Court of Appeal rules Jumbo Valley to stay wild
The B.C. Court of Appeal today (August 6) ruled that the original 2015 decision of then Minister of Environment Mary Polak, that the Jumbo Glacier Resort project’s environmental assessment certificate was expired as the project had not been substantially started, should be reinstated.
Without a certificate, Glacier Resort Ltd. cannot undertake any construction or operation of the project and cannot obtain provincial approvals needed for the project.
Until Glacier Resorts successfully completes a new environmental assessment process, this resort project is dead, stated Ecojustice in a media release noting it is “celebrating a win for the Jumbo Valley, an area of B.C.’s Purcell Mountains that is critical grizzly bear habitat and sacred to the Ktunaxa Nation.”
For years, Ecojustice, on behalf of clients Wildsight and Jumbo Creek Conservation Society, has fought Glacier Resorts on what it calls a “zombie” project, whose environmental assessment is now more than a decade out of date.
Olivia French, lawyer for Ecojustice, said: “Projects that have a significant environmental impact, like Glacier Ltd.’s proposed Jumbo Valley Resort, must be assessed using current information, not data more than a decade out of date. Respecting the expiration dates of environmental assessments is essential, because scientific understanding and best practices can change dramatically in a decade.
“It stands to reason that developers can’t be allowed to hang on to an Environmental Certificate for ever. The original assessment for this project was conducted in the 1990s and was based on information which is now outdated. The law in B.C. requires project proponents to start their projects within ten years of receiving their certificates to ensure that up to date information and the best technology is used to avoid the harmful impacts of large projects like these,” she said.
“Ecojustice has spent years fighting the Jumbo Glacier Resort. For the time being, the Jumbo Valley is safe, as the project can’t proceed without going through environmental assessment again. Given the current state of grizzly bears in the region, and the opposition of the Ktunaxa First Nation, it’s hard to conceive of any viable future for this project,” French said.
Under provincial law, Glacier Resorts Ltd. had 10 years to “substantially start” work on the Jumbo Glacier Resort, but failed to substantially start construction of the project within that timeframe.
In 2015, the Minister of Environment determined that Glacier Resorts had not “substantially started” the project by the deadline of the Environmental Certificate. Glacier Resorts asked for a judicial review of the Minister’s decision – which was upheld today.
Ecojustice represented these clients in the proceedings before the Minister and, along with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, made submissions that formed the basis for the Minister’s decision.
Developing Jumbo Valley has been proposed in one form or another for more than 25 years and has met significant opposition from local communities and the Ktunaxa Nation.
Jumbo Valley lies along one of North America’s most important wildlife corridors and is an important habitat for grizzly bears. The unique positioning of the valley makes it a go-between where bears can cross between Canada and the United states, Ecojustice said.