The Whitewater Canyon area of the Selkirk Mountains within the proposed tenure of the Zincton ski resort. Photo: Nicky Blackshaw

New environmental group wants cumulative impact planning for Selkirk Mountains

The Wild Connection was formed in response to the Zincton ski resort proposal

The newly formed group The Wild Connection doesn’t necessarily want to shut down the Zincton ski resort proposed for the Selkirk Mountains between New Denver and Kaslo.

But before the province approves the project, the group wants the government to do land-use planning for a large portion of the Selkirk Mountains, and look at the cumulative impacts of all kinds of development there.

Otherwise, they say, wildlife corridors and biodiversity are threatened.

“The Zincton Village proposal is just a symptom of a larger problem,” says group spokesperson K.L. Kivi, “whereby the government is not making land-use decisions based on cumulative impacts of all the variety of [projects] that are happening in that area.”

Kivi was referring to a region the group is calling Piq kiʔláwnaʔ, pronounced pik-ki-lau-na, which in Sinixt means white grizzly.

It encompasses a corridor in the Selkirks that includes Goat Range Provincial Park in the north and Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park to the south. Highway 31A between Kaslo and New Denver bisects this area perpendicularly.

Zincton Mountain Resort would be built along the slopes of Whitewater Mountain near New Denver. The road shown south of the tenure is Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo. Photo: Brent Harley and Associates

Zincton Mountain Resort would be built along the slopes of Whitewater Mountain near New Denver. The road shown south of the tenure is Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo. Photo: Brent Harley and Associates

“Piq kiʔláwnaʔ is a wild place,” the group’s website states. “Grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats, and western toads live here. A range of mountain slope, alpine, wetland, valley bottom and old growth forest habitats provide healthy and diverse ecosystems, which biologists have documented as exceptionally rich. These are also key to maintaining water quality and quantity, and buffering the effects of climate change.”

The Wild Connection website goes on to say that this region is essential for grizzly and wolverine connectivity.

Related: Feedback shows wide range of concerns about Zincton ski resort proposal

David Harley, the proponent of the project, has described Zincton as a unique model of ski resort built with the environment in mind, with green energy, low waste, no hotels, exclusion zones for high-value wildlife areas, and jobs for locals.

The provincial government has just completed a public consultation process in which it received over 3,000 responses. The province’s Mountain Resorts Branch will now determine the feasibility of the project based on all comments received and through the identification of any land use conflicts.

Meanwhile, The Wild Connection is looking at the larger landscape, not just Zincton.

“We know that Kokanee Glacier Park is being turned into a wildlife island,” says Kivi, “because it’s got serious highways and habitation on three sides. This is the last point of connection for Kokanee Glacier Park to receive genetic mixing and for wildlife to be able to move freely.”

She said adding another several hundred vehicles per day to Highway 31A for a backcountry resort or for any other reason won’t help.

Related: Zincton proponent reaches out to Kaslo council

Group member Nicky Blackshaw says regional planning for cumulative effects will help New Denver fulfill its community plan.

“In our official community plans, residents have already clearly indicated that we don’t want to put all of our eggs in the tourism basket. Instead, we’re looking for appropriate, right-size development that promotes diversity and attracts full-time residents. We want healthy ecosystems, they want peace and quiet and privacy.”

She said New Denver and surrounding communities already have scarce housing and too many seasonal residents. A regional planning exercise would decide whether most residents want this.

Blackshaw said the group wants provincial and regional governments to “come together for transparent and community based planning processes that look at all users on the landscape in their cumulative impact.”

She also wants the federal government involved because of its 2020 biodiversity pledge, along with the United Kingdom and the European Union, to conserve 30 per cent of its land and oceans by 2030.

Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and the MLA for the area, referred the Nelson Star to her ministry’s communications staff for comment.

A spokesperson said in an email that the Zincton proposal is in a project review process guided by ministry policies that guide the use of Crown land for resorts.

He said the purpose is “to foster well-balanced, environmentally sensitive mountain resorts” and that applications occur in several stages.

“If this project proceeds in a Major Project Review Process, MRB will continue to engage with Indigenous Peoples, Communities and Stakeholders to understand their interests and how they may be impacted by this proposal.”

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