Inside, the BC Liberals sat down to a $100 fund raising dinner at their Cranbrook caucus meeting. Outside, local residents rallied to draw attention to three environmental issues facing southeastern British Columbia.
“Voters want a wild Jumbo valley—with a final NO to the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, an immediate moratorium on water license and power purchase agreements on our wild rivers, and a firm NO to coalbed methane exploration and extraction,” said Dave Quinn, one of the rally organizers.
As B.C. premier Gordon Campbell began his speech to 250 Liberal supporters inside the Royal Alexandra Hall, the crowd outside began chanting “we want Jumbo wild”, “our rivers are not for sale” and “tell the government of B.C. that we are coalbed methane free.”
“This event gives us a rare opportunity,” said Quinn. “We can’t all go to Victoria, so we are forced to send our message like this when Victoria comes to the Kootenays.”
Nearly 200 East Kootenay residents were there to ask the B.C. government to say a final “no” to a developer’s proposal that would place a 6,500-bed ski resort on and around the rapidly receding Jumbo Glacier, near Invermere and Panorama, B.C.
“The Jumbo debate has been dragging on since 1991,” Quinn said. “The people of the Kootenays have spoken out loudly on these issues again and again, but so far our plebiscites, environmental assessment responses and polls seem to have fallen on deaf ears. That’s why we’re asking Premier Campbell and his cabinet to take a strong stand, do what’s right, and say no to the resort proposal for once and for all.”
Quinn noted that the Jumbo Valley, located in the heart of the Purcell Mountains, is key grizzly habitat and that last year 80 per cent of local residents rejected the $450 million resort proposal in a Regional District of East Kootenay poll.
The group also protested the recent Glacier-Howser River Damming proposal, which would dam and divert 12 kilometres of the West Kootenay’s Glacier and Howser Creeks—as well as five tributaries—and cut a transmission line right-of-way across the Purcell Mountains, through protected old-growth and critical grizzly habitat, to Invermere.
“This wouldn’t be a run-of-the-river project,” Quinn said. “It would divert 10 kilometres each of the Howser and Glacier creeks—and affect six other tributaries—and remove 80 per cent of the flow from these streams.”
The group Citizens Concerned About Coal-bed Methane were at the rally to voice concerns about recent proposals by British Petroleum (BP) to drill in the Flathead and Elk valleys for coalbed methane.
Casey Brennan, a spokesperson and Wildsight program manager said “Coalbed methane exploration and extraction is not appropriate in a biologically diverse, critical wildlife corridor like the southern Rockies.”
Brennan noted that BP isn’t the only corporation interested in coalbed methane exploration in the southern Rockies.
“Energy corporations Stormcat and EnCana are seeking to expand their coalbed methane drilling in the Elk Valley,” he said. “Toxic waste water continues to be dumped into the Elk watershed despite a provincial government policy of re-injection of all coalbed methane wastewater.”
People carpooled and bussed to attend the rally, and many carried homemade signs.
Inside the BC Liberal caucus meeting, it was business as usual.