Teck donation takes Lot 48 “very close” to conserved status
Teck Resources Limited (Teck) announced this morning that it is donating $2 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to go toward the purchase of the 127-hectare parcel land on the east side of Columbia Lake, currently valued at $7.2 million.
With other funding already in place, the NCC “is very close” to finalizing the purchase of the property, said Nancy Newhouse, NCC’s Canadian Rockies
program manager following the historic announcement May 28 at St. Eugene Resort.
“Teck is proud to support the (NCC), the Ktunaxa Nation and local communities in working to protect this area of great cultural and ecological significance. This investment will help conserve an important ecosystem in the headwaters of the Columbia River for the benefit of future generations,” stated Don Lindsay, Teck president and chief executive officer to a gathering of regional elected officials and First Nations, environmental and industry dignitaries.
“This ecologically and culturally rich property is the last remaining parcel of the east shore of Columbia Lake that is not yet designated for conservation. We are grateful for Teck’s support, which is a significant contribution to the protection of a national treasure. Today is a great day for conservation,” said NCC president and CEO John Lounds.
Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) elected officials were lighter in their shoes following the funding announcement, which takes the controversial land use issue away from their boardroom table.
“We are very pleased Teck was able to come forward,” said a relieved RDEK board chair and Electoral Area C director Rob Gay. “I thought when the trade (land trade proposal idea between Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and the province) didn’t happen – what next?”
Electoral Area F director Wendy Booth said she is optimistic, with this latest funding in place, that a final resolution to the Lot 48 issue was at hand. The Columbia Lake-side property is located in Area F.
“Hopefully it will come to a good conclusion. It is great to have all these partners come together,” she said, adding she believes most of her constituents are supportive of the piece of property being preserved. An example of that support is seen in promises made by local community organizations, such as those at Columbia Ridge, Columere Park and Columbia Springs, to provide funds for the endeavour.
“The fact they are committed to this project” shows what kind of support there is, Booth said. “I think they will be happy to see a successful resolution. Some people were losing patience and faith that we were going to be able to have a successful solution.”
The community with the strongest tie to the east side of Columbia Lake is the Ktunaxa Nation, which considers the area culturally significant. Among the reasons is the east side of the lake plays a key role in the Ktunaxa Creation Story, noted Ktunaxa Nation chair Kathryn Teneese.
“The east side of Columbia Lake is an integral part of Ktunaxa history,” she said. “It is the foundation of the Ktunaxa Creation Story and has been used by our people for thousands of years. Lot 48 is a significant piece of the cultural landscape of that area, and the Ktunaxa Nation have continuously supported all efforts to conserve this area for future generations. We would like to commend Teck, the (NCC) and all other contributors for their work and dedication to this common goal.”
For thousands of years the Ktunaxa people used the area as a site for villages and camps, as well as part of their transportation route to the prairies. Petroglyphs, other paintings and burial sites can be found at locations along the east side of the lake, including near Canal Flats (pictured), making it an archeological treasure as well.
Along with being culturally significant, the property, located between Columbia Lake Provincial Park and the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area, is a key habitat for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, elk and a number of rare and endangered species.
Teneese further thanked Teck for its contribution because the region’s biggest employer doesn’t even operate in the Columbia Valley, aside from its coal being tracked through it by CP Rail.
“Today is not the end of something, it is very much the beginning,” she said. Additionally, Teneese told the gathering that Lot 48 has never been considered in her Nation’s ongoing treaty negotiations with the province.
“It didn’t make any sense” to include it in those negotiations, she said, because it is land that should be considered as being owned.
Now comes the task of naming the property something more appropriate than a numbered lot, Teneese said, joking it was considered that it would simply be called Lot 48 but in the Ktunaxa tongue.
“It is a very significant place and the name will be sort-of-easily pronounceable,” she said.
Lot 48 became a hot button issue in the region in 2004/05 when Fairmont Hot Springs Resort Ltd. announced its intentions to begin addressing its long-term plans to develop an 18-hole golf course/resort on the property.
Local opposition resonated with then Area F director Martin Cullen who took the rare steps of convincing his fellow RDEK board members to support him in a forcing a back-zoning exercise on Fairmont Hot Springs and in February 2005 Bylaws 1880 and 1881 put forward by the regional government, making way to rezone the property from RES-SR to RR, which would nullify Fairmont’s ability to proceed with its resort plans.
A short while later Fairmont was sold to Ken Fowler Enterprises (KFE). When the regional board was contemplating the third reading of the bylaws KFE requested and received a six month deferral so it could approach the provincial government in order to try and work out a sale or land swap.
Several years of laborious negotiation ensued, with further deferrals granted before the NCC stepped forward and announced its intention to buy the land.
Former regional provincial parks manager, current City of Cranbrook Mayor and RDEK director Wayne Stetski, said he was happy to take in Teck’s funding announcement, noting he’s been familiar with the Lot 48 issue for 21 years.
“This wouldn’t have happened without the support and leadership of the RDEK. It’s really great to see,” he told e-KNOW.
“I really give the board (past and present) credit for their patience,” added current chair Gay.
Another aspect of Teck’s donation is the east side of Columbia Lake is a perfect location for a northern leopard frog re-introduction project, which Teck recently announced it was taking part in conjunction with the Vancouver Aquarium, Lindsay said.
Top photo: NCC president and CEO John Lounds and Ktunaxa Nation chair Kathryn Teneese, with Teck CEO and president Don Lindsay, right.