The proposal that sledders should give up sledding to aid in the caribou recovery effort is not the appropriate solution.
I agree that we should absolutely not let a species go extinct to make room for what many perceive as a recreational pastime. But the reality is, here in Revelstoke, sledding is not just for pleasure; it is a large portion of the tourism industry that contributes a lot of money into our local economy. We don’t need the government’s pending socio-economic impact study to know that the effect of eliminating sled zones will have a negative impact felt by the whole of Revelstoke area. The economic contribution sledding makes to our economy is an entity in itself that we must not allow to go extinct. Thus, the caribou and the ability for people to continue earning their livelihoods, either directly as a sled rental shop or sled guide, or indirectly as the restaurants and hotels catering to tourists, must find a way to co-exist.
Further to sled tourism, there are many stakeholders that have years of investments embedded in access to backcountry terrain and the forested areas surrounding Revelstoke. Some groups, such as the Downie Mill and the timber industry were represented by a passionate turn-out of members declaring their case for economic preservation of their industries. The caribou were also represented by science and passionate arguments from those that believe their well-being must prevail above all else, at whatever the cost.
I think we are beyond halting all of our exploits of the land to save the caribou. However noble the idea of eliminating all human disturbances to the caribou habitat is, it does not serve us as a community. Please don’t misunderstand me; I do not wish in any way to give up on caribou recovery, and I am not writing to dispute the government’s science or proposed methods of recovery. I am writing to say that we are now as dependent on the land as the caribou that inhabit it. We cannot simply cease all backcountry activity and expect our community to survive. Sled tourism, ski tourism, and forest harvesting puts food on the table and sends kids to college for many local families. Caribou recovery efforts and the preservation of our back-country access-dependent industries must be achieved together, while ensuring the viability and longevity of each. We must not sacrifice one for the other. We must find a way.