Local groups celebrate Jumbo decision
Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society are celebrating a win for the Jumbo Valley following a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling August 6.
The court ruled that a 2015 decision made by then B.C. Minister of Environment Mary Polak that the (Jumbo) Glacier Resort Ltd. project’s environmental assessment certificate had expired because the project had not been “substantially started”—should be reinstated after being previously overturned by a lower court.
“Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society (JCCS) have spent decades fighting to keep Jumbo Wild. We are thrilled that the court has come to the logical decision that the project was never substantially started and its environmental assessment certificate has expired,” shared Meredith Hamstead of the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society.
“With the resort dead in the water, Jumbo is going to stay wild. Now, it’s time for Qat’muk to be legally recognized,” added John Bergenske, Wildsight’s Conservation Director. “And beyond Qat’muk, wildlife needs long-term protection in the broader Central Purcell Mountains, all the way from the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy to Glacier National Park.”
Since 2014, Ecojustice has represented Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society in the proceedings before the Minister and, along with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, made submissions that formed the basis for the minister’s decision.
“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 The original assessment for this project was conducted in the 1990s and was based on information which is now outdated.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,” stated Olivia French, Ecojustice Lawyer.
Jumbo Valley, part of the area known as Qat’muk, is a sacred and spiritual place for the Ktunaxa people. The Valley is part of one of North America’s most important international wildlife corridors and recent research reinforces the importance of this area as grizzly bear habitat and connectivity, Wildsight and JCCS pointed out in a joint media release.
“The proposed resort’s environmental certificate expired 10 years after it was first granted because by then the project’s developer had only managed to pour a pair of concrete slabs in the remote mountain valley. At issue in the appeal was whether the ministers’ determination was reasonable that those concrete slabs did not constitute a “substantial start” to the proposed billion dollar resort, planned to include thousands of bed units and numerous lifts,” the release stated.
“This is an important win for the Jumbo Valley and was only possible due to a persistent, collaborative effort of more than two decades by many organizations and individuals passionate about protecting this special place.”
The Jumbo Glacier ski resort proposal, initiated by Vancouver-based architect Oberto Oberti’s Pheidias Project Management Corp., has been on provincial books since 1991.
The JCCS was formed soon after details of the proposed resort became public, with Wildsight (then known as the East Kootenay Environmental Society) working alongside.
To be located at the base of Jumbo Mountain and Jumbo Glacier on a former sawmill site, the proposed resort would access four nearby glaciers at an elevation of up to 3,419 metres (11,217 feet). It was to feature 5,500 bed-units (plus 750 beds for staff accommodations) in a 110-hectare resort area.
Glacier Resort Ltd. Information notes: “At build-out, the resort will see up to 2,000 to 3,000 visitors per day in high season. In winter, the ski area will offer a 1,715 metre (5,627 feet) 100% natural snow vertical. In summer, up to 700 metres (2,300 feet) of natural snow vertical will be available on the glaciers.
“The resort’s location was chosen for its optimal snow conditions, high elevations, large glaciers, and the fact that the Jumbo Creek valley has seen significant prior use. The valley provides the easiest access to 3,000-metre high (10,000 feet) glaciers in North America.”
Lead image: e-KNOW illustration showing a grizzly over top of the Jumbo Valley sawmill site where the proposed resort was to be centred.