Environment and Climate Change Canada has approved $16.1 million over the next four years for the Ktunaxa Nation Council to develop an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area for the Jumbo Valley.
The total area would encompass up to 211,045 hectares of land in Qat’muk, the significant region for the Ktunaxa Nation in the central Purcell Mountains.
“After nearly 30 years of determined efforts to keep Jumbo wild by the Ktunaxa Nation and people from across the Kootenays—and around the world—we can celebrate this major step toward legal recognition of Qat’muk,” said John Bergenske, Conservation Director with Wildsight.
The Government of Canada is approving $16.1 million over the next four years to the Ktunaxa Nation to map and assess cultural and biodiversity values, develop protected area boundaries, and further conservation activities stretching from Bugaboo Provincial Park in the north to the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy in the south. However, the government funding is conditional on signing a contribution agreement and negotiating the project details.
“The development of a Ktunaxa Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in the central Purcell Mountains is a momentous success and critical step in protecting the plants and animals that call this special place home,” said Bergenske.
For decades the area has been the focus of Jumbo Glacier Resort, who have been looking to build a ski resort community in Qat’muk, although they just recently lost their environmental certificate, further setting back the proposed project.
More: Jumbo Glacier Resort Loses Environmental Certificate (August 7, 2019)
Known to be a critical habitat for grizzly bears, the Jumbo Valley supports habitats for hundreds of species. To the Ktunaxa people, Qat’muk is believed to be home to the grizzly bear spirit and is a sacred and spiritual place.
“We can now start to imagine a future where wildlife can freely and safely roam, where water runs clean and clear from the mountains to surrounding communities, and where the ecological and cultural integrity of the wild Purcells remains intact for future generations,” said Bergenske. “We celebrate this fantastic news, and Wildsight will continue our work to maintain wildlife and biodiversity of the entire Purcell ecosystem.”
If the Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area is approved by the Government of Canada, the lands and waters will be influenced through indigenous laws and governance, through their protection and conservation of the affected ecosystem.