As I walked through ponderosa pine covered forests, on top of glacial moraines, through snow, and along boulders the size of cars, I began to understand why Jumbo is a place people want to protect. Mount Jumbo and the Jumbo Valley are located in British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains. This range is located in the Ktunaxa Nations traditional territory. I will never forget spending the week on this wild landscape, but the thing I will remember most is the woman I met before our backpack. Her name is Meredith Hamstead and she has been working for nearly two decades to “Keep Jumbo Wild.” Why does Jumbo need to be kept wild? Good question!
Oberto Oberti and Glacier Resorts Ltd have proposed to turn Jumbo Mountain into a new ski resort. The resort would offer year round glacial skiing. If all goes to plan, the resort will be home to 6,000 villas, 250 townhouses, and over 1,000 condos. The resort is expected to entertain two to three thousand visitors a day in peak season.
There are just a few problems with this new proposition. The first one is that this area holds great cultural and spiritual significance for the Ktunaxa people. They believe that the grizzly bear spirit resides there. The grizzly moved to the mountains to make room for them when they arrived, so the Ktunaxa feel a great sense of stewardship towards the species.
The other problem with building a ski resort on Mt. Jumbo is that the area is an important corridor for these grizzlies. The ski resort would land right in the middle of the corridor and fragment the bear population. This would result in inbreeding and a multitude of other negative effects. The resort denies these impacts. Visit the Jumbo Glacier Resort website and you’ll see a tab of information dedicated to explaining why grizzlies aren’t at risk in the area, as well as a petition against the Minister of Environment.
Alright, back to Meredith. She lives in Invermere, the town right at the base of where the resort would be. She has worked tirelessly to protect the Jumbo area from development. She has attended city council meetings, staged protests, and made sure her voice has been heard.
When Meredith talked about Jumbo, she said it “makes her feel a certain way that she can’t even put into words.” This deep connection to Jumbo is why she feels such a driving need to protect it. Invermere is her “place” and she stressed the significance of finding your own “place” and working to better it. She urged us to immerse fully in the community, reciprocate, and do all you can to make the changes you want to see. It was refreshing to hear her say that no matter where you live, how big it is and how small you may seem, that you can make a difference.
To protect Mt. Jumbo from development, Meredith and a group of non-profit environment lawyers have gone to court. The decision on whether or not Glacier Resorts is able to build will be reached within three to six months. I hope for the sake of locals, the Ktunaxa people, and animals inhabiting the area that it remains wild.
As I come to the end of my time with WRFI, I’ve been thinking about what I can bring home with me. Meredith’s advice of getting to know your community and trying to make the changed you want to see continues to ring in my ears. Marquette, Michigan (where I live), has a horrible trash and recycling program that needs improvement. When I get back home, I want to find out what I can do to make tangible changes in my community. Seeing how one passionate woman could make a big difference inspired me to want to make changes for the better in my own community, even if they aren’t “Jumbo-sized”.