After 25 years, our region received some very good news: Jumbo Glacier Resort lost its environmental certificate that allowed it to build a mega resort on Jumbo Glacier. The Kootenays responded with a big cheer. We had been clear for more than two decades that this proposed resort was a bad idea and unwanted.
It’s not that we didn’t like the resort because we have a problem with skiing or snowboarding. The Kootenays have one of the highest concentrations of ski resorts and back country operations in North America. We love to ski! I’m a snowboarder and most of my friends can be found on the hill when the snow flies. So we know a good ski resort from a bad one, and Jumbo Glacier Resort was destined to be a bad one.
We certainly don’t have a problem with economic development. Kootenay people are amazing entrepreneurs, ever expanding the tourism industry and all the other industries that make us such a special part of the world. But not everything is going to fit in our economic strategy, and Jumbo Glacier Resort didn’t fit.
We believe it imperative that we protect our environment for generations to come. In an era of climate change, skiing on a glacier just doesn’t make sense.
We need it to provide clean fresh water to drink, irrigate farms, stock our lakes, and generate carbon-free electricity. Along with protecting our water sources, we protect our wildlife, and the Jumbo Valley is home to a genetically important grizzly bear population as well as many other species who would have been negatively impacted by a resort.
We also know that building respectful relationships with First Nations is the way forward. Reconciliation will never happen if governments and communities do not recognize and value the spiritual traditions and culture of aboriginal peoples.
The Ktunaxa name for Jumbo is Qat’muk. It is home of the grizzly bear spirit, and is a sacred place in their traditions. Despite aboriginal peoples’ long experiences of being oppressed, beaten, denigrated and mocked for sharing their traditions, the Ktunaxa gathered their courage to let the world know what Qat’muk meant to them and that a resort there would be devastating.
Words cannot express the honour it has been to bring these voices to the legislature and pressure the Liberal government to keep Jumbo wild.
They ignored us in 2004 when they allowed the resort proponents to proceed by issuing the necessary environmental certificate. They ignored us in 2009 when they automatically renewed the certificate. They ignored us when they came up with the crazy scheme of setting up and funding a fake town to issue permits for the resort.
But we couldn’t be ignored forever. Major investors stayed away. The proponent failed. We never stopped. And it made the difference.
The proponents now say they might come back with a new design that won’t require an environmental certificate to proceed. I doubt they have the financial backing to do this, but even if they do, they would do better to read the law in full and consider it.
The law is clear that the minister may designate any project for an environmental review, particularly if there are potential “adverse environmental, economic, social, heritage, or health effect” from the proposal.
Knowing what we know about the potential for adverse effects in all of these criteria, it is wishful thinking to suggest that a smaller scale resort for this area wouldn’t require an environmental assessment. With that it mind, the proponents might want to reconsider their stubbornness, cut their losses and move on because the Kootenays will keep Jumbo wild.
We will continue to sign petitions, put bumper stickers on cars, attend rallies, write letters, donate, go to court, elect representative who work to keep Jumbo wild, and talk to other people about Jumbo if that’s what it takes. But friends, I think we can celebrate the amazing work we have done and the results we have achieved. Jumbo is wild and it is going to stay that way.
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall writes here once a month.