Environmentalists are breathing a sigh of relief after the BC Appeal Court upheld a provincial government decision that Jumbo Glacier Resort no longer has a valid environmental certificate and the resort cannot be built until re-assessed.
Two of three BC Appeal Court Judges ruled that a decision by the Ministry of Environment four years ago was valid.
The Ministry concluded that Glacier Resorts Ltd. had not completed enough of the development at the project location in 2015 meaning the expiration of the environment assessment certificate. Glacier Resorts Ltd. appealed, and won, but the appeal judges ruled in favour of the government.
“Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society have spent decades fighting to keep Jumbo Wild,” said Meredith Hamstead of the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society in a media release.
“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.
John Bergenske, Wildsight’s Conservation Director, believes the decision means the “resort is dead in the water.”
“Now, it’s time for Qat’muk to be legally recognized, and beyond Qat’muk, wildlife need a long-term protection in the broader Central Purcell Mountains, all the way from the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy to Glacier National Park,” Bergenske said.
Honourable Mr. Justice Groberman wrote in the appeal decision Tuesday that although Glacier had done some construction and preparatory work at the project site by the expiry date, it was not clear that it was sufficient to constitute a substantial start on construction of the project.
The Minister of Environment considered the matter and, on June 18, 2015, determined that the project had not been substantially started by the October 12, 2014 deadline.
The minister determined, therefore, that the environmental assessment certificate had expired.
“In my view, the judge erred in finding the minister’s decision unreasonable. I would allow the appeal and dismiss the judicial review petition,” the Honourable Mr. Justice Groberman said.
Since 2014, Ecojustice has represented Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society in the proceedings before the Minister and, along with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, made submissions that formed the basis for the Minister’s decision.
“It stands to reason that developers can’t be allowed to hang on to an Environmental Certificate for ever,” said Olivia French, Ecojustice Lawyer.
“The original assessment for this project was conducted in the 1990s and was based on information which is now outdated. 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.”
Jumbo Valley, part of the area known as Qat’muk, is a sacred and spiritual place for the Ktunaxa people.
"The Valley is part of one of North America’s most important international wildlife corridors and recent research reinforces the importance of this area as grizzly bear habitat and connectivity."
The Jumbo Glacier Resort Project is a large ski resort development planned for the Jumbo Creek Valley, which lies approximately 55 km west of Invermere, British Columbia.
The base area of the resort would occupy 104 hectares and include a hotel with accommodations for 5500 guests and 750 resort staff, condominium vacation homes, and associated amenities for a resort community.
The ski runs and connecting territory would ultimately encompass about 5,925 hectares, including lift-serviced areas with access to glacier skiing at elevations up to approximately 3,400 metres.
The resort was expected to encompass four separate ski areas, which were referred to as “Jumbo Creek”, “Farnham Creek”, “Commander Glacier” and “Glacier Dome”.
The environmental community said this is an important win for the Jumbo Valley and was only possible due to a persistent, collaborative effort of more than two decades by many organizations and individuals passionate about protecting this special place.