Caribou recovery plan unknowns concerning, worst-case devastating for Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation

The general manager of the Revelstoke city-owned Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation is concerned about the details, or lack thereof, in the draft federal/provincial caribou recovery plan. He spoke with the Mountaineer ahead of the caribou recovery plan open house on April 15. Read and listen here.

File photo: A skidder at work on the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation tenure. Photo: Bryce Borlick

The general manager of the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation is concerned about the implications of the draft federal-provincial caribou recovery plan, especially a lack of detail that prevents the company from having certainty.

“There’s not a whole lot of detail to the plan at this time and that’s not unexpected,” said RCFC general manager Mike Copperthwaite in an interview with the Mountaineer. “The mapping is at such a high level that you can barely even see our tenure … so we don’t have details. Normally we would be able to run analysis.”

The Mountaineer has reported on the caribou issue for over a year, since the federal government stepped in under the Species at Risk Act. For background on the issue, see our caribou story archives here.

The Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation is owned by the City of Revelstoke. It operates on a tenure north of Revelstoke. The corporation’s tenure operation is a source of timber supply for local mills and some proceeds of the company are channeled back to the city and also support a number of community initiatives, such as scholarships, community projects and more.

“[The] worst case scenario, the way the mapping could look right now is basically there would be nothing left in our tenure to manage. It would all be protected under this habitat protection if that came in place,” he said.

Listen: RCFC general manager Mike Copperthwaite interview on the draft federal/provincial caribou recovery plan:

Copperthwaite said in the mid-2000s, RCFC went through a similar process on a caribou management plan at the time, and RCFC added about 10,000 hectares of protected area within their tenure.

“This would be further protection that we don’t really believe is necessary at this time,” he said. “If that did come in, I don’t think we would have any operable area left to operate on, so it would be complete shutdown, and it’s not just RCFC, it’s all of the other companies that operate in this area. They would lose all their tenures as well.”

“We feel it would be fairly devastating to the community,” Copperthwaite said.

The RCFC has about 18,000 hectares of operable land and harvests about 200 hectares per year. Although there isn’t enough detail to tell, Copperthwaite estimates that under a worst-case scenario 90% of the corporation’s operable area would be “completely shut down.”

“The licenses become inoperable at a certain point … if you’re only operating on a teeny little part of the land-base,” he said.

He said that would “absolutely” threaten the viability of RCFC.

Moving forward

Copperthwaite also expressed concerns about the plan development and management framework that would be instituted if the federal/provincial agreement were to be adopted as presented in the draft plan, saying that he didn’t have confidence that its structure would allow for adequate local consultation as further details are developed.

“It’s very weak on community and stakeholder engagement, so we’d like to have more of a commitment to making sure we all sit at a table and come up with a solution that works for everyone: the caribou, our industry, the other industries that will be affected and just the community in general.”

“We’ve done this in the past in Revelstoke over the years on different plans. It’s always been a positive way for us to ensure that the local concerns [are] met. What we really don’t want to see someone from Ottawa or even Victoria just telling us, ‘This is what it is, comment.’ We want to be part of making a plan that works.”

The B.C. government is hosting a caribou consultation open house at the Revelstoke Community and Aquatic Centre from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, April 15.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have or call/text him at 250-814-8710.