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Jasper National Park of Canada

Marmot Basin Ski Area Site Guidelines for Development and Use

4.0 Exceptions to Ski Area Management Guidelines - Substantial Environmental Gain

The Ski Area Management Guidelines provide direction for managing the size and nature of ski area development in order to ensure ecological integrity and reinforce the national park setting. However there may be some circumstances where the rigid application of policy restricts consideration of initiatives that may result in Substantial Environmental Gain. The Guidelines allow for the consideration of exceptions in certain circumstances.

4.1 Ski Area Management Guidelines

"Exceptions to the Guidelines for facilities, parking, terrain modification limits and adjustments to the perimeter of the Developed Area can be considered if there if there are Substantial Environmental Gains. Exceptions will not be considered for on-hill accommodation, Growth Limits, water permits and infrastructure requirements.

Ski area expansion into Undeveloped Areas, Un-skied Terrain and Un-serviced Terrain can only be considered if there are Substantial Environmental Gains. An example of an exception that can be considered is a leasehold reduction or reconfiguration that results in better protection of sensitive areas in exchange for development in less sensitive areas.

New land, in exchange for removal of the sensitive areas from the leasehold, will be managed through a licence of occupation consistent with the tenure of the lease."

"Substantial Environmental Gain is 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 order to determine if an ecological gain is substantial, the following criteria will be considered:

  • magnitude - major as opposed to minor improvement;
  • geographic context - broad scale as opposed localized impact; and
  • ecological context - improved protection or positive impacts high value, rare or sensitive/or multiple species."

Page 5, 6 and 10, Ski Area Management Guidelines, Minister of Environment, December 7, 2006

4.2 Existing Situation

The Marmot Basin leasehold includes rangelands of the woodland caribou, listed as "threatened" under the Species At Risk Act (SARA). Of specific interest is the Whistlers Creek drainage, which has been identified as an important source of terrestrial and arboreal lichens, and as a movement corridor for caribou. The Whistlers Creek area also contains an important goat mineral lick.

4.3 Objectives

  • Achieve land use certainty
  • Ensure ecological integrity will be maintained

4.4 Proposals - Substantial Environmental Gain and Related Exceptions

Marmot Basin has proposed a substantial leasehold reconfiguration that would result in the removal of the Whistlers Creek bed area and surrounding up-slopes, to the extent shown on Map 1, from the ski area leasehold in exchange for consideration of a suite of potential proposals that would be exceptions to the Ski Area Management Guidelines .

The Ski Area Management Guidelines clearly indicate that an example of a substantial environmental gain is "a leasehold reduction or reconfiguration that results in better protection of sensitive areas in exchange for development in less sensitive areas." The guidelines also define substantial environmental gain and identify the criteria for determining if the gain is substantial.

The removal of the Whistlers Creek bed area and surrounding up-slopes, to the extent shown on Map 1, reflects the intent of the Ski Area Management Guidelines and as such is considered a Substantial Environmental Gain because:

  • it represents removal of an area from the leasehold that will result in providing 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 reconfiguration of the lease represents an 18% reduction in leasehold - a major reduction in leasehold size;
  • the lease reduction establishes long-term certainty and improved protection for sensitive and important caribou and goat habitat features including caribou food sources and the goat mineral lick;
  • the lease reduction is a positive contribution to Parks Canada's participation in current and future broad scale ecosystem management initiatives to better protect caribou habitat, that are linked through implementation of the park management plan, federal-provincial collaborations, and the development and implementation of SARA-complaint recovery strategies; and
  • the lease reduction protects broad ecological values for multiple species associated with the Whistlers Creek valley including habitat security for other valued and sensitive species including grizzly bear, wolverine, and lynx.

Based on the benefits of removing such a large portion of this ecologically important area from the leasehold and ensuring no future development, Parks Canada will consider several exceptions to the Ski Area Management Guidelines subject to formal proposals being advanced in a Long-Range Plan, final decisions on the Long-Range Plan and the application of Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The exceptions are outlined throughout Section 5.0 of this document.

One of the exceptions that can be considered is the development of a new beginner's ski pod and nordic ski trail system outside of the existing leasehold boundary. This area would be managed under a Licence of Occupation (see map #1).

The strategic environmental assessment for the Site Guidelines was undertaken at a significant level of detail and subjected to thorough scientific peer review. This work provides useful information with respect to magnitude, geographic and environmental context of the proposed gains. The removal of the lands from the leasehold in combination with the identification of ecological management parameters (section 5.2), mitigations and research requirements that must be met for all potential initiatives is anticipated, on balance, to contribute meaningfully to Parks Canada's objectives for protecting ecological integrity.

4.5 Implementation of Exceptions

Potential projects approved as exceptions that are related to any new license(s) of occupation provided for in a Long-Range Plan may only proceed to the permitting stage following the completion of relevant legislative amendments.

Other potential exceptions can proceed to the permitting stage when the following have been achieved:

  • the projects are part of a favourable determination under CEAA and an approved Long-Range Plan;
  • a new lease is in place, as outlined in Section 7.1 and 7.2 , including the removal of Whistlers Creek bed area and surrounding up-slopes, to the extent shown on Map 1.

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