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Jumbo Glacier Resort Loses Environmental Certificate

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld the 2015 decision by the Provincial Minister of Environment that construction on Jumbo Glacier Resort was not “substantially started” in order to fulfill the requirements of their environmental assessment certificate, pushing the heavily contested ski resort community back into limbo.

Jumbo Glacier was first scouted for potential development in 1991 while Jumbo Glacier Resort entered got exclusive rights to propose development in the area 55 kilometres west of Invermere in 1993. In 1995, a review of the Jumbo Glacier Resort project commenced before information was submitted in 2003 and 2004 for the environmental assessment.

An environmental assessment certificate was then given to Jumbo Glacier Resort on October 12, 2004, although the project still needed appropriate zoning from the Regional District of East Kootenay, a Master Development Agreement from Land and Water B.C. Inc., and an Impact Management and Benefits Agreement with Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Tribal Council prior to submitting the final Ski Area Master Plan.

Glacier Resorts Ltd. plans for Jumbo Glacier Resort were a 104-hectare resort community which would include accommodation for 5,500 guests and 750 resort staff, and four separate ski areas which would ultimately span 5,925 hectares including access to glacier skiing.

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One major provision also loomed over the project was Condition 13, which stated that, in the reasonable opinion of the Minister of Environment, the group must have “substantially started” construction within five years of the date of issue of the environmental assessment certificate.

Not able to get the Master Development Agreement in time before the deadline, Jumbo Glacier Resort got a one-time extension of five years to complete the requirements of the environmental assessment certificate, which the Minister ruled had not been completed by October 12, 2014, the maximum time allowed to Glacier Resorts Ltd.

In a lower court, that ruling was overturned, but as of Tuesday, the B.C. Court of Appeal has since upheld the Minister’s decision from 2015, finding that Jumbo Glacier Resort did not substantially start construction, thus making their certificate invalid.

As of that date, Glacier Resorts Ltd. had poured the concrete floor slab and foundational preparations for the day lodge at the resort base, the concrete slab for a service building, foundational anchors for a quad chairlift, built a handful of bridges and found a well for potable water.

Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society have been intervenors in the court proceedings between Glaciers Resorts Ltd. and the Minister of Environment, fighting to keep “Jumbo Wild” and protecting the Purcell Mountains from development.

The proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort would be built in a spiritual and sacred area to the Ktunaxa Nation called Qat’muk, also known to be a highly populated habitat for grizzly bears.

“With the resort dead in the water, Jumbo is going to stay wild,” said John Bergenske, Wildsight’s Conservation Director. “Now, it’s time for Qat’muk to be legally recognized.”

“Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society have spent decades fighting to keep Jumbo Wild,” shares Meredith Hamstead of the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society. “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.”

Ecojustice has represented Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society in the proceedings since 2014, making submissions to the Minister of Environment alongside the Ktunaxa Nation which guided some of the decision-making process which initially stopped the Jumbo Glacier Resort Project.

“The original assessment for this project was conducted in the 1990s, and was based on information which is now outdated,” said Olivia French, a lawyer with Ecojustice. “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.”
Qat’muk is a special place to the Ktunaxa people, as the Jumbo Valley serves as a sacred and spiritual place, believed by the Ktunaxa to be home of the grizzly bear spirit. The Jumbo Valley is also scientifically known to be a major habitat for grizzly bear and connectivity to other neighbouring habitat areas for the species.

Following the B.C. Court of Appeal’s most recent ruling on the environmental assessment certificate, Jumbo Glacier Resort is taking another significant step backwards, while Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society look to permanently protect the area from development.

“Beyond Qat’muk, wildlife need long-term protection in the broader Central Purcell Mountains, all the way from the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy to Glacier National Park,” added Bergenske.

More: B.C. Court of Appeal Ruling (August 6, 2019)

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