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Controversial Jumbo Glacier ski resort can go ahead: BC minister

The British Columbia government has approved a controversial plan to build Jumbo Glacier ski resort in the southeast of the province.

"After more than 20 years the time has come for a decision," said Steve Thomson, the minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations. "This is a provincial decision with implications to all the people in the province."

The completed resort on a 5,965 hectare piece of land 57 kilometres west of Invermere in the Purcell Mountains will be roughly one-tenth the size of Whistler. It will include 23 lifts, a 3,000 metre-high gondola and be open for year round skiing.

Opposition to the proposal has been strong in the area, particularly from the Ktunaxa First Nation which in 2010 released a declaration that the site is sacred and would be closed to the ski resort.

Representatives of the Ktunaxa First Nation were not immediately available.

A Shuswap band with an overlapping claim to the area has agreed to the proposal.

"I expect the Ktunaxa will continue to have concerns about this," said Thomson. However, the declaration does not have the legal weight to block the proposal, he said.

"It's divided our communities and we wanted it over," said Bill Bennett, the MLA for Kootenay East, who appeared at the announcement with Thomson this morning. He defended making the announcement in Victoria instead of the Kootenays, saying, "You would have perpetuated exactly the sort of dynamic that's existed in our communities."

The opposition to the project has been well organized and well informed, he said.

Thomson said as a rugby player he learned to confront challenges directly, which was useful making the decision. Bennett said, "It takes a rugby player frankly to step in and get his arms around this and that's what he did."

Bennett said that with a base at 5,500 feet, moderate temperatures and year-round snow without needing to manufacture it, the resort will be unique in North America.

The planned resort is near the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and Thomson said the province is working with the Ktunaxa First Nation to establish another large wildlife management area to protect Grizzly bear habitat.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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