04/02/2019 07:53 EDT | Updated 04/02/2019 13:30 EDT

Banff National Park Ski Areas Shrinking To Protect Wildlife, Allow Resort Development

New legislation was hinted in the back pages of the federal budget.

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File photo of the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park in winter.

OTTAWA — The federal government will introduce new legislation to change the ski boundaries of Banff National Park, cutting the Lake Louise Ski Area by nearly half.

News of the coming legislation was hinted last month after the measure earned a brief mention in the 460-page budget tabled March 19.

After passage, the legislation will amend the Canada National Parks Act to alter the boundaries of the Lake Louise Ski Area and Mount Norquay.

Changes will see 47 per cent of the Lake Louise Ski Area's leased 2,190 hectares turned over to Parks Canada. A 44 per cent reduction to the Mount Norquay ski area has also been proposed.

"These alterations were well-known to the respective ski area operators and were communicated to the public as part of establishing the site guidelines," Parks Canada spokeswoman Dominique Tessier said.

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Ski resort operators and government use site guidelines to help plan and manage changes to ski areas if they're within a national park. New development in national parks is approved only if "substantial environmental gain" can be established.

In exchange for conceding wildlife corridors and parkland in the two ski areas, operators will be free to increase development within resort boundaries. For the Lake Louise Ski Resort, the trade means it can expand its parking lot, add lifts, and build new day lodges.

Dan Markham, Lake Louise Ski Resort's brand and communications director, said operators have been working with Indigenous groups and environmental organizations.

"The next step is for the long-range plan to go up for 60 days of public feedback, which we expect to occur very soon," he said.

Markham said 466 hectares will be added for development under a licence of occupation, which restricts operation in the area to winter months.

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Summer landscape of Mount Norquay in the rocky mountains of Banff National Park, Alta.

Mount Norquay resort's new owners have been busy preparing for more visitors — particularly during summertime. Mount Norquay is between Lake Louise and Canmore, Alta.

Expanding summer activity offerings has been a contentious issue between former resort owners and conservation groups. The Alberta Wilderness Association previously told CBC News that Mount Norquay's former resort owners made a promise in the mid-1990s to forgo summer growth in favour of winter expansion.

Mount Norquay Ski Resort is currently owned by Canadian investment banker Adam Waterous and his wife, Jan.

Work relating to the proposed ski boundary changes to the Lake Louise and Mount Norquay ski areas have been in the works for years, going back to consultations done under the former Conservative government.

Site guidelines for Mount Norquay were published in July 2011. They were finalized for the Lake Louise Ski Area in July 2015.

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