The Squamish Nation has rejected the amended plans for a gondola project in Squamish and in doing so, sent a message to potential investors eyeing the Sea to Sky corridor prior to the Olympics.
The rejection of this proposal will also raise some questions about Water, Land and Air Protections environmental assessment process because several members of the Squamish community and the proponents have both argued that allowing more community involvement would have simplified the process.
But it was the Squamish Nation that effectively stopped the gondola project when it forwarded a letter last week to the two proponents, Paul Mathews and Peter Alder, as well as the Mayor of Squamish and Premier Gordon Campbells office.
Alder said the letter was signed by Chief Gibby Jacob and demonstrated that the Squamish Nation was unanimously opposed to any gondola project, whether on the Stawamus Chief or parallel to Shannon Falls.
History has proved that First Nations approval for major developments is a necessary step even if a proposal receives environmental approval.
The Squamish Nations position may be seen by some as another deterrent to investment in the province. Because of First Nations opposition the proposed Cayoosh Resort, in an area north-east of Whistler, has been dormant since receiving an environmental assessment certificate several years ago. The Garibaldi at Squamish resort proposal has been tied up in courts for months until a judge recently determined that the Squamish Nation must be further consulted before the project can proceed. And the proposed Jumbo Creek Resort in the Kootenays recently received environmental approval, but some First Nations are believed to be opposed to the project.
The Squamish gondola decision comes at a time when the provincial government is trying to encourage investment in resorts and has challenged the tourism industry to double in size by 2015.
It also raises the issue of the treaty process in B.C. which, despite more than a decade of work and millions of dollars, has yet to produce a modern treaty.
The gondola Alder and Mathews were proposing was expected to be a major tourist attraction as well as a way of opening some of Squamishs backcountry to mountain bikers and skiers.
Alder said the Squamish Nation stated in their letter that they were opposed to the project because the area has great natural importance to their people.
"It says that the chief and council considered the material supplied by the minister and the proponents in the Sept. 28 meeting," Alder said, reading from the Squamish Nations letter.
Alder read on: "We (the Squamish Nation) have discussed the information with the Squamish Nation elders and the Squamish Nation is unanimously opposed to a gondola on the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls.
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