Columbia River Basin


Tourism vs. Water Quality & Biodiversity
in Upper CRB, British Columbia

Jumbo Wild: The Movement by Patagonia, 2015 (7:49).

John Bergenske: The transboundary Columbia River Basin is a continentally significant ecosystem that also has the densest population of inland grizzly bears we know of. Wildlife in the Purcells Range of the Columbia River Basin in the East Kootenays is a big, big issue because we are at a north-south crossroads in terms of our species diversity here. We share the southern extent of some of the more northern species, and the northern extent of the more southern species.

The biologists are saying that’s going to be a major disaster if Jumbo Glacier Resort goes forward because of its potential movement of bear populations and the breakup of genetic connectivity that would occur over the long term, not just in the short term. We have very strong public opinion against development of the resort here in the [Columbia Valley Kootenay] region, but the decisions are made in Victoria where the developers have very, very good connections.

A lot of our work [to stop Jumbo Glacier Resort] is around providing information. We did about five years of field research on mountain caribou; and we’ve just been involved in several years of research on grizzly bear populations and density. We’re keeping the public informed and involved in this work. We’re supporting the work of the land trusts to try to negotiate some trades. The K’tunaxa First Nation is absolutely key to what’s happening here because this is the most sacred place in their territory. This is the place of their creation myth, and so as a result they are very, very concerned about how this particular area is managed. They are very in line with it being managed for the natural values and the wildlife values.

People don’t recognize that if you inundate the land with inappropriate tourism use – even if it is with nice little country homes – we basically lose key pieces of the landscape that are really important to make the whole system work [and to protect] all of its values, obviously including the water values [affected by increased water use, heavier septic loads and floods]. We have a 180 km. wetland system that is unique because of its importance on the flyway and the fact that it is the headwaters of this Columbia River Basin system. Being such an adaptable animal, we as people don’t always recognize what we are losing until all of a sudden: ‘Oh, what happened?’ In some ways, we adapt almost too fast in terms of change if you consider that some of the values we are losing are important in a much bigger picture than we see at the moment.

[Posted by NWNL on Nov. 7, 2015]