Ecojustice Blog – Nature Posted on June 27, 2018 (updated: June 27, 2018)

Court update: The fight to keep Jumbo wild

Randy ChristensenLawyer
Jumbo Mountain by Cori Gadomski
Photo by Cori Gadomski

Deep in British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains lies Jumbo Valley: a key grizzly bear habitat and a place the Ktunaxa Nation considers sacred. Together with Jumbo Creek Conservation Society and Wildsight, we are fighting to keep Jumbo wild.

Ecojustice lawyers, including myself, were in court this week to fight the Jumbo Glacier Resort Project.

For more than 25 years, Glacier Resorts Ltd. has been trying to build this mega, year-round ski resort in Jumbo Valley.

And for decades, Ecojustice, Jumbo Creek Conservation Society and Wildsight have opposed the project on the grounds that it would have grave impacts on the environment and on local communities.

Jumbo Valley is an important habitat for grizzlies and other wildlife. It’s also considered a sacred place by the Ktunaxa Nation, whose members call the area Qat’muk and believe that the spirit of the grizzly dwells there.

The landscape is so striking — and the stories of the people fighting to protect it so moving — that inspired a full-length documentary called Jumbo Wild, which aired in 2015.

This eight-minute featurette gives viewers a short preview of what we are fighting to protect:

How we got here

On behalf of Wildsight and Jumbo Creek Conservation Society, we made submissions in the lead-up to the environment minister’s decision that Glacier had failed to “substantially start” work by a 2014 deadline. This resulted in the expiration of its environmental assessment certificate.

More recently, we teamed up with Amnesty International to support the Ktunaxa Nation as they challenged the project in the Supreme Court of Canada.

It has not always been easy. In fact, we once referred to the proposed resort as a “zombie” project, because it kept coming back.

Through it all, dedicated Ecojustice supporters like you have stood by us and ensured that that we can go to court to protect Jumbo Valley. Thank you.

Now, we’re back in court with Wildsight and Jumbo Creek Conservation Society to ensure the law is upheld and Jumbo stays wild.

Glacier wants to push ahead with construction on the project — and it’s determined to rely on an outdated environmental assessment certificate to do so.

Missed deadlines and missteps

Under provincial law, environmental assessment certificates can expire after five years if a project has not been “substantially started” within that time. This can stretch to 10 years if the government grants a five-year extension, as it did for the Jumbo Glacier Resort Project.

These deadlines are important because scientific understanding and best practices 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.

The government first granted Glacier an environmental assessment certificate in 2004. From that point, the developer had 10 years to “substantially start” the project before the certificate expired. Glacier made almost no progress in that time, beyond pouring concrete in a known avalanche path. As a result, the environment minister ruled that the company had failed to meet the deadline, leading to the certificate’s expiration.

What’s at stake

Glacier is now asking the Supreme Court of British Columbia to reverse that decision. If the Court sides with the developer, that could clear the way for it to restart construction.

But we say the law, the science, and the resounding objections from community and the Ktunaxa Nation are clear: Glacier should not be allowed to proceed with this mega-resort.

Will you stand with us as we fight to keep Jumbo wild? Please, make a donation today to support our ongoing work to defend nature in Canada.


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