Concerned East Kootenay citizens have set up a blockade approximately 50 kilometres from Invermere on the Farnham Creek Forest Service Road. People committed to keeping the area wild intend to halt road construction inside the Jumbo Glacier Resort Controlled Recreation Area.
Jumbo Wild supporters blockade the Farnham Creek road to prevent access by Glacier Resorts to proceed with their planned ski lift and access road as part of their Master Plan.
The road construction is taking place through the Farnham Creek headwaters in an alpine area near West Farnham Glacier, which is adjacent to Jumbo Glacier. If built, the road would allow resort proponents the chance to build a ‘temporary surface lift’—yes, a ski lift—inside the proposed boundaries of the resort. However, the resort hasn’t been approved yet. Opponents of the development claim the lift would be an unacceptable invasion into the Proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort Controlled Recreation Area.
Construction started quietly last week, with Glacier Resorts plowing a 500-meter road through sensitive alpine tundra to access the West Farnham Glacier.
“Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society are appalled by this attack on the alpine and on due process,” said Dave Quinn, Wildsight’s Purcell Mountain program manager. “Machines are tearing up the alpine in Farnham Creek headwaters as we speak—just so that a collection of resort proponents can lay claim to some territory. Well, that’s not acceptable. It’s not fair play and some individuals have gathered and intend to stop the game.”
The road construction is occurring without public consultation and without an approval to proceed for the Jumbo Glacier Master Plan. The master plan has not received any form of local government rezoning, nor has it received local First Nations approval, nor has the provincial government signed off on it as a final Master Development Agreement.
Local activists suspect the activity is an attempt to keep alive a “stale” agreement between Jumbo Glacier resort proponents and one arm of the B.C. government
“The proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort’s controversial Conditional Environmental Assessment certificate expires in 2009,” said Dave Quinn, a program manager with Wildsight. “If the resort proponents show no progress by that time, they’ll have to go back to square one. So this appears to be their attempt to squeeze in any progress they possibly can—and keep a very outdated certificate alive.”
Quinn said the road and proposed lift is “a desperate attempt by a desperate developer for a doomed project.” He notes that after 20 years the Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal still doesn’t have the necessary rezoning it needs to go ahead. (The resort proponent, Glacier Resorts Limited, hasn’t applied for it yet.) Nor are there any permits in place to proceed with construction.
Since the original environmental certificate was drafted, professional wildlife biologists have revised estimates of grizzly populations in the area, demonstrating that they have plummeted by 50 per cent. If the certificate were to be renewed without being reviewed, new scientific evidence proving that the resort would severely impact the grizzly population could be ignored. The Jumbo Valley provides connectivity for one of the only trans-boundary grizzly populations left in the interior of B.C.
“We expect work to be halted. It’s ludicrous that this work is proceeding without public review of a new tenure or a development approval,” Quinn said.
To confuse matters, there have been troubling “license of occupation” transfers between the resort proponents and an adjacent stakeholder. The Canadian Olympic Development Association (CODA) has operated an athletes’ training camp on the adjacent East Farnham Glacier since 2005. This license of occupation was transferred by the provincial government to Glacier Resorts in December, 2007, when it mysteriously ballooned from 240 hectares to 1,400 hectares. CODA has disavowed any connection with the new development and stated that it is not part of a training facility for Olympic athletes
“We are for a wild Jumbo,” said Quinn. “With rapidly melting glaciers, a regional shortage of skilled tourism workers and a slowing market for recreational properties, a monster land grab in the Jumbo Valley makes even less sense now than ever. People are furious—and highly motivated to halt those who would run roughshod over the alpine in order to alienate public land for their private gain.”