Over the past two months, more than 1,400 people have contacted the provincial Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to voice their concern that the proposed Zincton All-Season Resort, in British Columbia’s Selkirk Mountains, might not undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Those letters, received alongside Wildsight’s own detailed 10-page submission, have elevated awareness of the resort amongst ministerial staff, and Wildsight understands the office has now revised its previous conclusion that an EIA wouldn’t be necessary.
The Zincton resort has faced widespread opposition from the local community since it was first slated over four years ago. Back then, around 3,000 people emailed the province during the public comment period, yet the proposal has moved forward and is now in the ‘All-season Resort Policy’ review process.
Covering 55 square kilometres in the mountains north of Highway 31A, the resort’s skiable terrain would be 2.7 times larger than Whistler Blackcomb (What the Proponent Heard, p6, Feb ‘23). If approved, it could significantly impact local wildlife populations and water quality. Yet, in correspondence to the proponent, the EAO found that this resort would not trigger an environmental assessment (Formal Proposal, p6-212, Sep ‘21).
The resort’s skiable terrain would be 2.7 times larger than Whistler Blackcomb … Yet, in correspondence to the proponent, the EAO found that this resort would not trigger an environmental assessment.
That conclusion is based on the fact that the resort would have less than 2,000 beds; at first glance, the Environmental Assessment Act states that only projects containing 2,000 or more beds need an EIA. But dig deeper and the Act also states that for ski resorts, developers must still notify the EAO if their project allows for 1,700 or more beds — in which case the office will review the project to see if it warrants an EIA. The minister may also designate a project as reviewable if it “may have a significant adverse environmental, economic, social, heritage or health effect”.
So far, Zincton hasn’t publicly released its proposed total number of beds. Based on Wildsight’s calculations, it will likely fit into the 1,700-2,000 bed grey area. Wildsight and The Wild Connection, a local coalition of concerned citizens, have obtained zoning records for the resort village through a freedom of information request. These have allowed us to conservatively calculate that it could accommodate 1,860 people at full build out (see our submission for detailed calculations).
Step away from the bureaucracy and into the forest, however, and you’ll discover the many other reasons why the environmental impact of this resort must be properly assessed. This landscape is home to species that are highly sensitive to human interactions, including mountain goats, wolverines, mountain caribou, grizzly bears and western toads. As few as three user groups per fortnight have been shown to reduce wolverine numbers in an area. The Zincton resort could host almost 1,300 per day.
The resort would sit between Goat Range Provincial Park and the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, and would likely hinder the movement of grizzlies and wolverines between these two wilderness areas, which are thought to act as source populations for grizzlies and wolverines throughout the wider region. Past estimates from Dr. Michael Proctor suggest that upwards of 600 grizzly bears live in the area north of highways 3 and 31A to Highway 1. The Trans-Border Grizzly Bear Project states this area should remain unfragmented for the long-term health of the regional bear population. It’s clear the proposed Zincton project hasn’t considered wolverine or grizzly conservation in a robust and science-based manner. But an EIA would.
Finally, the resort area would include a former mine site, which raises concerns about the potential for water pollution to flow downstream during construction and contaminate local watersheds. Zincton’s own website states that, in some locations, the land is dangerously contaminated with heavy metals, and has pledged to put 1% of its profits towards cleaning up the site. But the environmental overview that the developer paid for was limited; an EIA would examine watershed effects and changes to flow patterns.
Extra traffic on Highway 31A, new roads, permanent infrastructure and heavy backcountry recreation use — it’s hard to imagine how this resort wouldn’t significantly impact local wildlife populations.
In December, Wildsight received a response to its submission in which it backtracked its earlier conclusion that the resort wouldn’t need an EIA. The letter stated: “To determine whether Zincton is a reviewable project under the Reviewable Projects Regulation, the EAO requires more information about the proposed number of bed units from the Proponent. The EAO understands that the Proponent is refining the Zincton proposal as it proceeds through the All-Season Resort Policy review process, and that the total number of bed units has not been determined.” The letter goes on to say the EAO has instructed the proponent to provide their total bed numbers, “as soon as the information is available”. This is progress, but until this information comes to light it’s important we continue to keep this development front-of-mind for the EAO.
If you haven’t yet, you can send your own pre-written letter to the ministers and the EAO today using our quick online letter-writing tool. While you’re there, encourage your friends and family to do the same!
For more reading on Zincton, check out:
- News at The Wild Connection, including an article in Forecast Ski magazine
- A thorough collection of resources from The Wild Connection
- Thoughts from Yellowstone to Yukon