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Right of Passage

Safely and efficiently moving people and wildlife on Banff’s section of the Trans-Canada Highway and beyond



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Pique: What challenges do you currently face and what challenges lay ahead?


PC: Learning more about how populations of wildlife benefit from the crossings. Until now, our research has addressed individuals, i.e., responses of different species to crossing types and total number of times different species use the 24 crossings. For transportation agencies to be convinced of the real benefits (and investment cost-benefits) we need to be able to demonstrate scientifically their importance to populations in terms of (1) survival of individuals within the population and (2) how the crossings facilitate movement of all ages and sexes, including breeding and reproduction. We are currently engaged in a three-year research project using a noninvasive DNA-based technique to provide answers to that question and using black and grizzly bears as the study species.

Perhaps the largest challenge I see in the long-term is how transportation agencies are going to be able to accommodate the growing transportation needs in the future. This is really unsustainable ecologically and governments, politicians and transportation agencies are going to need to take a serious look at less fossil fuel-dependent means of transportation and moving towards increased public transportation systems (e.g. rail).


Pique: Have other areas with similar issues around Canada looked to Banff National Park for solutions or research information?


PC: Yes. Banff is unique worldwide. Banff is the only large-scale highway mitigation complex in the world. Most highway mitigation projects for wildlife have at most four to five wildlife crossings, whereas Banff has 24 large crossings on 45-km of the Trans-Canada Highway. Eight additional crossings are being built today along the segment of the TCH now being upgraded near Lake Louise. For this reason, we have engineers and biologists from all over the world visiting Banff and speaking with our wildlife research team and Highway Service Centre Director, Terry McGuire.


Pique: Will anything be done differently for the next section of highway expansion?