Fighting to keep Jumbo wild

Glacier Resorts Ltd. v. British Columbia (Minister of Environment)
Photo by PatMorrow.com
Program area – Nature Status: Victory
Overview
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Ringed by towering peaks, Jumbo Valley is located deep in the British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains.

The valley provides important habitat for wildlife, including grizzly bears. It is sacred to the Ktunaxa First Nation. The striking landscape is precious to people living in nearby communities. And its beauty — and the fight to protect it — even inspired a film, Jumbo Wild.

For decades, however, a proposed year-round mega ski resort threatened Jumbo Valley.

That’s why Ecojustice went to court on behalf of Jumbo Creek Conservation Society and Wildsight, two groups who opposed the project on the grounds that it would have grave impacts on the environment and on local communities.

And together, we won.

On behalf of our clients, Ecojustice lawyers argued that Glacier Resorts Ltd., the company behind the proposed resort, shouldn’t be allowed to proceed with construction because its environmental assessment certificate had expired.

Expiration dates for environmental assessments are important because scientific understanding and best practice can change dramatically in a decade. For example, the original grizzly bear data used in the Jumbo Glacier Resort project’s assessment in the 1990s is now wildly out of date.

Under provincial laws, Glacier Resorts Ltd. had 10 years from 2004 to “substantially start” work on the Jumbo Glacier Resort. However, the company made a number of missteps caused it to miss this deadline.

As a result, the province’s environment minister ruled that the company had failed to meet the deadline, leading to the certificate’s expiration.

Glacier Resorts challenged this decision by taking the B.C. government to court. On behalf of our clients, Ecojustice intervened to keep Jumbo wild.

After a disappointing decision in August 2018, Ecojustice intervened a second time in an appeal of that ruling. Then, in August 2019, the B.C. Court of Appeal issued a decision that, for the time being, prevents Glacier Resorts Ltd. from proceeding with the proposed resort.

In January 2020, the Ktunaxa, federal government, and provincial government agreed to turn Jumbo Valley and the surrounding mountains into the Qat’muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA). The agreement closes the door on the controversial ski resort and officially puts the Ktunaxa in charge of stewarding and managing the vast conservation area – for good.

Environmental assessment certificates come with conditions and expiry dates for a reason.

The data that informed the Jumbo Glacier Resort assessment in the 1990s became completely outdated. So much has changed since then: biodiversity loss is accelerating, and Canada is warming twice as fast as the global average.

That’s why developers shouldn’t be allowed to hang on to an environmental assessment certificate forever without taking action start their projects.

What does this victory mean?

Upholding environmental laws and setting positive precedents are central to Ecojustice’s work, but it’s also important to remember the more tangible reasons Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society opposed this project.

In the face of a biodiversity crisis, the B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision is a clear win for threatened grizzly bears and other species that call the Jumbo Valley home.

It is also a successful outcome for members of the Ktunaxa First Nation, who took their own fight against the project all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Finally, it is a resounding victory for the community members who tirelessly fought this project, including Ecojustice clients Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society.

Ecojustice Alumni

Randy Christensen

Key developments

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