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Wildlife corridor in southwest Alberta named after former premier Jim Prentice

COLEMAN, Alta. — A swath of land in southwestern Alberta has been protected and named in honour of former premier Jim Prentice.

The Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor, which is in the Crowsnest Pass, is roughly five kilometres wide from east to west. It will connect Crown forest reserve land in the north to the Castle parks, as well as to Waterton Lakes National Park in the south and the adjoining Glacier National Park on the U.S. side.

Prentice’s widow, Karen Prentice, said the family is strongly behind the legacy project.

“It’s a fitting tribute to his connection to the Crowsnest Pass and passion for nature,” she said in a news release. “The creation of the corridor in Jim’s name will be a meaningful legacy for Canada.”

Officials with the Nature Conservancy of Canada said the project has international significance, because it will allow wildlife to travel through the Rocky Mountains in Canada and the United States.

“This wildlife corridor is the accumulation of many years of work in the Crowsnest Pass and is a major conservation achievement,” said Bob Demulder, who’s the organization’s regional vice-president.

He said the conservancy will continue to work with the provincial government to complete the project.

Friday’s announcement sets the stage for future wildlife crossing options, including overpasses and fencing that would guide animals away from traffic and allow them to safely cross the highway in the area.

The project also includes a 55-hectare property and a commitment from the Alberta government that some Crown lands in the area will remain undeveloped.

The province has contributed $1 million to help leverage further fundraising for the campaign.

“Mr. Prentice loved this province,” said Premier Rachel Notley. “In the true spirit and commitment of public service, he worked tirelessly to protect it for the people of this province.

“All Albertans will benefit from this beautiful natural space, forever protected in his name.”

Prentice and three other men were killed in a plane crash in October 2016. The Cessna Citation jet went down shortly after takeoff from Kelowna, B.C., on its way to Calgary.

He became the 16th premier of Alberta in September 2014 after he was chosen leader of the Progressive Conservative party, but went down to defeat when Notley’s NDP won the election the following May.

He was first elected as a member of Parliament from Calgary in 2004 and held a number of cabinet posts until he retired from federal politics in 2010.