By Joshua Estabrooks

Pioneer Staff

The Regional District of East Kootenay committed $900,000 towards the purchase of a controversial parcel of land in the Fairmont area at their regularly scheduled meeting on August 5th.

Lot 48

The land in question, known locally as Lot 48, has been in and out of the news since plans to develop a 630-unit golf resort on the property surfaced in 2005, sending residents and their local political representatives scrambling to find ways to prevent any commercial development on the land.

The regional district responded initially by proposing two bylaws that would downgrade the zoning of the land, preventing commercial development, but they have delayed that process as the Nature Conservancy of Canada is now in talks to purchase the property and establish it as a protected area.

Strategically located within a network of protected areas on the east side of Columbia Lake, the land is adjacent to the Columbia Lake Provincial Park and other wildlife management areas, ecological reserves and important natural ecosystems. It has also been identified as having great cultural and historical significance to the Ktunaxa First Nation, and contains archaeological sites and historic artifacts.

Because of this, Nature Conservancy of Canadas Stewardship Coordinator for the Rocky Mountain area, Hillary Page, said that they are actively trying to purchase the land, but have asked for help in raising the $7.2 million that they will require to gain ownership of the land and establish both a short-term and long-term stewardship program for the property.

That number is all-in, not just the price of the property, Ms. Page said. The original deadline was the beginning of June, but we hadnt raised sufficient funds to purchase the property at that time, so we are still fundraising for the project. The next deadline is November 30th.

To assist with the purchase and stewardship, the regional district committed $700,000 from the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, a discretionary grant of $100,000 from Electoral Area F, and a regional general administration grant of $100,000, which will be shared by all electoral areas.

Once the area is purchased, Ms. Page said there would be a thorough evaluation of the natural and historical values contained on the property, which will help the conservancy develop a long-term management plan.

Given our history of management we dont restrict access, but until we know exactly whats there, we wont know what management will look like, she said. The properties surrounding the area are open to access, so we would hope this property would be the same way, but we wont know until we study it further.