For over 25 years, there has been a battle over the Jumbo Glacier area, adjacent to the Columbia Valley. The debate started when investors showed interest in creating a world-class ski resort in the Glacier area, which is known for its wilderness.
Almost immediately, the project was met with opposition. One of the main groups protesting the project is the local environmental group, Wildsight. According to Wildsight’s Executive Director, Robyn Duncan, the resort cannot currently proceed due to the province nullifying their environmental certificate in June 2015.
“At this point they have no legal right to move forward with any development. Development would require an environmental certificate and that was cancelled in June of last year and as I say, that remains in effect so they cannot move forward at this point,” she said.
Because the resort cannot currently move ahead with its original proposal, Grant Costello, the general manager for Glacier Resorts, said they have altered their plans to potentially move ahead with a smaller scale resort.
“Last year when the Minister ruled there was ‘no substantial start’, Glacier was left with two options; start over with a new environmental review (the first one took nine years) or modify the project,” said Costello in an email to The Free Press. “Glacier chose the second option and is working through that process. There is no timeline. However, Glacier has a 60 year tenure with an 11 volume approved Master Plan and a legally intact Master Development Agreement.”
The altered proposal would be for a resort with 2,000 beds instead of the 6,500-bed resort that was originally proposed.
The Ministry of Environment’s decision to nullify Jumbo Glacier Resort’s environmental certificate is currently being challenged in the court system.
“The Environmental Certificate has 195 conditions. Most are pre-construction and have been met. The ‘substantial start’ condition was not met in the opinion of the Minister and Glacier has initiated the judicial review process to have the Minister’s decision overturned,” said Costello. “The project has been challenged three times at the B.C. Supreme Court and twice at the B.C. Court of Appeal and each time the courts have found no merit in the opponent’s claims and have unanimously upheld Glacier’s legal right to proceed.”
Despite Glacier Resort’s determination to proceed, Wildsight will not support any kind of resort in the area, large or small.
“There are some areas where development is not appropriate and for us, Jumbo is one of those areas. Not only is it sacred territory for the Ktunaxa Nation, who have very vehemently said this area is off limits to development, but it is really critical area for grizzly bears,” said Duncan.
According to Costello, Jumbo Glacier Resorts has made a commitment to protecting the environment, which is detailed in their master plan.
“The 11-volume Master Plan and the multi-volume Jumbo Glacier Resort response to the nine year Environmental Assessment demonstrate Glacier’s commitment to protecting the environment,” he said.
Costello said construction on the resort will begin once the legal challenges have “run their course and the risk has diminished for investors.” He said the construction on the resort could take 20 or 30 years to fully complete.
In the last year, Wildsight partnered with Patagonia to release a documentary dedicated to the issue, Jumbo Wild. Wildsight is also leading a petition to support the Ktunaxa in their battle to protect the area.
“Thousands of people are signing the petition to support the Ktunaxa and their right to recognize the area and sacred territory for them,” Duncan said.
Duncan is hoping the battle over the Jumbo Glacier area will soon come to an end.
“We are at 25 years on. It’s time to end this. It has dragged on too long for both sides and there are a lot of things that should have changed and should have happened differently over the 25 years. Both sides have agreed to that very strongly.”