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Agreement turns Jumbo Valley into Indigenous protected area — forever

Saturday in Cranbrook an announcement by the Ktunaxa Nation Council will protect the Farnham Glacier in the Jumbo Valley from development forever.

The Jumbo Glacier area nestled in the Purcell Mountains, which has been a source of civil unrest, protests, blockades and court battles that reached the Supreme Court  of Canada during the past three decades, will now be protected, forever.

A media release said thanks to a collaboration between Ktunaxa Nation Council, the Government of Canada, Province of British Columbia and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, development rights in the Jumbo Valley located 55 kilometers west of Invermere, have been fully and permanently extinguished.

Public and private funding has enabled the buyout of all tenures and interests held by Glacier Resorts Ltd, who planned to build a year-round ski resort.

This was secured through an agreement between the Province and Glacier Resorts Ltd., in turn enabled by an agreement between the Nature Conservancy of Canada (on behalf of the Ktunaxa Nation) and Glacier Resorts Ltd.

“I am particularly pleased that the strong support and collaboration of both the federal and provincial governments is consistent with, and I think founded on their commitments to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Kathryn Teneese, chairperson, Ktunaxa Nation Council.

“I also thank the Ktunaxa Nation’s Qat’muk Advisory Council for all of their guidance and support for the work to protect Qat’muk.”

After 30 years of resisting development of these traditional lands, KNC is excited to move forward immediately to ensure effective stewardship and conservation of the central Purcell mountains, encompassing Qat’muk.

The release said the KNC is working towards the creation of an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) in the Central Purcell Mountains in southeastern British Columbia.

An IPCA is distinguished by Indigenous creation and founded on the Indigenous relationship to land. It will serve to protect both cultural values and biological diversity in part of the Central Purcell Mountains for all time.

The creation of the IPCA will take several years of collaboration between KNC, the federal and provincial governments, and other parties. KNC envisions the area spanning about 70,000 hectares immediately north of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and encompassing the Jumbo valley and parts of adjacent watersheds.

Defining boundaries and stewardship objectives for a protected and conserved area is hoped to be underway by late 2020 through an agreement between the KNC and the BC government in consultation with local communities and stakeholders. Access in the area will remain status quo during discussions on the IPCA.

“Qat’muk is the spiritual home of the grizzly bear and of profound importance to our Nation. Grizzly bear spirit’s home will become part of a larger Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA),” Teneese explained.

“So, today marks both an end and a beginning. Finally, we have achieved an end to 30 years of struggle by the Ktunaxa Nation and many other groups to protect Qat’muk and Jumbo, including court challenges all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. But more importantly, today is an important beginning as we work towards developing a Ktunaxa stewardship vision for an IPCA in the Central Purcell mountains.

“We are deeply thankful that all of this is being made possible by very substantial financial support from the Government of Canada, the Columbia Basin Trust, the Wyss, Wilburforce and Donner Canadian Foundations, and Patagonia.”

This initiative was made possible by a $16.2 million contribution from the Government of Canada through the Canada Nature Fund. An additional $5 Million of funding has come from the Wyss Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Patagonia, the Columbia Basin Trust and Donner Canadian Foundation.

“Today reflects the strength, tenacity and courage of Kootenay people, especially the Ktunaxa Nation,” Honourable Michelle Mungall, BC Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said.

“To be able to say that Jumbo, Qat’muk, will remain wild is a long time coming. That we are working towards an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area is reconciliation in action and it is the right thing to do.”

Saturday, in Cranbrook, a signing event was held to thank the many organizations and individuals who have made tremendous contributions over the years to keep Qat’muk wild.

“The Nature Conservancy of Canada extends our heartfelt congratulations to the Ktunaxa Nation in light of today’s announcement,” said Nancy Newhouse, BC Regional Vice President, Nature Conservancy of Canada.

“This marks a significant step towards conserving Qat’muk in perpetuity, which will help to maintain crucial wildlife habitat connections while also safeguarding a living, cultural relationship with this land. We are honoured to support the Ktunaxa in achieving their vision of an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in the Central Purcell Mountains, and we welcome the opportunity for shared learning of Ktunaxa stewardship principles and natural law.”

Plans to build a ski resort on Jumbo Glacier were first proposed by a Japanese company in 1991.

The project was taken over by Vancouver-based Glacier Resorts, which projected to build a 110-acre resort that would accommodate 5,500 guest beds and as many as 3,000 visitors a day during peak periods of operation.

"This is an important and historic step forward for both the Ktunaxa and the advancement of indigenous protected areas in Canada,” said Wayne Stetski, former Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia. “I am very pleased that the Liberal government federally, and the NDP government provincially, remain committed to what is a long-standing priority for me and for many of the citizens of the Kootenays - realizing the permanent protection of Qat’muk in the near future under the stewardship of the Ktunaxa nation.”

Backgrounder: Central Purcell Mountains Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area – Planning and community engagement

  • The IPCA will contribute directly to Canada’s commitment to protect 17% of its land area by 2020. The design of the IPCA (geographic scope, boundaries and goals/stewardship principles) will have two overarching goals: protecting biodiversity and supporting Ktunaxa cultural values.
  • The KNC and BC are developing a plan for comprehensive community engagement in IPCA planning to be implemented over the next few years. The process will be open, transparent and inclusive. This engagement will include east and west Kootenay communities, both indigenous and non-native.
  • The IPCA will be larger than the Jumbo valley – large enough to maintain and improve wildlife habitat connectivity both east-west and north-south within the central Purcell mountains. It will directly adjoin the northern boundary of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and encompass the entirety of the Jumbo watershed and parts of adjacent watersheds.
  • Specific boundaries will be developed through collaboration between the Ktunaxa Nation Council and the Government of BC. We will be seeking community, stakeholder, industry and public input on the geographic scope of the IPCA and boundaries over the coming months, with a view to finalizing the geographic scope by the end of 2020.
  • Access in the area will remain status quo during discussions on the IPCA. Engagement and dialogue with stakeholders may include access management strategies within the IPCA
  • An IPCA does not have a consistent definition, as they may mean different things to different First Nations. The province will apply the most suitable parallel provincial designation to meet the intent of the conserved area.
  • Management within the proposed IPCA will include a variety of zones addressing cultural and biodiversity values on the landscape and in some cases providing for resource use consistent with protecting these values
  • The Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality’s status will be determined by the Province in the future