After decades of fighting for the protection of the Jumbo Valley in British Columbia, the battle is finally over. Over the past 30 years, plans to develop a year-round ski resort, Jumbo Glacier Resort, have been threatening the sacred area of Qat’muk to the Ktunaxa Nation. Reaching the level of the Supreme Court, the decision has been finalized and the land will be handed over to the Ktunaxa First Nation. The area will now be a protected, indigenous area, conserving habitats for Grizzly Bears and many other creatures.
The proposed project, set to be built in the middle of the Purcell Mountains, spanned over 15,000 acres. It included 22 lifts, nearly a thousand condos, hundreds of hotel rooms, shops, and a massive center for the resort. However, the original Environmental Assessment Certificate was approved in 2004 with a five-year end term. While it was extended to ten years, opposing wilderness groups, as well as the Ktunaxa Nation, argued the validity of the current environmental impacts.
When construction of the resort was still not underway in 2015, the previous environmental assessments had by that point expired. Olivia French, an Ecojustice Lawyer, stated “respecting the environmental assessments is essential because scientific understanding and best practices can change dramatically in a decade.” Recognition of the sacred and spiritual land of the Ktunaxa people, as well as the safe roaming grounds for Grizzly Bears, deemed the area an Indigenous Protected and Conserved land.
What does it mean for the Jumbo Valley to be an Indigenous and Conserved Area? It promises a safe space for Grizzly Bears, who hold spiritual significance for the Ktunaxa people, to live and roam freely. It allows 700 square kilometers to consist of glaciers, rocky peaks, rushing rivers, dense forests, deep mountain valleys, and untouched wildland. Acting as one of the only wildlife paths for Grizzly Bears to travel north to south between the United States and Canada, the protection of this land will leave the bears undisturbed.
Environmentalists, First Nations, and the Ktunaxa people have conquered quite the feat in their valiant efforts to protect the Jumbo Valley. To fight against plans for a massive ski resort that will ramp up tourism and profit and win for the sake of protecting a special piece of wilderness is a giant victory.