Jumbo Glacier and Lake of the Hanging Glacier. File photo.

Site of planned Jumbo Valley ski resort to be protected, managed by First Nations

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

A decades-long dispute over the development of a proposed ski resort in the mountains west of Invermere is over.

The Ktunaxa Nation Council has announced that the area around the Jumbo Valley — known as Qat’muk — will be protected under a conservation framework led and governed by Indigenous Peoples.

Glacier Resorts Ltd has been trying to develop a year-round ski resort in the Jumbo valley for the last 30 years but has faced significant opposition from local conservation groups and First Nations, including a number of legal challenges that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

However, development rights in the Jumbo Valley have been fully and permanently extinguished, due to a partnership between the Ktunaxa, the provincial and federal governments, and conservation groups, according to a media release.

With just over $21 million in public and private funding, all tenures and interests held by Glacier Resorts Ltd have been bought out following a pair of agreements between the provincial government, Glacier Resorts Ltd. and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Kathryn Teneese, the chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, characterized the announcement as the beginning of a new chapter.

“We’re turning the page and now we’re bringing forward an opportunity, not just for the Ktunaxa, but, I think, our neighbours and other like-minded people to have an opportunity to work with us, to create a legacy that will be available for everybody’s future generations,” Teneese said, in an interview.

“…It’s a way to get something positive out of our decades-long battle and I just think that there’s so many things that could come out of it in terms of a different way of being and a different way of seeing our place as human beings on this planet.”

The Ktunaxa is working towards the creation of an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA), which is overseen by Indigenous governments and focuses on Indigenous relationship to the land, preserving both cultural values and biological diversity.

The creation of the IPCA is expected to take years of collaboration between the Ktunaxa, federal and provincial governments, and other parties. It will cover 70,000 hectares north of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and encompass the Jumbo Valley and parts of the adjacent watersheds.

Teneese noted the province recently passed a bill to align legislation with principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was adopted by the global body in 2007.

“Here we have a way, in one small piece, of bringing some of that to life and that we, from this area, would be the leaders in that regard,” Teneese said.

While the area around Qat’muk is valued for biodiversity, it also carries significant spiritual importance to the Ktunaxa, as it is considered home to the Grizzly Bear Spirit.

Moving forward, defining boundaries and setting stewardship objectives for a protected and conserved area will be the immediate goal, which will be developed through consultation with the Ktunaxa, the provincial government, local communities and stakeholders.

That process is hoped to be well underway by late this year.

Public access to the Qat’muk and the surrounding area will remain the status quo moving forward.

Nancy Newhouse, the B.C. Regional Vice President for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, celebrated the announcement.

“This marks a significant step towards conserving Qat’muk in perpetuity, which will help maintain crucial wildlife habitat connections while also safeguarding a living, cultural relationship with the land,” Newhouse said. “We are honoured to support the Ktunaxa in achieving their vision of an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in the Central Purcell Mountains, and we welcome the opportunity for shared learning of Ktunaxa stewardship principles and natural law.”

Details of the opportunity to create an IPCA first arose last August, when then-Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced a $16 million federal contribution to protect the Qat’muk and Jumbo area.

READ: Feds give Ktunaxa Nation $16M to protect contentious Jumbo Glacier Resort site

Representatives from the provincial and federal government praised the partnerships that led to the creation of the IPCA.

“It took foresight and leadership from local First Nations people and other communities to get to the point where we can now work toward conserving critical habitat for species at risk over this vast area, namely the Grizzly Bear, the Southern Mountain Caribou and the Whitebark Pine,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Michelle Mungall, MLA for neighbouring Nelson-Creston riding, hailed the creation of the IPCA as the right thing to do.

“Today reflects the strength, tenacity and courage of Kootenay people, especially the Ktunaxa Nation. To be able to say that Jumbo, Qat’muk, will remain wild is a long time coming,” said Mungall,the B.C. Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

“That we are working towards an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area is reconciliation in action and it is the right thing to do. Keep Jumbo Wild is no longer a bumper sticker pleading for the very centre of our region.

“It is a reality.”

An additional $5 million in funding is also being utilized for the IPCA, coming from the Wyss Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Patagonia, the Columbia Basin Trust and Donner Canadian Foundation.

“Together with the Wyss Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Patagonia and the Donner Canadian Foundation, we are honoured to support the Ktunaxa Nation in their decades-long effort to protect and steward Qat’muk and its cultural and ecological treasures for current and future generations,” said Johnny Strilaeff, CEO of the Columbia Basin Trust, speaking on behalf of the non-government donor group.

The protection of the Qat’muk area has been an ongoing matter of contention since the 1990s, due to concerns over landscape and wildlife habitat impacts and spiritual implications to development of the land.

The Ktunaxa issued the Qat’muk Declaration ten years ago, affirming the area’s religious significance and establishing a set of stewardship principles.

When the province approved a master development plan for the proposed ski resort in 2012, the Ktunaxa challenged it in court, arguing the provincial government hadn’t provided adequate consultation and that the project would infringe upon religious freedoms.

That case wound through the provincial superior and appeal court before landing in the Supreme Court of Canada, with the majority opinion ruling against the Ktunaxa and concluding that the government’s approval of the development was reasonable and didn’t violate religious freedoms.

READ: Supreme Court of Canada dismisses Ktunaxa Jumbo resort appeal

Glacier Resorts Ltd also filed a judicial review after a provincial government cabinet minister declared the project was not substantially started by an October 2014 deadline. While the judicial review ruled the minister’s decision was unreasonable, it was challenged by the province and overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal last summer.

The appeal court’s ruling affirming the provincial government’s determination that the project was not substantially started essentially allowed an Environmental Assessment Certificate — a permit necessary for the resort’s development— to expire.

While the province mulled the substantial start determination, Glacier Resorts Ltd argued that the minister should have considered not just physical construction, but administrative work as well.

By October 2014, on-site construction included the concrete floor slab of a day lodge, a concrete floor slab of a service building, foundation for chair lift anchors and various bridge structures and road work necessary to access the site.

However, aspects of the project were considered in non-compliance under the terms identified in the Environmental Assessment Certificate.

A formal proposal to pursue the development of a ski resort was filed in 1991. An environmental assessment process began four years later and lasted nearly a decade, when an Environmental Assessment Certificate was issued in 2004. The certificate was extended for another five-year term in 2009 while the proponent drew up a master development plan.

Glacier Resorts Ltd. envisioned a development with a ski base covering 105 hectares and ski-able terrain covering 5,000 hectares with elevations up to 3,400 metres



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shea Long roosts in the Shoot Out in the Telkwa Range. (SnoRiders, Houston/Shea Long photo)
Telkwa Range snowmobiling permit lottery opens

Application period is Oct. 20 to Nov. 20 for snowmobiliers and skiers to gain access to Starr Basin

Students from Houston Secondary School showed up voluntarily on Nov. 29, 2019, during their lunch break to provide input on the board’s strategic plan. (Matthew Monkman/Houston Today)
SD 54 unveils their new logo

Part of the Strategic Draft Plan released by the school district

The Dupras family has been regulars at the Babine River and have seen plentiful grizzlies over the years. (Jay Dupras photo/Lakes District News)
A family’s close encounter with a grizzly on Babine River bridge

Photo-enthusiasts let the bear access the bridge for photos putting others at risk

Catenary poles, from which lights will be strung, mark some of the progress as the 9th St. improvement project nears its finishing date. (Houston Today photo)
Downtown work to continue into end of this month

Finishing touches not expected until next spring

District of Houston office
Wants variance to allow taller building

Property owners adjacent to M. Brown Contracting on Vriend Road have the… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
2 years after huge highway acid spill, Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

Most Read