Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route Tourism Campaign Officially Launches

For Immediate Release: June 11th, 2018

 Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route Tourism Campaign Officially Launches

Year-long tourism campaign showcasing communities from Yahk to Riondel launches this June

The Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route, from Yahk-Kingsgate through to the Creston Valley and along the east shore of Kootenay Lake, isn’t just a highway connecting the west coast to the prairies of the east. The Route connects a network of people, businesses, and communities together to the lands we call home.  Between orchards and wineries, glass houses and glassy lakes, many locals have created a life for themselves as artisans and orchardists, restaurateurs and wine-makers, outdoor guides and health practitioners, proudly sharing our love for this land with the visitors who have discovered its charms.

At the newly opened Casey’s Community House on Tuesday, May 29th, The Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route tourism campaign officially launched with the unveiling of the campaign brand, website, guide, and social media channels to an audience of 50+ business and community members. The campaign is the results of nearly a year of hard work by the members of the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Tourism Advisory Committee (CVKL TAC) and thanks to the financial support of Destination BC, Columbia Basin Trust, The Regional District of Central Kootenay Electoral Areas A, B, C, and the Town of Creston.

The campaign is an new initiative of the communities from Yahk to Riondel, promoting the route as a prime tourism destination by highlighting our reputation as a hub for:

  • Arts & Culture,
  • Local Food & Wine,
  • Health & Wellness, and
  • Nature & Recreation

Similar to the International Selkirk Loop, the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route campaign showcases businesses, organizations, and attractions from Yahk to Riondel related to these four themes. By using the campaign’s mobile-friendly website, social media pages, or just grabbing a print guide, visitors will then be able to tour artisan’s shops, cafes, trails, vineyards, markets, sights and trails at their own pace and discovering the many attractions that truly make it the magical area it is known for.

And the campaign isn’t just for visitors, but locals alike! Be sure to check out the new website at:  where you can explore the “What to Do” section and digital map for information on all the great activities that can be enjoyed in our area. Or if you’re looking for inspiration for the weekend read the Suggested Itineraries section or Blog to help plan your day trip. Finally, if you have an event coming up, let us help you promote it on the websites’ interactive Events Calendar.

Most importantly help us share the love and local pride for the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake route by using the hashtag #routeconnected to share your pictures, and videos of your experiences on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest account @ CVKLRoute.

Also, be sure to keep your eyes out for the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route Print Guide-Map, which includes participating business listings, a great map of the area, Q&A interviews with local businesses, and suggested itineraries for Foodies, Outdoor Enthusiasts, and families. It’s sure to be a great resource to help your customers, visiting family members, or friends fall in love with our beautiful home!

Still have questions or want to learn more about this initiative? Contact project coordinator Jesse Willicome at Otherwise, have a great summer enjoying and exploring the many attractions and hidden gems that dot this beautiful route!

Picture: The new Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route logo

Extension on Retallack Proposal Feedback Deadline – Now Mid-July 2018

submitted by Carol Vanr for the Citizens Information Ad-Hoc Group (Retallack Proposal)

In a June 4, 2018 discussion with Christine Lohr, Land Officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, a newly-founded information group was granted an extension on the existing deadline (June 13) for feedback regarding the Retallack back-country proposal until mid-July.

Due to the public still not having all the information (although it is all available), as well as difficulty for some residents in easily accessing the enormous proposal documents, this group was formed to distribute information gleaned from the proposal itself, conversations with key activists, proponents, opposers, wildlife specialists and local resources.

The plan is to analyze the information already available and present it in clear, factual pieces that are more manageable for the public and then to disseminate the information over the next month. Feedback on this process is sought and very welcome.

The information will be available at booths and tables over the coming weeks in higher populated locations and will hopefully be followed up by a public open house with a panel of experts and vested parties.

The tentative date for this open house is June 22 at 7pm at the Crawford Bay Hall. Watch for confirmation of this proposed meeting, but mark it down in your calendars for now!

We are looking for people who want to tend to these information tables. These people will present information in a factual manner and be able to offer their own understandings of the proposal.

Please feel free to join or reach out! Contact Carol Vanr at 250.505.3760 or for further info or to lend a hand.

Appeal to Put Moratorium on Retallack Proposal

A letter of appeal, submitted to Mainstreet

Hanging over the Kootenays.

By Local Author and Historian, Luanne Armstrong

Unlike many people, I have always lived in the same place, a farm on the east shore of Kootenay Lake in south eastern BC. I have travelled and worked and studied in many other places, but I have always come home to the farm, to the piece of land my grandfather bought in 1938, when times were very different than they are now.

The farm fed my parents and their children, as well as my own children as they grew. But farmland here is no longer valued for growing food. Instead, I now live in a recreational area, where the roads are long and empty in winter, but in summer, the road buzzes with motocyles, and trucks pulling boats or RV’s.

For many years, it has been a quietly idyllic place to live and, yes, the lake is tracked with boats all summer but winters are peaceful and most of my summer neighbours are gone.

Now the idyllic quiet is threatened; Retallack, a heli-ski operation based in Nelson and New Denver, has proposed an enormous heli-skiing, heli-biking operation for this east shore of Kootenay Lake, in the southern Purcell Mountain range. It’s hard to fathom the scope of what these developers are asking from provincial government and impossible to truly guess the impact it will have on our community, which is small, scattered and aging.

Many small rural communities in BC are in a similar state. Once the east shore was a vibrant place, full of young families, people homesteading, or people employed as miners, loggers, backhoe operators, carpenters. But people grew older, their children grew up, and one by one, some businesses failed; pubs, restaurants and grocery stores struggle to survive on tourism for a couple of months a year. Most new people moving to the community were retiring out of Calgary or other places, and looking for place to spend their senior years in peace. More and more summer homes were built along the shoreline. But summer people rarely come for more than a few weeks. In the winter, most driveways along the east shore are empty. The year-round people gather for potlucks, Scrabble games, afternoon tea, or acitvites like carpet bowling, wine making and yoga at the local community halls.

Now a huge threat looms over this somewhat idyllic place. Retallack is asking for tenure over a large portion of the south Purcell range, approximately 70,000 hectares. They say they are planning on building mutltiple heli-pads in several small communities, mulitple ski chalets in alpine areas, plus a ski lodge and spa on Ktunaxa land on Kootenay Lake.

Here it gets complicated. Supposedly, this is a fifty percent split with the Yaqan Nukiy band, part of the Ktunaxa Nation, in Creston BC, but the word from some members of the Yaqan Nukiy is that many people on the reserve are opposed to this development and the band council has yet to vote on it. It is unknown how much legal weight an agreement with the band chief might have if the band itself is opposed to this development.

The Ktunaxa completely opposed development of the Jumbo Pass ski resort because of its possible impact on grizzly bears, one of their sacred animals. Members of the Ktunaxa have said it is their job to protect the land. Most of the people in the Kootenays agreed with stopping Jumbo and wrote letters and demonstrated side by side with the Ktunaxa. So it is extremely unclear why the Lower Kootenay Band would want to partner with Retallack in a venture that will clearly have a huge impact on wildlife.

According to Wildsight and other biologists, Retallack’s year round proposal will have a profoundly negative impact on the ecology of the South Purcells. Animals such as mountain goat, grizzly, wolverines and cougars, have found somewhat of a refuge in this area which has one road, the Gray Creek Pass, running all the way through it. Logging roads have crept up all the valleys but the high alpine is somewhat intact. Retallack wants to build 161 kilometres of mountain bike trails through the alpine tundra and mountain valleys. It is fairly obvious that wildlife will be impacted, both from the noise and intrusion of trail building and then from mountain bikers speeding down the mountains.

Helicopters also have huge impact, both on animals and on humans. The noise echoes through the mountains. All of us on the east shore have lived through times when helicopters were necessary to fight fires and all of us know that there is no way to mitigate this noise. A constant day in and day out assault of noise from helicopters will affect nesting birds, almost all wildlife, and certainly, it will also affect senior humans trying to carry on their lives under a barrage of noise that will make them feel more as if they were suddenly living in a war zone, rather than the quiet peaceful community they once had. Helicopters also burn massive amount of fuel at a time when scientists are issuing increasingly desperate warnings about the effects of climate change.

This fuel will be cached at the various proposed heli-pads on both the east shore as well as on the west side of Kootenay Lake. One spill of fuel into Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley was devastating to that community and is still being fought out in court.

There might be something in it for the community. There might a few jobs, some service worker jobs. Some ski guides. Where they would live, I have no idea. There is next to no rental housing on the east shore and land and house prices are extremely high.

Retallack tends to sell “in house” packages, according to its own website, so there is little spillover effect on the local community. Many skiers, bikers and other people seeking some kind of thrill will come in by shuttle bus, so they might not even have transportation when they are here. The east shore has one long thin road, prone to slides and washouts, that is choked with traffic in the summer and often badly serviced in the winter. So more traffic is not good news.

So why is this happening? It is the continuization of what writer, George Monbiot calls, “the capitalization of nature.” In effect, the east shore is going to be a sort of sacrifice zone; we who live here and cherish our homes and lifetyles are being asked to forsake that peace and endure an onslaught of noise and intrusion so a few very wealthy people can recreate in the back country of our home. We are being asked to give up the ecology of this place, which we all cherish, so a few people can have “fun.” And so one company and its owners can make a lot of money.

As Monbiot has written in the Guardian newspaper: “The notion that nature exists to serve us; that its value consists of the instrumental benefits we can extract; that this value can be measured in cash terms; and that what can’t be measured does not matter, has proved lethal to the rest of life on Earth.”

Everywhere on the planet, animal and fish populations are declining. We live in an age where scientists are becoming increasingly pessimistic in their announcements about “climate change” and its impact. Here are just a few statistics: land-dwelling wildlife species have declined by 40% since 1970. Marine animal populations have fallen by 40% overall. Bird populations have been reduced by about 20-25%.Freshwater animal populations have plummeted by 75% since 1970. Insect populations have also declined dramatically.

According the environmental group, Wildsight, government does not take the impact on animals and ecology into its decisions about such proposals as the one Retallack has made. This lack of care has led to the slow extincition of the caribou in both the Purcells and the Selkirk mountain ranges. Shooting wolves from helicopters has obviously done nothing to slow this decline.

The only answer is for people to come back to the government and defend the values of where they live, defend wildlife, defend their lifestyle, defend their peace and quiet, defend all the inhabitants of their communities.

The community of the east shore has until June 13th to answer back to the government. Many people I have talked to remain confused and unsure of what this proposal entails and what the impact might actually be. Giving them time to understand would be a good idea. Putting a moritorium on such development until proper studies can be done on the impact of these and the many other heli-skiing proposals in the whole Kootenays, would be useful to both the communities and the people whose job it is to actually assess the risks to wildlife and communities of such projects.
No one on the east shore is against good tourism development and we are always happy to welcome new friends and neighbours. There is a strong sense of community in this place; people are very connected to each other and to the place where they lived.

To be forced to give all this up for the sake of a few rich back country skiiers and bikers is a travesty of the worst kind. It’s even more ironic that both skiing and biking were originally invented as transportation methods for pioneers and working people. Now they are just play.
Nobody has anything against play either but when play and money become more important than community and ecology, we are all in deep trouble.

Board Approves Acquisition of Land for New Regional Park in Crawford Bay

View on the RDCK website:

Nelson, BC: The Board of Directors of the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) today took the next step in the process to purchase land for a new regional park. Based on information presented in the staff report received at today’s special open meeting, the Board gave the first, second, and third readings of the loan authorization bylaw that will provide the RDCK share of the funding for the acquisition of land. This follows several months of community consultation and negotiation with the seller. The land—made up of approximately 69.68 hectares surrounding the Crawford Bay beach and wetlands—is being purchased from Kokanee Springs Resorts (KSR) for $2.85 million.

The purchase is being partially funded with $800,000 from Columbia Basin Trust. The remainder of funding for the purchase will be through property taxation and reserve funds.

“Public access to Kootenay Lake, recreational opportunities, protection of sensitive wetlands and riparian area restoration all resonate with residents and visitors alike,” said Garry Jackman, Director of RDCK Electoral Area A. “Through the efforts of RDCK staff and with the generosity and support of Columbia Basin Trust we have reached that point at last.”

“The residents of the East Shore demonstrated overwhelming support for this opportunity, and the Trust is pleased to support their efforts to create a regional park,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and CEO of Columbia Basin Trust. “It will offer a broad spectrum of benefits to the area including environmental preservation, economic development, tourism opportunities and increased community-based recreation.”

In 2011, the RDCK acquired a small area of land along an undeveloped road allowance near the Crawford Bay foreshore as a preliminary step towards a potentially larger project. Historically, KSR has allowed the public to access Crawford Bay wetlands and the beach through a portion of their property. In the summer of 2017, KSR listed the land for sale, which prompted members of the community to express interest in the RDCK acquiring it for regional park purposes.

The park acquisition is the result of ongoing public consultation and community involvement. The community involvement process included a public open house on August 23, 2017, which was attended by more than 110 people; and three open houses held on December 11 in Riondel, Boswell and Wynndel. On December 14, the RDCK Board received an informal community petition with 942 signatures requesting the creation of a new park in Crawford Bay.

Land negotiation with KSR has involved RDCK staff with support from RDCK CAO Stuart Horn and Director Jackman.

“Conversations around the potential for this site have been going on for decades,” continued Director Jackman. “I realize that due to the size of this site and the multiple titles involved that there were numerous opinions as to what the acquisition should or could look like, but the consistent message has been to secure the site for generations to come.”

Additional funding of $2,070,707 for the purchase will be borrowed and funded through an annual taxation of approximately $113,928 of the affected service area, at a rate of $0.1607 per $1,000 of residential converted assessment. A $350,000 residential property would pay $56.35/year based on the 2018 assessment. Remaining costs will be funded through reserves.

Anticipating that the public would want regional districts to acquire land and improve land for park and trails purposes, the Local Government Act (LGA) and LGA Regional District Liabilities Regulation provides unique powers for borrowing funds for those purposes. Pursuant to Section 407(2)(c) of the LGA and Section 3 of the LGA Regional District Liabilities Regulation the borrowing of funds for a regional park or regional trail service is not subject to voter asset. Although electoral approval is not required, the RDCK made sure to involve the public in the decision.

The Board gave first, second and third readings of the Crawford Bay Beach Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 2602, 2018 at today’s special open Board meeting. The RDCK will take possession of the lands as of October 1, 2018. A Regional Park Management Plan, which will include a public consultation process, will be developed to determine the future use and maintenance of the park.

Incorporated in 1965, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) is a local government that serves 60,000 residents in 11 electoral areas and nine member municipalities. The RDCK provides more than 160 services, including community facilities, fire protection and emergency services, grants, planning and land use, regional parks, resource recovery and handling, transit, and much more. For more information about the RDCK, visit

Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route Tourism Campaign Kicks Off

press release for immediate release – May 22, 2018

Launch party marks beginning of year-long campaign promoting area

(photo by Daniel Seguin)

The Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route, a year-long tourism campaign showcasing businesses, organizations, and attractions from Yahk to Riondel, is set to launch this June. To mark the beginning of the campaign, the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Tourism Advisory Committee (CVKL TAC) will be kicking things off with a Launch Party  on Tuesday, May 29th, 5:00 PM at Casey’s Community House.

The launch will provide opportunity for campaign participants and community members to get a first peak at the campaign website, print guide, and social media pages, which will promote the area through four self-guided tours: Arts & Culture, Local Food & Wine, Nature & Recreation, and Health & Wellness.

And of course the party is also be an opportunity to mix, mingle,  and sample the menu of Casey’s Community House itself, which opened this past May long weekend to much fanfare.

“We are really seeing a growing number of visitors interested in exploring our communities, whether it’s our local hiking and biking trails, artisan’s studios, farmers markets, or wineries.” Says project coordinator Jesse Willicome.  “This campaign reaches  people while they’re at home researching a trip or on the road looking for the next stop, showing off all we have to offer  and inspiring them to put us on their 2018 travel bucket list. After a lot of hard work by a lot of people, we’re excited to launch this campaign and celebrate.”

For further details about the event or for information about the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake Route please feel free to contact project coordinator, Jesse Willicome at

Perspective on Retallack Proposal by Local Author/Historian

Perspective on Retallack Proposal by Local Author and Historian Luanne Armstrong.

Note: The deadline for feedback to the Ministry has been extended until June 14th.

Email your comments to:
Christine Lohr, Land Officer, Kootenay Boundary Region,
CC to: Doug Donaldson, FNLRORD at
CC to: Michelle Mungall, MLA, at
Quote file # 4405 893

May 8, 2018: Boswell, BC – I have spent the last two weeks studying the Retallack Proposal for heli-skiing and heli-biking on the east shore. I will tell you up front that I am very opposed to this proposal as it stands, because of its size, its potential impact on our community, and its potential impact on all the wildlife of the south Purcells. I am not at all opposed to tourism or tourist development that fits with our beautiful community.

In terms of scope, this proposal is asking for tenure on most of the alpine areas of the south Purcells, right from along the edge of Purcell Wildnerness Conservancy as far as Lockhart and then back east to the St. Mary’s drainage. Please look carefully at the maps in the online proposa.

This morning, Terry Turner, who has hiked almost every mountain in the Purcells, came for tea and we looked carefully at all the maps and identified the helipad locations and fuel caches. So I urge all you to download this proposal and read it very carefully, looking at all the maps, all the proposed 161 kilometes of bike trails, mostly through alpine areas, all the proposaed helipads and fuel caches, both at Kaslo and Ainsworth, as well as all along the east shore. There is a possibility of 12 flights or more per day, (according to Wildsight figures), mostly over Crawford Creek Pass, Rose Pass, and Gray Creek Pass.

It has been shown in other areas that the noise of helicopters, hikers and skiiers have a very deleterious effect, particularly on grizzly bears, wolverines, and mountain goats. All of the populations of these animals are presently dropping. Noise also has a huge impact on bird populations.

The spill of helicopter fuel in Lemon Creek in the Slocan is still in court, many years later. Any spill in any creek, leading into Kootenay Lake, would be disastous. The fish population in Kootenay Lake is right now in trouble due to a virus in the Kamloops Trout, the extirpation of the South End Kokanee population, and the dropping numbers of Kokanee spawners in the creeks around the lake.

This is not a Ktunaxa proposal. The Yaqan Nukiy people would have some share in the lodge to be built at Burden’s Cut. No one has yet seen this agreement and there are letters from people in Yaqan Nukiy who are very opposed to this development.

Tourism would not benefit much from this. Retallack sells “in house” three to five day packages that are contained within the lodge and the up to five mountain “cabins.” Many people will come in by shuttle bus to the lodge so there will be almost no opportunity to visit the rest of the community. In fact, I have had communications with people in New Denver who have found that Retallack is not a good neighbour and has tried to shut down competing businesses.

As a community, we have until June 14th to communicate our concerns to the government. If the community is not in favour of this development, it will not go forward. My position is that this proposal is too big and too few people understand it. I am going to say to the government, please just stop while we study this, organize community meetings where people can share information and concerns. I believe we definitely need to develop land committees to come up with policies that will ensure that development in our community takes in all the aspects of such development, including on wildlife and ecology. Impacts on wildlife and ecology are present not taken into account in these proposals, and there is also no monitoring in place.

Personally, I believe the impact of such a huge proposal on our community will be very deleterious to both the wildlife, the ecology, and the people. I am not in any way against sane, sensible tourism development that fits with our small community and our way of life.

Here are the addresses you need to know. Also, please free to get in touch with me either by phone (250-223-8203) or by email, I am going to continue to study, research and write about this proposal. I am quite willing to come speak anywhere, anytime.


Public Website:

For further information or to express your point of view, contact:

Christine Lohr, Land Officer, Kootenay Boundary Region,
CC to: Doug Donaldson, FNLRORD at
CC to: Michelle Mungall, MLA, at
Quote file # 4405 893

Here is a summary of the proposed tenure but it is much more complicated than this; there are seven proposed helipads and a possibility of twelve helicopters per day over Crawford and Gray Creek.

Potential Future Lodge location – Lower reaches of La France Creek (Burdens Cut) on Lower Kootenay band treaty negotiated land. Two Operating Zones will be used for heli skiing, heli assisted ski touring, heli biking, mountain biking, heli hiking, and more…The exact usage rates are somewhat unclear but it will be in the thousands. Question: Is max capacity for the South Purcells 3600 yearly or 3600 for heli skiing? 71,000 ha of proposed all season and multiple use section 17 tenure for 45 years. 161km of alpine mountain bike trails – all new and presumably mainly alpine trails in areas that see very little human use

Drainages Affected, North to South:

  • Powder Creek
  • Bernard Creek – upper Bernard is high value – lots of moderate passes/terrain, lakes, etc.
  • Loki Peak:last unloaded drainage draining into Kootenay Lake other than Lockhart south of the Conservancy
  • Upper Crawford
  • Tom O’Shanter
  • Indian Creek
  • South 59,000 ha

Drainages Affected – Phase Two Development, North to South:

  • Pretty much all drainages in this tenure are high value for grizzlies, goats, wolverines, intactness, etc.
  • Upper St Mary’s River and Dewar Creekincluding Calamity, Coppery, La Pierre, Office, Sawyer, Morris Flatrock, and Hungary Creek(s).
  • White Creek from forks north just north of to boulder creek encompassing small tributaries and mountain to valley terrain on both side of valley including subdrainages northwest of Berglien lake and mount patrick and manson drainage.
  • South to Higgins Peak and unroaded unnamed steep drainages that flow into white creek and St Mary’s.
  • Middle St Mary’s and Redding – Mt Bonner and all of the lower and middle reaches of Redding Creek.
  • Lower reaches of Baribeau
  • All of Parkers Creek
  • All of Hall Lake Creek
  • All of unnamed and unroaded drainage East of Hall Lake Creek – high wildlife value.
  • All of Tower creek – currently intact and believed to be very high value.
  • Lower St Mary’s and Meachen Creek (could see most action for winter heli skiing given proximity to proposed lodge location)
  • Upper Murphy and almost all of Pyramid creek included in tenure.
  • Lower and middle sections of meachen on both sides of valley
  • Mayo and Aisla Lake Drainages – caribou concerns?
  • Snowcrest and Mount Evans
  • Mallendine Pass

Here are just a few questions for which there are no answers.

Nothing is known about the impact of this development on traffic, noise, ferry delays, land prices, increased taxes, or where workers would stay. Following is a partial list of questions. Please feel free to add your own. We need an immediate moratorium on this development until as least some of these questions can be answered. For example, they promise “to leave no trace on the landscape.” How is this compatible with building bike trails, helicopter landing pads, and constant noise? We need an organized and collective community response to this proposal We need moratorium to be be instituted so that the community can be fully informed and studies can be done as to whether this proposal is compatible with our community values or not.

Retallack Development Questions:

1. We need a copy of the actual plan, not just vague ideas of a Lodge of an unknown size, possibly at Burden’s Cut, possibly at La France Creek. Retallack has not come to the community with concrete information as to things like sitings of helicopter pads, numbers of flights, carbon footprint of the development. The only information that has been made is on the government website. Neither Retallack nor the Yaqan Nukiy has come to the community and made themselves open and available with specific information of the impact of this proposal on this community. So far, we have had a poster meeting with vague promises that this will somehow be a “low impact” development.

2. The East Shore is a small, close community with a high population of retired seniors. Issues for community impact would include noise, intrusion, access to the back country, ferry waits, lack of services on the east shore, lack of affordable housing on the east shore, high land prices and high taxes.

The East Shore is presently served by narrow twisty road that tends to be very crowded in the summer. There is also a tendency in both the summer and winter for the ferry to be very overcrowded. This means that people can often be delayed from doctor’s appointment or jobs or other necessities. The road in winter is often unsafe due to lack of maintenance. More traffic will certainly not make it safer.

4. Studies need to be done of the impact of traffic on the east shore communities. In addition, studies need to be done on the impact on summer visitors who encounter crowded roads, noise from helicopters, overcrowded beaches, and lack of access to Kootenay Lake, which is already a big issue, both or locals and for tourists. This proposal could very much have a deleterious affect on tourism.

5. Studies need to be done of the impact of heli-skiing, heli-mountain biking on wildlife, and ecology. Studies need to be done especially on the impact of trail building and lodge building on such endangered species as grizzlies, wolverines, cougars, wolves and many other species.

6. The community needs to be clearly informed about the actual footprint of the proposed lodge, of parking, of sewage disposal, of housing for servers, of lights at night, of where parking will be sited, and many other issues.

7. What is the nature of the actual partnership of the Yaqan Nukiy and Retallack? What are the financial arrangements that have been made? Who in Yaqan Nukiy actually supports this? Do the rest of the Ktunaxa agree with this propsal, since there is a very high possibility according to Wildsight that the grizzly population of the South Purcells will be adversely affected? How does fit with the Yaqan Nukiy creed that they are the protectors of the land in the Kootenays, that their elders have told them in particular to protect the grizzly bears, which are the sacred animals of the Yaquan Nukiy spirituality?

9. What guaranteed protection will the community have for access to the backcountry. Retallack has not been a good neighbour in terms of of access in New Denver and has apparently blocked access to snowmobilers and hikers and tried to shut down competing businesses.

10. What will be the impact of this development on land prices and land taxation? Land prices are already extremely high on the east shore and it is extremely hard for young families to purchase land or be able to live on the east shore.

11. How will this proposal actually balance the promised “economic use of the land with cultural and spiritual values.” What does that specifically mean in practise? How does the project, “ensure long term sustainability and ecological integrity.” How will this project “maintain, protect manage and restore healthy and diverse ecosystems.” What actual strategies would be used to accomplish this?

12. How does this project somehow maintain “carbon neutrality.” In an era when the threat of global climage change is looming, and scientists are calling for definite strategies to limit carbon emission, how does burning helicopter fuel, increased car traffic, creating parking lots and helipads, somehow not create increased carbon emissions?

13. How do mountain bikers speeding down a mountain somehow maintain a hundred meter distance from wildlife? How does person “avoid when seen” wildlife? What kind of “guest training” will be given. How will this enable mountain bikers, skiers, and other people in the back country to not have an impact on wildlife ecology?

14. Who will actually be monitoring and checking on whether people are harassing wildlife by attempting to view them, take pictures, or hover over wildlife with helipcopters? Or will there be any monitoring at all.

Report from Retallack/Ktunaxa Informational Meeting – Back Country Adventure Tenure Request

Retallack/Ktunaxa Back Country Adventure Proposal

by Ingrid Baezel, Mainstreet

At the April 25 Open House at the Crawford Bay School performance space, Retallack and the Lower Kootenay Band welcomed well over one hundred people to view and discuss their proposal for tenure to operate a back-country adventure tourism endeavour.

Image result for retallack ktunaxa

The partners have jointly submitted an application for a tenure on the east side of Kootenay Lake, south the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. The proposed 70,000 ha (177,000 acre) multiple use tenure will allow for guided hiking, horseback riding, climbing and mountain biking in summer and guided ski touring, heliskiing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and dogsledding in winter. According the informational placards up at the open hours, the project envisions the following:

  1. Winter guided adventure tourism activities including ski touring, heliskiing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and dogsledding.
  2. Summer guided adventure tourism activities, including hiking, horseback riding, climbing and mountain biking.
  3. A future lodge locatedon the traditional Gambling Otter land of the yaqan nu?kiy.

The proposed tenure area encompasses a traditional connectivity corridor and trade route between the Ktunaxa peoples. The proposed area of 70,000 ha will allow for the disbursement of potential impacts and user conflicts. The projected use is up to 36 guests per day per summer or winter operating season (each approximately 100 days in duration). In total this will result in a maximum of 3600 guest days per operating season.

The two organizations had several representatives on hand to answer questions and delve a little more deeply into their proposal. People expressed a wide range of reponses to the proposal, from absolute support and appreciation to scepticism and outright rejection. In discussion with several different local residents, Mainstreet heard responses such as, “I’m excited to see the opportunities this proposal might bring to our region,”and “I’m terrified of the impact these helicopters will have on wildlife and our serenity.”

The general sentiment appeared to be one of general support but with caveats. Most residents expressed that they’d like to see as few helicopter tours per day as possible and wish they could know that actual sound impact of these flights. “I hope that this doesn’t become a sound pollution annoyance,” said one attendee. “I don’t see how it won’t.”

In discussion with Chris McNamara, chairman and CEO of Retallack, he expressed that they would be (like North West Mountain Experience) using AStar helicopters, which are substantially more quiet and nimble. The down side of these helicopters, when the numbers are crunched, is that they carry fewer passengers, so that presumably implies more flights per day. McNamara explained that they might be looking at up to 36 visitors per rotation (every three or so days). Because the AStars carry only four or five passengers, that would presumably mean 9 or 10 trips every time they bring people up to the lodge, and 9 or 10 trips every time they bring people back down. If the larger helicopters (205/212) are used, that would imply about half so many trips, but they are reportedly louder and more impactful, not to mention harder to easily manoeuvre in tricky terrain.

Retallack already has an existing lodge in the Selkirk mountains between New Denver and Kaslo. They currently have approximately 800 existing clients and boast an 85% return rate.  So far, they have seen substantial success doing their catskiing operation out of that location, which encompasses over 10,000 acres (the new proposal in the Purcells is for over 70,000 hectares). McNamara said that Retallack has been largely responsible for the much of the economic stability in the area, due to the numbers of wealthier outdoor enthusiasts coming in. He spoke to an absolute willingness to partner with local East Shore businesses and do their best to shop and support locally.  Skeptics of the project say they fail to see that partnering having lasting impact and question how the partnership will actually directly and positively impact existing businesses that are typically closed or hours are deeply reduced in the winter months.  McNamara said they would be eager to hire locally for not just the start of the project with building and implementation, but that the project could offer an array of long-term employment for all ages. They are estimating 125 new jobs being created.

Many at the meeting expressed profound concern for the impact on wildlife and pristine, untouched back country area. The concern for the dwindling caribou population and quietude of hibernating animals and their well-being is pervasive. As Wildsight has recently reported, the Purcell caribou herd has only very recently been recorded as having dwindled down to four remaining animals, along with the mere three remaining in the Selkirk range. This project has them very concerned for the future well being of these threatened creatures among so many other species.

McNamara said that one of the first things that Retallack and the LKB would be working on is a real-time GPS system to create a data base of existing animals and their habitats in the area. This would be ongoing and would help create census data and build a real time map to help protect species existing in the area and respect their habitat. He expressed the long-standing and devoted stewardship of the land by the Ktunaxa people and their full support and involvement with this project would surely hold everyone to account and keep preservation and protection at the forefront of the project as it develops.

The proposal representatives have said they aim for carbon neutrality and expect to perhaps even achieve carbon negativity in this project. When asked how that would be achieved, McNamara said that they would be purchasing carbon offsets and doing all they could to reduce emissions and their carbon footprint in perpetuity. “If we could use electric helicopters and plug into micro-hydro systems today, we would,” said McNamara.

For those wishing to give feedback on this proposal, we have until May 13 to do so. Go to the following link: and send in your thoughts on the proposal. Now is the time for input to allow for amendments to the proposal and have a say in the process. It has been suggested that copying those thoughts and sending them to the directors of the RDCK and the RDEK might be useful as well.

Wildsight will be hosting a meeting at the Gray Creek Hall on May 3 at 7pm to discuss environmental and animal impacts of the projects being proposed. All are welcome to attend.