Heather Shaw and Martin Staebler

Heather Shaw and Martin Staebler

Column: The environment vs. Valemount Ski Resort

While Jumbo was getting all of the press, architect developer Oberto Oberti was working on a development plan for Valemount.

Heather Shaw and Martin Staebler are second-year students in the Recreation Fish and Wildlife program at Selkirk College.

While it seemed like Jumbo Glacier Resort was getting all of the press for many years, architect and developer Oberto Oberti, was already working on a new development plan for Valemount ski resort.

The development is planned to take place between Jasper National Park and Wells Grey Provincial Park on crown land in the North Thompson region of British Columbia, close to the small town of Valemount.

The plan is for the development of a year-round ski and tourist destination that includes approximately 5,000 hectares of controlled recreation area, which includes 900 hectares of marked ski trails and 157 hectares of resort based development.

The resort is advertising spectacular mountain settings, dry powder skiing on glaciers, and an opportunity to access beautiful sightseeing locations.

On Aug. 17, 2016 the provincial government approved the Valemount Glacier Destinations Ltd.’s master plan. A positive economic outlook has been promised to the region and, unlike Jumbo Glacier Resort, Valemount ski resort is receiving more support and less resistance from local communities and the local Simpcw First Nations.

Any development will cause impact on the environment and the focus should be if we are really in need of more and more commercial development in the pristine wilderness of Canada paid by the loss of habitat for many to this ecosystem’s native and important species.

Valemount ski resort is situated in the Yukon to Yellowstone Corridor (Y2Y), which is one of the last intact mountain ecosystems left on earth. The Y2Y Conservation Initiative has been working for the last 20 years to protect and conserve this important corridor.

Based on their research, the proposed Valemount ski resort will be situated in areas that have been assessed as prime grizzly bear habitat. Grizzly bears are known to frequent the proposed area. This was confirmed by trail cams, scat, browse, forage and den site evidence.

Grizzly bears are a particularly sensitive species and the resort would inevitably decrease their already limited and fragile habitat.

Besides the grizzly bear, there is a total of 28 red and blue listed species identified in the environmental assessment report that may suffer from potential habitat loss.

With the approval of the master plan in August 2016, the next steps will be the completion of the Master Development Agreement with the province.

Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2017 and a public opening is being advertised for December 2017.

It is evident that the proposed resort will impact a pristine environment that offers crucial habitat to many wildlife and plant species.

Although the Valemount ski resort is receiving more support and the environmental impacts may not be as significant to those of the Jumbo Glacier ski resort, they should still be thoroughly considered.

Valemount ski resort may provide economic value for the region but the intangible values that exist within the proposed area will be impacted in the developmental process.

In a time where the environment is vulnerable, and climate change is a reality, we should be protecting and preserving the irreplaceable values of our environment.

Valemount ski resort only caters to a fraction of the ski and tourism community. There are still many that would prefer the untouched and pristine beauty of the natural environment that presently surrounds Valemount.