In the heart of the Purcell Mountains, surrounded by rugged peaks and glaciers, sit the Jumbo Valley. As the crow flies, it is between the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and the Bugaboo Provincial Park. In the summer, it is a sea of colourful flowers and verdant greens, in the fall, a mosaic of golden alpine larches, and in the winter, a blanket of white. It is wilderness in the purest sense, providing critical habitat to grizzly bears. And it is one of my favourite places in the world.
It is also the site of a proposed mega ski resort development called the Jumbo Glacier Resort. The plan is to turn the 6300 acres of wilderness into a massive four-season resort that accesses four glaciers with more than 20 ski lifts and 6500 beds. As if this isn't a travesty enough, the Jumbo Valley is 55 kilometres from the nearest town, Invermere, BC, and accessed via a rough Forest Service Road (FSR). Our region, the Kootenay region, is already home to a huge number of ski resorts, none of which are operating at full capacity. We simply don't need another ski resort! And if you want the wilderness ski experience, we also have a large number of cat-ski and heli-ski operations.
From the beginning, our communities have said no. Locals overwhelmingly oppose the proposed development. For the Ktunaxa Nation, the development is in Qat'muk, home to their grizzly bear spirit. Invermere, the nearest town, has passed a resolution opposing it. During the environmental assessment process, 91% of nearly 6,000 submissions were opposed. And biologists have said that any development this size in the Jumbo Valley would severely impact the grizzly bear population of the entire Purcell Mountains, along with those of the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.
For more than 20 years, we have been saying no. And for more than 20 years, we have been successful -- the Jumbo Valley is still wild today! But in a piercing move, in March 2012, the BC Government signed the Master Development Agreement with Glacier Resorts Ltd., giving them the go-ahead to seek investment funds and zoning permits. This decision flew in the face of scientific evidence, spiritual beliefs, overwhelming local opposition and the economic realities of the struggling ski industry. It was devastating.
One of the truly incredible things (yes, there is more than one!) about the Jumbo Wild campaign is the diversity and passion of the people involved. The campaign almost borders on a social movement, because it has such a life of its own! People are putting their creative talents and passion towards the efforts to keep Jumbo Wild.
Just last week, I found this incredible video in my inbox. Written and sung by Sean Rodman from Argenta (the west side of Jumbo), the song is aptly called a protest song. Sung at the Jumbo Pass with the old, out-of-tune guitar that lives there, for me, the song is a perfect example of the passion and dedication to protect the Jumbo Valley from the Jumbo Glacier Resort. Have a listen and see for yourself what the Jumbo Valley looks like.
Despite the devastating announcement in March, I remain confident that this development will never take place. The Ktunaxa Nation has announced that they will legally challenge the decision. The Environmental Assessment certificate will expire in 2014 -- if no development has taken place by then, they will have to start all over. For the grizzlies, for future generations and for the Ktunaxa Nation's spiritual beliefs, we can stop this destructive development. With your help, we can stop this development and keep the Jumbo Valley Wild Forever.