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Dave Quinn, wildlife biologist and anti-Jumbo resort activist. Photo courtesy of Bruce Kirkby

‘Grizzlies not gondolas’

By Pieta Woolley

In Jumbo Wild (2015), an hour-long documentary that details the first 24 years of scientific and community resistance to the Jumbo Glacier Resort, wildlife biologist Dave Quinn is shown confronting French investors visiting Qat’muk in 2012. The night before the investors were set to arrive, he and a group of local outdoor types snowmobiled 55 kilometres into the mountain range and used food colouring to write huge protest slogans in the snow: “Grizzlies not gondolas!”

On a snowy day this past January, he met me for tea in Kimberley, B.C., on his way to ski the local hill with his young family. Quinn grew up nearby, attending Sunday school and youth group at Cranbrook United. Now, the lanky scientist says he finds his “church” skiing and hiking in nature, particularly in the silence of the backcountry — including at Qat’muk.

As a child, he recalls, forestry was king. Kimberley was one of the world’s biggest producers of lead-zinc ores. As resource jobs left, the B.C. government sought to replace them with ski tourism. Within a five-hour drive, he says, 19 ski areas have opened up over the past two decades. The jobs are seasonal and don’t pay what a tree faller or miner made. Housing prices shot up with international investment. The sharp decrease in affordability has strained existing services. He’s not against skiing, obviously. For Quinn, the region is just at capacity, and the wilderness that’s left is worth protecting.

“This is development in the European model,” he says, referring to the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort. “In Europe, there are lifts to every peak, with way higher population and land-use densities. But you will not see wolverines, lynxes or grizzlies.”

For wildlife migration, Quinn posits that the Purcells are “continentally significant.” That argument hasn’t stopped the resort from passing its environmental assessments. Perhaps religion will succeed where animal protection has failed. 

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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