A recent decision by Environment Minister Peter Kent has eerily foreshadowed a story playing out in our very own valley.
On Thursday, Kent approved the controversial Glacier Discovery Walk in Jasper National Park - a project that will be privately operated by Brewster Travel Canada and see crucial wildlife habitat interrupted for a glass-floored observation deck extending over the Sunwapta Valley.
In his announcement, Kent touted the tourism benefits of the observation deck that will turn an existing pull-out into a paid tourism trap. Guests will no longer be able to stop and view the area for free like they can now. Instead they will stop at the Columbia Icefield Centre, and take a free bus. Then they will pay to use the observation deck, or will be allowed to observe the observation deck - for free. Oh what fun.
This project seemed so ridiculous that it wouldn't go through, and yet it did. What does this mean for our own controversial mountain development, the Jumbo Glacier Resort?
Sure this is the tale of two governments - the federal government approved the Glacier Discovery Walk, and the provincial government is preparing to make a decision in regards to Jumbo. But when it comes right down to it, I worry that the opposition was ignored in Jasper - will the Kootenay opposition be too?
I have struggled to develop an opinion on Jumbo because I see both sides. I worry about the Grizzly habitat and the prospect of skiing year-round. Where will these animals go? Will there be human-wildlife conflicts? Nothing ruins a ski trip faster than being attacked by a Grizzly bear.
I also worry about the stolen business from our other ski hills. Between - or a short drive from - Calgary and Cranbrook there is the Calgary Olympic Park, Nakiska, Sunshine, Lake Louise, Marmot Basin, Panorama, Kicking Horse, Fernie, Kimberley, Castle Mountain Resort, and probably a few others I have forgotten. Do we really need another?
I'm a skier, and think Jumbo could be pretty cool, but I know it's going to take me a lifetime to be able to afford a ski weekend at the 10 resorts previously mentioned - I've only checked two off the aforementioned list in the 16 years I have been skiing.
There is the argument that Jumbo is in fact not pristine wilderness because there was a sawmill on the site that will house the proposed resort. But there has never been any development on the glacier, besides some heli-skiing. Surely we can call the beautiful peaks and glaciers surrounding the Jumbo Valley pristine, if we exclude the valley bottom. Is Mt. Fisher not pristine because Kimberley, Fort Steele and Cranbrook lie below it?
Shame on you, Mr. Kent. I deeply regret your decision as our "Environment Minister," and your claims that it will be a boon to tourism are ridiculous. Your job is to protect our environment - that means the mountain goats, sheep, elk, deer, caribou, sensitive flora and more that use the Sunwapta Valley.
To our provincial leaders, I do hope you consider the strong opposition that has been speaking loudly in this area for the past 21 years. It's not going to get any quieter.