In the spring of 2018, East Shore residents learned of a proposal by Retallack and the Lower Kootenay Band for tenure use of nearly 71,000 hectares in the Purcell mountain range for an adventure tourism, heli-operation. This is one of several applications for tenure impacting the Purcell region, and the biggest.
The deadline for public feedback on this proposal has passed (July 15) but the loveitwild ad hoc group continues to focus on next steps for protecting our beautiful backcountry. Please stay tuned to learn about next steps… We are considering implementing a land management strategy plan and hope to find ways to discourage broad, large scale, and especially mechanized, backcountry adventure tourism in the region. The discussion continues…
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HOW THE RETALLACK PROPOSAL IMPACTS THE KOOTENAY LAKE REGION
The proposed Retallack tenure application is unique and without precedent. It sets up an adventure tourism business model across two crown land mountain ranges relying on a new commercial helicopter system in public airspace over and along Kootenay Lake.
Retallack’s request for tenure in the Purcells and their existing tenure in the Selkirks will be on opposite sides of Kootenay Lake. If their application were to be successful, they would have two tenures relying on persistent helicopter traffic over Kootenay Lake to serve both tenures for their business model. This vast area exposes communities on both east and west shores including a large swath of Kootenay Lake itself which is outside of the tenure application area. The risks associated with continuous year-round helicopter traffic to serve Retallack raise many concerns for residents and visitors alike. As you read below remember the golden rules of “Leave no Trace” and “Tread Lightly (Quietly)” for a sustainable tourism industry and life around Kootenay Lake.
A helicopter-based business would see the establishment of extensive new flight paths up and down the east and west shores and across Kootenay Lake, with numerous fuel caches and multiple staging areas. This business would create persistent helicopter noise pollution over Kootenay Lake, approximately 200 days of year, impacting communities and wilderness areas. Commercial and expanding helicopter traffic, if approved, would risk degradation in our quality of life at schools, playgrounds, parks, hiking trails, campgrounds, outside restaurants, public meeting spaces and, most importantly, within our own homes.
The on-going helicopter traffic associated with the Retallack proposal may result in a significant deterioration of tourism quality and lower tourism volume for other non-Retallack tourists. This may severely limit those interested in establishing or maintaining sustainable, low-impact eco-tourism businesses in the area, as well similar impact to existing businesses.
The Retallack proposal claims there would be economic benefits to existing local businesses, however their contracting strategies, and plans for incremental employment creation over their initial 10-year planning horizon are unclear. Balancing this claimed benefit with the potential decline in tourism from people who choose not to visit due to helicopter noise also needs to be quantified. The on-going helicopter traffic associated with the Retallack Proposal may severely restrict new business development and negatively impact those with established sustainable, low-impact eco-tourism businesses in the area.
The Retallack proposal relies on the use of over 70,000 hectares of Canada’s crown land opening up vast wilderness areas to year-round commercial exploitation. This has serious implications on a range of key wildlife species, including the endangered Woodland Caribou, currently protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), Grizzly Bear and Goat populations.
Helicopter based heli-biking will see the creation of new biking trails from the alpine summits to the valley bottoms to satisfy a growing demand for this extreme sport. These trails create new significant impacts on the highest alpine ecosystems through to dark lower microclimates in our forests. At this time, the ecological impact of mountain biking trails from “Peak to Creek” trails are poorly understood, posing a spectrum of unrecognized risks to wildlife and the environment.
Heli-biking like heli-skiing, can feature unlimited lifts to allow clients to repeatedly complete “laps” down the mountains while helicopters burn fuel for repeated lifts. Constructed fuel caches allow local refueling in the forest, so the helicopter can lift more clients faster with a low fuel payload, resulting in even more helicopter traffic. The remote fuel caches represent their own risks for fire, leakage, security and contamination while truck traffic creates risks to carry fuel to a variety of remote locations. As well, to expedite development, Retallack is seeking permission to park fuel tankers in the forest, “early in the project”.
The proposed Retallack tenure would be in place for 45 years; however, their proposal only provides data for the first three years and includes only a 10-year projection or estimate. If Retallack provides no information for the additional 35 years, why would a 45-year term even be considered by the Ministry? This time span exceeds the time horizon for other tenure users, governments and planning authorities. Agreeing to Retallack’s terms now for 45 years would not be in the best interest for regional planning, the communities, the establishment of future parks and for other tenure use.
The Retallack proposal would see the development of commercial mountain huts and travel-ways between huts. The creation of these huts and aspects of year-round occupancy for biking, skiing, climbing, filming, and hiking generates human waste, noise, and disturbances in high alpine zones and creates new and poorly understood risks to the environment and consequences over the life of the tenure.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Understand and be aware of the huge impact of helicopter noise pollution. The Kootenay Lake valley, arguably one of the most beautiful and quiet places in the region, will protest by returning the helicopter noise echo from the valley walls to you. The environment, geomorphology, aircraft type and the flight path all need to be carefully considered as a complex ‘designed’ system for both summer and winter. Kootenay Lake communities deserve that the proper studies, planning, design processes, regulations and noise levels be fully considered before a pervasive helicopter-based business can be introduced into a new airspace. Express your concern that approval of the Retallack tenure crown land does not in any way constitute approval of a new helicopter traffic system causing noise polluting and degrading off tenure communities, parks and protected areas.
Understand Retallack, the business, and the culture with Heli-Biking. Visit freehubmag.com and watch a 6-part documentary video set with trailer and finale titled “Peak to Creek” to see how Retallack has built mountain biking trails. Visit www.pinkbike.com/news/retallack-lodge-2016 and click on a picture to view a gallery of over 50 pictures to understand this rapidly expanding phenomenon. Read the comments and forums to understand what’s at stake for 45 years with helicopters recently and now lifting bicycles to “Shred Trail”. Consider what you would expect for the necessary regulations, controls, and enforcement to ensure sustainability in the future and then let our ministries and elected officials know.
As well visit Helicat Canada at http://www.helicat.org/ the society representing the Adventure Tourism Heliskiiing and Helibiking industry. Review the claims made by the industry for economic development and employment. Explore the website content and member links and compare to the Retallack Proposal and express your opinion for claimed expected economic benefit for our communities and let your elected officials know.
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