Glamping Development in Kananaskis Country Sparks Controversy Among Environmentalists and First Nation Members

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A proposed glamping development, Skyridge Glamping, in Kananaskis Country (Alberta, Canada), has ignited concerns from environmental advocates, wildlife specialists, and members of the Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation.

As per a report, the 2.83-hectare project, situated across from the Kananaskis Country Golf Course off Highway 40 in the Kananaskis Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ), has been criticized for its potential impact on the region’s wildlife corridor and the traditional hunting grounds of the Îyârhe Nakoda.

Despite its conditional approval by the Kananaskis Improvement District Subdivision and Development Authority, the project has been appealed and referred to the Land and Property Rights Tribunal.

Christel Postel, co-owner of Ridgeback Glamping Inc., maintains that the development is intended as a “quiet, small-scale, low-impact retreat,” with a maximum of 20 year-round geodesic dome glamping units.

She also highlighted that historical, environmental, and wildlife surveys had been conducted, and additional wildlife surveys would be carried out before any site activity commences.

However, Ryan Phinney, a bear management specialist, has raised concerns about the potential disruption of natural wildlife corridors for elk, grizzly bears, and other native species.

Phinney emphasized that introducing more human development and activity in the area could create stress for the animals and increase their habituation to humans, negatively affecting the region’s wildlife population.

In addition to environmental concerns, the project has drawn criticism from Îyârhe Nakoda elder Una Wesley, who is appealing for the development on the grounds of cultural significance. Wesley contends that the site is part of her First Nation’s traditional hunting grounds and holds immense cultural importance. The Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation also has a long-standing land claim to the area with the federal government.

The appeal process has brought attention to the importance of establishing relationships based on trust and respect between developers and Indigenous peoples. Ken Hoover, the founder of Protect This Park, a local initiative advocating for Kananaskis and its inhabitants alongside First Nations, emphasizes the significance of understanding and respecting Indigenous peoples’ perspectives and traditions.

The Land and Property Rights Tribunal is expected to make a decision regarding the development by the end of the month.

If approved, Hoover and Wesley hope that protective and cultural measures will be considered, such as installing electric fencing around the development to prevent human-wildlife interaction and conducting a ceremony on the land before any construction or resource removal.

Wesley also requests that any harvested trees be used in a manner respectful of Îyârhe Nakoda traditions, such as creating tipi poles and providing firewood for an upcoming Sundance in June.

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