Plans for a heli-skiing operation in the Incommapleux River area have been rejected, but the proponent was given permission to build a ski touring lodge in the area.
Icefall Lodge, a ski touring operation based in the Rocky Mountains north of Golden, applied for a 31,480 hectare heli-skiing tenure in the Incommapleux area in November 2012.
The company also applied to build a backcountry ski touring lodge that would be based on Battle Mountain, which sits at the confluence of Battle Creek and the Incommapleux River.
The heli-skiing proposal was rejected but the ski touring lodge approved in a decision posted by the Integrated Land Management Bureau at the end of June.
Amongst the reasons given for the rejection was that the proposed tenure would overlap with existing operations and that the area is part of a major park proposal put forward by several environmental groups.
“The application for heli-skiing does not adequately address the impacts of mechanized skiing on wildlife and ecological values for cumulative effects,” states the notice from the ILMB. “There are unique ecological characteristics including old growth forests and temperate rain forest within the area identified for heliskiing.”
The decision to approve the ski touring lodge states “no significant impact on the environment has been identified by mandated agencies.”
Anne Sherrod, the spokesperson for the Valhalla Wilderness Society, disagrees. While she was happy with the decision to reject the heli-skiing proposal, she said the lodge was the “most damaging” and would have the biggest footprint.
“Of the two parts of the proposal we would have said the lodge was the most damaging to wildlife,” she said. “It’s in an area where all things point it to being high quality grizzly bear habitat.”
She said the society made a submission to the ILMB highlighting the impact of existing heli-ski operations and backcountry lodges in the area.
“We’re very glad the ILMB recognized the cumulative impacts in the reasons they cited for turning down the heli-skiing,” she said. “I think that’s very laudable.”
Sherrod was also happy the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal was noted in the rejection. “The fact they took that into consideration and considered it one of the values in existence on the ground was very important to us.”
The backcountry skiing lodge is set to be located on Battle Mountain at an elevation of 1,575 metres. It will be able to house 16 guests for guided and catered week-long ski trips.