With its stunning views, charismatic wildlife, and clean air and water, the Bow Valley is one of Canada’s most popular places to live and recreate. But the Valley has not always been as busy as it is today. In the 1970s, for example, Canmore was a quiet coal mining town with fewer than 2,000 residents. Today, Canmore is home to nearly 15,000 permanent residents and an additional 4,000 part-time residents.
Another four to five million visitors come to the area each year, reflected in statistics like the number of Canmore’s hotel rooms, which has increased by more than 1,200% since 1979, and daily summer traffic on the Trans Canada Highway, which has nearly quadrupled in the same time. Meanwhile annual visitation to Banff National Park is now well over four million people and grew by an average of 6% each year between 2013 and 2018.
As the Bow Valley’s population and recreation footprint have increased, so too has pressure on wildlife and other natural resources. The Biosphere Institute addresses two major challenges affecting the Valley: human-wildlife coexistence and climate change.
We use a range of educational tools to build a culture of responsible behaviour, including classroom presentations, how-to workshops, and in-depth collaborations with volunteers who educate their fellow citizens. We conduct targeted research to understand interconnected social and ecological questions, such as development trends in Canmore and how to balance human activity and wildlife conservation. We engage citizens in tangible, community-led projects. Our programs aim to incorporate best practices and promote innovative approaches to conservation to the Bow Valley.
The Biosphere Institute is guided by the understanding that as a community, we have the capability and responsibility to create enduring change for our world.
The WildSmart program is a proactive conservation strategy that encourages efforts by Bow Valley communities to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions. WildSmart leads diverse Education and Outreach efforts to raise public awareness and empower citizens to coexist safely with wildlife. We also train enthusiastic volunteers to share their knowledge with their peers by becoming Wildlife Ambassadors, and we undertake Attractant Management to help keep wild animals out of areas heavily used by people. We maintain real-time resources on our website, such as the Bear Report and Trail Closures and Warnings, as well a variety of information guides about how you can keep yourself and wildlife safe in the Bow Valley.
The Shift program empowers Bow Valley residents and businesses to take action on climate change by reducing their energy emissions, waste production, and water use. We organize community-based projects and participatory public workshops on topics such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, alternative transportation, and composting. We also produce a monthly newsletter with tips to reduce your carbon footprint. Shift publishes a number of other printed and online resources for businesses and residents describing energy, waste, and water facts, our local context, and how to take action.
Since 1999, we have monitored trends in the Town of Canmore’s demographics, economy, social fabric, and environmental sustainability. We publish the results bi-annually in the Canmore Community Monitoring Report. The Canmore Community Monitoring Report helps guide municipal decision-making, facilitates early detection of risks to community health, and tracks Canmore’s progress towards its vision. The most recent edition of the Canmore Community Monitoring Report was published in 2016, and the next Report will come out at the end of 2019.
We are a community resource centre that provides easy access to research studies, technical reports, and other conservation documents. Our library provides land managers, elected representatives, business leaders and the public with the best available resources to understand our history and to inform our decisions about the future. Over 2,300 hard-copy references are available for viewing and borrowing at the Biosphere Institute office in downtown Canmore. We also have equipment available for public loan for home energy efficiency monitoring, wildlife attractant management and removal, and aquatic restoration.
We host regular workshops and other public events throughout the year, including WildSmart Speaker Series, solar information sessions, and rain barrel and vermicomposting workshops. Check out our Facebook page or our events page for more information on upcoming events.
Sign-up to receive electronic publications from the Biosphere Institute. From April to November, the WildSmart Bear Report provides a weekly summary of bear (and other wildlife) activity in the Bow Valley between the Banff National Park East gate and Bow Valley Provincial Park. The information in the bear report is intended to help the public make informed decisions about where and how to recreate based on recent wildlife movement patterns.
You can also sign-up to receive our monthly Shift newsletter, which contains tips for reducing your personal contributions towards climate change and for taking action on pressing climate issues. The newsletter features local events and positive news stories, as well as highlighting upcoming events hosted by the Biosphere Institute.
Are you interested in helping to protect biodiversity in the Bow Valley and Kananaskis Country? Depending on the time of year, the Biosphere Institute has various volunteer opportunities. These include providing wildlife safety messaging on trails in Kananaskis and attractant management along trails and on public lands in the Town of Canmore. Sign up to our mailing list, and we will contact you to inform you of upcoming volunteer opportunities in the Bow Valley.
The Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley is a registered charity. Our partners and funders have played a crucial role in the ongoing work of the organization since its inception over 20 years ago. The support and generosity of these partnerships continues to foster meaningful education, research and engagement in our communities. You can donate directly to the Biosphere Institute here.