Nature Canada

The Rosebud River Valley: Racetrack for Gas Guzzlers or Homes for Bank Swallows?

The Rosebud River Valley is an ecological treasure of wetlands and coulees northeast of Calgary that offers a sanctuary for a host of wildlife, including threatened Bank Swallows, Prairie Falcons, Golden Eagles and songbirds.

Unfortunately, the Rosebud is threatened by a proposed $400 million racetrack/resort development—Badlands Motorsports Resort—that could bring thousands of people and hundreds of loud high-powered cars and motorcycles into the valley on a daily basis. In addition to the racetrack and resort, the development would include extensive residential, commercial and retail uses, a complex stormwater management system, and modification or infilling of five wetlands. 

Saving the Rosebud

No impact assessment of this massive project to be sited in a designated environmentally significant area has been carried out either by the Alberta or federal government even though the size and scope of the racetrack and resort is completely out of scale with the rural nature of the area. The cumulative effects of having more than 300,000 visitors per year in their vehicles converging on the Rosebud area or the high-pitched whines of racecars and motorcycles echoing through the valley is simply unknown.  

For many years Save the Rosebud, a coalition of local residents and businesses, has been working to protect the Rosebud’s wetlands and grasslands.  Legal action against the proposed racetrack/resort proved to be unsuccessful (due to a flawed judicial decision in my view) but conservation easements of 4000 acres of important lands in the watershed have been acquired—and thus protected from development—by local residents.

The Rosebud River Valley is a Critical Habitat for Bank Swallows

Now, a June 2021 Recovery Strategy for Bank Swallow written by a team of scientists and published by Environment and Climate Change (ECCC) has confirmed that Bank Swallow populations in Canada are showing severe long-term declines and determined that the Rosebud Valley is critical habitat for the recovery of this threatened species. The Bank Swallow is an aerial insectivore that nests in colonies on vertical cliff faces and banks along water bodies such as the Rosebud. 

The federal government is obliged under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to ensure that this critical habitat is protected by provisions of, or measures in, SARA or other federal law, or that the prohibition against destruction of critical habitat of threatened species—such as Bank Swallow—is applied.

Unfortunately, the proposed racetrack/resort development would be sited directly on critical habitat for threatened Bank Swallows identified in the recovery strategy. 

What must be done to protect this ecological gem

Nature Canada’s view is that this Badlands racetrack/resort cannot be constructed without damaging critical habitat of Bank Swallows, important habitat for other wildlife, and an ecological gem of a valley that is precious to many Albertans. 

Surely, at a minimum, a comprehensive public review of the environmental and sustainability impacts of the proposed racetrack/resort must be carried out before any shovels are put in the ground. A public review would also assess the additional greenhouse gas emissions resulting from destruction of the Rosebud’s wetlands and grasslands (both of which store carbon), as well as race cars, motorcycles and visitors’ vehicles. 

Nature Canada is therefore urging the provincial and federal environment ministers to establish a joint panel review with public hearings to examine the impacts of the project before any decisions are made.

How you can help

Write Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and Jason Nixon, Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks, and ask them to establish a joint panel with public hearings to review the impacts of the proposed Badlands Motorsports Resort. 

Send the letter now!

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