Revelstoke’s NCES weighs amalgamating with larger Wildsight environmental organization

The North Columbia Environmental Society (NCES) are reconsidering amalgamating with the larger environmental organization Wildsight. President Kent Christensen explains the pros and cons of NCES becoming a Wildsight branch.

A young contestant at the 2018 Trashion Show hosted by the North Columbia Environmental Society held at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Contestants designed and made custom costumes out of trash, recycled materials, and other upcycled items as part of an effort to highlight waste issues. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Revelstoke environmental organization the North Columbia Environmental Society (NCES) was formed in 1999 and has since formed deep roots within the Revelstoke Community. 

On Wednesday, November 25, the NCES is hosting a virtual annual general meeting (AGM) for their members to decide whether or not they wish to amalgamate with the larger environmental organization Wildsight. 

The idea was first approached ten years ago, but it was not viable at the time, NCES President Kent Christensen explained.

The pandemic took a hard hit at NCES’ finances. Due to drastic cuts in funding, Christensen says they were forced to let go of their only paid employee, coordinator Kate Borucz. 

Combined with the growing nature of Revelstoke in general, and with how big some of the issues are with all the different stakeholders, Christensen says it’s a good time to give themselves “a bigger voice.” 

Issues relating to the endangered woodland aribou population, hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River, and the rapidly growing tourist fossil fuel industry, including heli-skiing and sledding, are of special concern to NCES, Christensen explained.

NCES holds ongoing protection campaigns for Rainbow Valley in collaboration with the Valhalla Wilderness Society. Photo: provided by Kent Christensen

“Right now we are feeling a little bit overwhelmed as a full volunteer board advocating for these issues in a way we feel do them justice,” he said. 

Wildsight has a team of specialists who can provide advice on local issues. They also offer assistance with administrative work, such as applying for grants and running campaigns. 

Even though up to 10 per cent of local branches’ donations and grants go to Wildsight, Christensen believes the administrative cost of NCES becoming a Wildsight branch will far exceed this amount. 

Wilsight has paid employees and will potentially open a paid position in Revelstoke. 

NCES currently has around a hundred members, in contrast to Wildsight with 1,800 memberships. Wildsight has branches across the Columbia and the Southern Rocky Mountains including Kimberley/Cranbrook, Golden, Invermere, Creston, and Elk Valley. 

The strength in numbers gives Wildsight a louder political voice; however, Christensen said there are concerns about how Wildsight is publicly perceived. With Wildsight being a much bigger organization, he fears that even though most have a positive perception, certain groups have a negative one of Wildsight. 

Another downside would be a bit of a loss of autonomy. “Right now we don’t have to answer to anyone,” Christensen said. But, the president is not too worried because he said Wildsight has assured them local branches operate with quite a bit of independence. 

Wildsight already has a presence in town as they run educational programs at local schools. The last time Wildsight created a local branch was over thirty years ago, so this is new for them as well, he said. 

“Becoming a Wildsight branch would allow us to focus more on the stuff we are passionate about, and not be bogged down by the administrative tasks of running a non for profit. We can work more on local grassroots events and really get people engaged in the community,” Christensen says. 

An internal NCES newsletter to members presented a pros and cons chart about the decision.

The final decision of whether or not NCES will become a Wildsight branch will be made early next year. 

Sofie Hagland is the multimedia community journalist for Revelstoke Mountaineer. When Sofie is not skinning up a mountain or climbing up a rock, she is probably behind a camera looking for her next story. Do you have tips on Revelstoke news, outdoor life, or what's happening in the community? Contact Sofie at sofie@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text 672-999-3616.