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Mountain News: Court bans four off-leash dogs from K-Country

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CANMORE, Alta.,—The courts are taking incidents involving people caught repeatedly with off-leash dogs seriously, banning pets from Alberta's provincial parks in two recent cases, reported Cathy Ellis with the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Alberta Parks officials say that in Canmore provincial court earlier this month, a third-time offender with three dogs off-leash chasing marmots was fined $750 and had her dogs banned from Kananaskis Country for 12 months.

In a second court case, provincial officials said a mountain biker was fined $575, with the judge issuing a judicial order banning his dog from the park for six months. It was his second off-leash dog offence.

Arian Spiteri, district conservation officer for Alberta Parks, said a standard ticket fine for dogs off-leash is $115, but some charges can be sent to court automatically depending on the circumstances.

"We do have the authority if it's repeat offenders, or depending on the seriousness of the incident, that it can end up in court," said Spiteri.

"Our goal is to educate and inform people. We try hard to educate to avoid punitive measures.

"We've had lots of incidents over the years of dogs that have disappeared and never been found in our parks and we've had dogs that have been killed by wildlife.

"We've also had a variety of species of wildlife that have been harassed, or killed, as a result of dogs off leash."

Ski resort gets go ahead to sell mountain water

EDMONTON, Alta.—Alberta's decision to allow a ski hill in a provincial park to sell water it's not using and have it trucked away sets a bad precedent that could restrict the province's ability to react to climate change, environmentalists say.

"If we're reallocating more and more water for commercial sale, that really ties up our choices and future generation's choices," Carolyn Campbell of the Alberta Wilderness Association told Canadian Press recently.

In October, Alberta Environment approved an application from Fortress Mountain ski resort in Spray Valley Provincial Park—part of a vast and popular mountain playground called Kananaskis Country—to change its water licence.

In the past, the resort was allocated just under 100 million litres of water a year from Galatea Creek for its kitchen and other on-site facilities.

The government agreed to amend that licence on Oct. 25 to allow it to sell about half that amount to a third party. The water is to be pumped into trucks and driven away for sale.

Published reports have suggested it will be bottled and marketed as pure, glacier-fed water.

The Geological Survey of Canada has already warned that the Rocky Mountain glaciers that keep prairie rivers and streams full during low-snow years are on their way out.

"Every drop counts for the future given even natural variation without climate change," Campbell said. "You layer climate change, it's just a very concerning precedent for our mountain headwaters.

"Mountain ecosystems use every drop of water. It's better to leave it in the stream rather that try to commodify it from a protected area."

Fortress Mountain did not return an emailed request for an interview.

Alberta Environment acknowledged it received concerns about Fortress' application. All were dismissed, said press secretary Jess Sinclair.

Affordable housing development moving ahead in Banff

BANFF, Alta.—The Town of Banff's plans for a new price-restricted homeownership development are moving along, reported Cathy Ellis with the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

At a meeting Tuesday (Nov. 12), council was briefed on plans to develop the lots at 338-340 Banff Ave., owned by the Banff Housing Corporation (BHC), into multi-family, high-density apartment that will be for sale to qualified buyers.

Having yet to go through the design process, officials say the best guess is creation of 20 to 25 one-, two- and three-bedroom units to focus on identified housing needs of individuals, couples and families.

"We want these to be affordable," said Sharon Oakley, the Town's housing sustainability manager.

"We heard strongly from surveys that the average amount people could afford would be between $300,000 and $500,000."

BHC bought the land on Banff Avenue, currently known as the Hockey House, for $1.3 million in 2013.

Under the proposed apartment development, units will be sold through a price-restricted model, with buyer eligibility based on BHC's established criteria for homeownership.

It is hoped construction will get underway October next year following environmental and planning approvals.

Based on studies, the projected shortfall of units in Banff, if growth continues on the same trajectory to 2027, is 663 units. However, Banff's community housing strategy speaks to a future vacancy rate of three per cent.

"Based on this stated future desire, and recognizing that the municipal census states that approximately 60 per cent of households rent, a rough estimate calculates that approximately 60 additional units beyond the 663 would be required to achieve a healthy vacancy rate for a total project unit shortfall of approximately 723 units," said Oakley.