Downie Timber plant manager emphasizes need for science-based decisions, socio-economic analysis in caribou recovery plan

Read and listen: Revelstoke-based Downie Timber plant manager Angus Woodman discusses the federal/provincial caribou recovery plan in advance of the April 15, 2019 consultation session in Revelstoke.

File photo: Workers sort lumber at the Downie Timber sawmill in Revelstoke. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Downie Timber is among the largest employers in Revelstoke, employing over 300 people directly and many more indirectly. Their milling operation, which is based on cedar specialty products, is located on the banks of the Columbia River adjacent to Revelstoke’s downtown neighbourhoods.

Ahead of the April 15 caribou consultation session on the federal-provincial caribou consultation in Revelstoke, plant manager Angus Woodman spoke with the Mountaineer to share his views on the draft agreement that was revealed in March.

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.

Woodman was moderate in tone during the conversation, saying it’s difficult to assess what the implications of the draft agreement will be for Downie Timber at this point due to the lack of details available.

“You can make this as extreme as possible, but I don’t think we need to go there at this point in the sense that we’re supportive of caribou recovery,” Woodman said.

Listen: Downie Timber plant manager discusses the draft caribou recovery plan:

“We just want to make sure all factors are considered, both the socio-economic impacts of certain treatments, and certain biological science-based plans,” he said. “We’re not even 100% sure of what the plan is. We’re doing what we can with what the plan is to date.”

Woodman said Downie, as the company is known in Revelstoke, has been involved in caribou management plans in their woodland operations for over 20 years, and that caribou recovery-related reductions in the mill’s fibre supply has had a cumulative effect. “Our options are less and less in terms of finding that adequate timber supply to keep the plant here operating as efficiently and productively and possible and keeping that many jobs as well.”

He said that the mill’s ability to maintain viability “needs to be addressed” as caribou plans are developed.

“We rely upon the trees that grow in the vicinity of Revelstoke to feed our mills,” he said. “The key is that socio-economic part that needs to be considered and factored into the decision-making.”

He said that the community and Downie Timber have worked well together on past caribou challenges and would like to see that reflected in new plans. “Like many things in Revelstoke over the years, it’s a collaborative effort amongst all stakeholders,” he said. “The message for us is we’re here, come and talk to us, we can provide any and all resources necessary to get at what some of these analyses look like.”

He’d also like to see the plan based on “evidence-based” and “science-based decisions.”

The Revelstoke caribou consultation meeting is at the Revelstoke Community and Aquatic Centre on Monday, April 15 from 5:30-9:30 p.m.

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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.