British Columbia

'Jumbo is going to stay wild': Court rules that ski resort project needs reassessment

The B.C Court of Appeal has ruled that a long-delayed ski resort near Invermere, B.C., cannot be built without an environmental reassessment. Plans to build the Jumbo Glacier Resort were killed by the B.C. Liberal government in 2015.

Environmentalists celebrate after B.C. Court of Appeal says former minister's appraisal was correct

The proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort project would be located in the Purcell Mountains of southeastern B.C. (Farnham Glacier Adventures)

The B.C Court of Appeal has ruled that a long-delayed ski resort near Invermere, B.C., cannot be built without an environmental reassessment.

Plans to build the Jumbo Glacier Resort, a year-round ski resort in the Jumbo Valley of the Purcell Mountains in southeastern B.C., were killed by the B.C. Liberal government in 2015.

Then-environment minister Mary Polak ruled the developer had not substantially started the project before the assessment was set to expire. The project's environmental assessment certificate was not renewed. 

The resort's developers appealed the decision and on Tuesday, the provincial court of appeal ruled the minister's conclusion that the project had not been substantially started "was a reasonable one."

With the latest court ruling, the project cannot go forward unless Glacier Resorts Ltd. successfully applies for a new environmental assessment. 

'Dead in the water'

The decision is being celebrated by environmental groups who say the area is important habitat for grizzly bears and sacred to the Ktunaxa Nation. 

"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," Meredith Hamstead of the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society said in a statement. 

"With the resort dead in the water, Jumbo is going to stay wild."

All major projects in B.C. must have an independent environmental assessment before they can proceed. The certificates last five years, and can be renewed just once at the environment minister's discretion.

Olivia French, a lawyer for Ecojustice, which represented the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society, said in a statement that projects that have a "significant" environmental impact like the proposed resort must be assessed using current scientific understanding and best practices, which can change over a decade. 

"Developers can't be allowed to hang on to an environmental certificate forever," she said. 

"Given the current state of grizzly bears in the region, and the opposition of the Ktunaxa First Nation, it's hard to conceive of any viable future for this project," she added.

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