Deep concerns as Revelstoke Snowmobile Club gathers to discuss draft caribou plan

Revelstoke Snowmobile Club members express deep concern about draft federal-provincial caribou recovery plan.

About 70 people attended an information session on the draft Section 11 caribou recover plan held at the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club's welcome centre on April 10. The meeting was held in preparation for the provincial consultation meeting in Revelstoke on Monday, April 15. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

A deep worry about of the unknowns in the draft federal-provincial caribou recovery plan predominated at an April 10 meeting held at the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club’s Welcome Centre.

The meeting was held in advance of the provincial government’s engagement upcoming engagement session on the draft plan on Monday, April 15 at the Revelstoke Community and Aquatic Centre.

The crowd of about 70 people included Revelstoke Snowmobile Club (RSC) members and representatives from Tourism Revelstoke and the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce.

The caribou recovery plan in question is a draft agreement between the provincial and federal governments. It has its genesis in and early 2018 declaration by federal environment minster Catherine McKenna that woodland caribou were facing “imminent threat” in B.C. This started the process that led to the Species at Risk Act Section 11 agreement between the province and the federal government. A consultation period on the plan is ongoing until May 3. For more background on the draft plan, see our earlier story, What does the draft mountain caribou conservation agreement mean for Revelstoke?

(The Revelstoke Mountaineer has been publishing stories on Section 11 caribou recovery plan developments for over a year. See our story archive here.)

Concern over sledding closures

Revelstoke Snowmobile Club director Marc Joiner and club general manager Teena Rumak at the April 10, 2019 meeting. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Teena Rumak has served as the RSC’s general manager for the past four months. She said she’s been deeply involved in the issue since taking on the new position.

“The recommendation is to close core habitat … it doesn’t tell us what that core area is,” Rumak said. “That’s the fear — they’ll close the area.”

The concern is the recovery plan outlines many objectives and a framework for caribou recovery, but now as consultation is ongoing, it lacks the details most relevant to those that will be affected, such as maps that would provide certainty for stakeholders such as forestry or backcountry recreation.

“It will shut down our logging industry. It will shut down forestry,” Rumak said. “This isn’t about snowmobiling. This is about the community pulling together.”

With a small but visible herd active in the most popular local snowmobiling areas of Boulder Mountain and Frisby Mountain, the concern is the plan could further restrict sledding.

RSC director Marc Joiner emphasized that the ramifications of the plan was deeply concerning for Revelstoke. “We’re aiming to get backing from the community. This is way beyond sledding. I’m actually concerned about what’s going to happen to this community.”

Caribou and Communities group

Dave Seaton attended as the representative of the Caribou & Communities group, a new organization that is seeking to bring stakeholders together on the issue. He also presented at the meeting.

“The society itself is trying to get all the groups together … we want to see how we can manage the caribou,” Seaton said.

Much of the meeting focused on plans for the Monday consultation meeting. There was a lot of discussion about strategy, especially presenting a coherent message.

“It’s imperative really important that we stay on the side of caribou recovery,” Seaton said. “If we come across as a community that just wants the caribou gone, we’re not fighting the right fight.”

For more on the Caribou & Communities group, see this past Revelstoke Mountaineer story.

Plans for turnout at the consultation

The meeting lasted for about two hours, with lots of comments from the audience. There was a lot of discussion about reaching out to the community to inform them about the plan’s implications and get more people involved. In the end, the focus was on getting people out to the April 15 meeting and presenting the club’s views well.

“We don’t want it to be a ruckus, we want it to be productive,” Rumak said.

A voice from the audience retorted: “We don’t want it to be rammed down our throat, either.”

The Monday, April 15 caribou recovery consultation meeting is at the Revelstoke Community & Aquatic Centre from 5:30–9:30 p.m. The B.C. government has a website where residents can give feedback on the plan.

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.