Parks Canada Strategic Environmental Assessment Public Notification webpage.
No change is needed. The Ski Area Management Guidelines themselves, the Minister’s announcement on the Guidelines, and the public notification communicate the expected environmental effects, mitigations and conclusions of the Guidelines.
Some environmental organizations feel a strategic environmental assessment should be done on all four ski area site guidelines to adequately address cumulative effects.
It is not practical to do all four ski area site guidelines concurrently as Parks Canada is dependent on the ski areas willingness to participate in the process. Although there are common issues, there are few interacting environmental effects issues between ski areas that would warrant a strategic level cumulative effects assessment of all four ski areas.
The Ski Area Management Guidelines address broad scale cumulative effect issues. Individual ski area site guidelines and long range plans will also deal with cumulative effects. A broader additional assessment is not necessary.
No change is needed. Cumulative effects issues are being addressed and will continue to be an important element of environmental assessments of individual ski area site guidelines and long range plans. Potential interactions between ski areas and between other nodes of development such as townsites will be identified and assessed as appropriate.
Some environmental groups feel Growth limits should be determined through a comprehensive study with consideration of cumulative effects and subject to public review.
Growth limits have been developed on a policy basis consistent with community plans and Outlying Commercial Accommodation. The limits represent maximum built out potential. As individual proposals for expansion are advanced in long range plans, cumulative effects issues related to infrastructure and the community of Jasper will need to be addressed.
The site guidelines have been adjusted to further clarify how the growth limits were established, how they will be used and the role of long range plans in addressing cumulative effects.
An amendment to schedule 5 of Canada National Park Act is required to allow potential new Licences of Occupation.
One of the exceptions to the Ski Area Management Guidelines being considered in exchange for removal of Whistlers Creek area from the leasehold is the development of a beginner ski area and cross country ski trails in a less sensitive area outside the existing lease. This would be managed through a Licence of Occupation if the initiative is advanced as a proposal. Amendments to the Act and approval of the proposal through a long-range plan are required before any permits could be issued.
The site guidelines have been adjusted to clearly indicate appropriate approvals for leasehold adjustments, including legislative changes where necessary, need to be in place before permits for projects that are exceptions to the Ski Area Management Guidelines will be issued.
Some members of the public and organizations feel there has been inadequate public involvement in the preparation of the site guidelines.
Stakeholders and non-government organizations have been involved at various stages of the process leading up to and including the approval of the Ski Area Management Guidelines. Public and stakeholder involvement has been sought in preparing the Site Guidelines. This has included local, regional and national environmental groups.
Development of long-range plans and application of CEAA involve additional public involvement processes before decisions will be made.
Public consultation opportunities have been provided. Additional opportunities will be provided as long-range plans are developed and through the application of CEAA.
Some concern has been expressed that decisions are being made where important knowledge gaps have been identified and in the absence of monitoring information.
The strategic environmental assessment appropriately identifies knowledge gaps in order that they may be dealt with when planning for future projects through a long-range plan. The strategic environmental assessment also identifies future planning and knowledge requirements that must be addressed, and environmental management parameters that must be realized as part of future long range plans and environmental assessment processes. This is not a shortcoming in the process – it is a standard and appropriate application of strategic environmental assessment and planning.
Additional monitoring requirements will be identified in the long range plan, associated application of CEAA, best management practices and environmental management systems.
The site guidelines have been adjusted to reflect the information gaps that must be addressed as part of long-range plans and where monitoring requirements will be defined.
Some concern has been expressed about the lack of water data to make decisions related to snowmaking.
See preceding issue.
The site guidelines have been adjusted to more clearly indicate the type of information needed as part of advancing snowmaking expansion proposals.
Some concern has been expressed that Summer Use has not been addressed.
There are no summer use initiatives being advanced by Marmot Basin or identified in the site guidelines. The site guidelines are clear that any future consideration of summer use proposals must be consistent with the criteria in the Ski Area Management Guidelines, and subject to a decision made through a Long Range Plan and application of CEAA
No changes were made to the Site Guidelines.