The federal Liberal government will offer the Ktunaxa First Nation more than $16 million to protect a mountain valley in southeastern British Columbia where a contentious ski resort has been proposed.
CBC News has learned the federal Liberal government will soon announce the fund to help the Ktunaxa protect the area, which covers 211,045 hectares in the central Purcell Mountains where developers had planned to build the Jumbo Glacier Resort.
The announcement represents a major victory for opponents of the proposed resort who say the area is a critical habitat for grizzlies and is sacred to the Ktunaxa First Nation.
"It's amazing to hand over management of such an in important area to a First Nation that has been there for thousands of years," said Montana Burgess of the West Kootenay EcoSociety located in Nelson, B.C.
"If we truly care about truth and reconciliation we need to let indigenous people manage their traditional lands."
The Ktuanxa Nation will not comment until Environment Minister Catherine McKenna officially announces the fund.
Battle for land
The money will be used by the First Nation to assess and identify cultural values, biodiversity and develop boundaries in the area, which includes spectacular snow-capped mountains and glacier-fed lakes.
The Ktunaxa call Jumbo Qat'muk, and say it's home to the grizzly bear spirit.
Two years ago, the East Kootenay First Nation went to the Supreme Court of Canada to try to have the proposal quashed for a year-round ski resort at Jumbo. The Ktunaxa argued it would irreparably harm their spiritual beliefs and practices — a violation of their Charter right to religious freedom. The Ktunaxa lost the Supreme Court case.
Jumbo Glacier Resort and its proponent, Vancouver architect Oberto Oberti, have been trying to get the billion dollar resort built for almost 30 years Former B.C. premier Christy Clark's Liberal government initially gave the project the green light, but in 2015 the same government cancelled the resort's environmental certificate, and earlier this month the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld that decision.
Oberti and his company planned to appeal that to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Now, the main opponents to Jumbo are about to get a $16 million dollar fund to protect the spectacular mountain terrain that's been an environmental battleground since the early 1990s.