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North Columbia Environmental Society asks for carbon levy on snowmobilers in Revelstoke

NCES asks for city to impose carbon levy and stop support of marketing motorized recreation
Snowmobilers head up Frisby Ridge. The North Columbia Environmental Society wants sledders to be charged $2.50 per day or $20 per season on passes to offset their carbon emissions. ~ Revelstoke Review file photo

The North Columbia Environmental Society wants the City of Revelstoke to stop promoting motorized recreation and to levy a carbon fee on snowmobilers that would be used to pay off the city’s own carbon taxes and support environmental education.

“The NCES supports the city’s initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but is concerned that the city is also promoting the recreational consumption of fossil fuels through its tourism strategy and funding support for such activities,” wrote the NCES in a letter to council signed by the organization’s president Jody Lownds. “Of particular concern is the promotion of snowmobiling, heli-skiing, heli-hiking and heli-biking in the Revelstoke area and the huge carbon footprint these activities are having on our environment.”

The letter, which is dated June 1 and addressed to Mayor Mark McKee and the rest of council, points out commitments the city has made to reduce its carbon emissions in the Community Development Action Plan and the Corporate Energy & Emissions Plan. It notes the City of Revelstoke is forecast to emit 1,700 tons of carbon in 2017, or 4.6 tons per day.

But, the NCES writes, one two-stroke snowmobile can emit up to 84 kilograms of carbon per day and a Bell 212 helicopter that is commonly used for heli-skiing emits 4,800 kilograms of carbon per day.

The letter says that on a busy day with 800 snowmobilers riding in the Revelstoke area, 67 tons of carbon could be emitted. It doesn’t give a similar figure for heli-skiing.

The letter says the city should charge a fee to offset those emissions, and that it should stop any funding that would promote motorized recreation. It says the initiatives are needed to keep with the city’s commitment to environmental sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“To adhere to the city’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the NCES recommends that the city not fund motorized recreation initiatives and refrain from promoting or advertising motorized recreation tourism,” writes the NCES. “lf this is not possible, then we would ask the city to commit to ensuring that non-motorized recreation is promoted and advertised on at least a 4:1 ratio with motorized recreation.

“We also recommend that the city charge $2.50 per day on Boulder and Frisby Ridge passes or $20 per year on annual passes. These environmental fees should go to paying for the City of Revelstoke and School District 19 carbon tax and also fund environmental programming which provides for stewardship of natural resources through conservation and enhancement of the ecological systems of the area surrounding Revelstoke.”

Daniel Kellie, the president of the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club, pointed out that snowmobilers already pay carbon taxes on fuel, including an extra three cents per litre for marked gasoline. He said 28,000 snowmobilers used the club’s trails last winter and combined they would have paid more than $60,000 in carbon taxes on fuel last year, assuming they used 35 litres per day in gas — a number he said was overstated.

“As a user we’re already paying our taxes,” he said.

Kellie questioned the NCES’ numbers, saying most snowmobiles today use 12-13 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

He said a levy could also hurt the economy. A recent economic impact study produced by the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club says snowmobiling generates about $10 million per year for the local economy.

A carbon levy could scare people away. “If this goes ahead and we don’t get all that funding, the ramifications affect the whole city,” he said. “People will go elsewhere, they won’t want to come to Revelstoke.”

He also wondered why the NCES singled out snowmobilers and not dirt bikers or heli-skiers. “It would have been nice to have had a conversation with (the NCES) prior to them submitting a letter to council,” said Kellie, who also owns Great Canadian Tours. “I wasn’t approached as the club and I wasn’t approached as a business.”

In an interview, Lownds said the letter was prompted by an ad campaign that heavily featured motorized recreation. “It was to make sure that non-motorized recreation preferably would be promoted by the city instead of motorized recreation,” she said.

She said the NCES would like the fee to apply to other forms of motorized recreation. While she ackowledged that snowmobilers already pay carbon tax on fuel, “This would be the city saying these are environmental obligations we’ve made and in order to help fund these obligations, they could levy that.”

The NCES has not raised the issue with other government agencies, said Lownds.

Whether or not the city could even apply such a tax is not known.

“Locally, it’s on what the city has committed to from a carbon and climate change standpoint and holding them to those obligations and making sure they aren’t doing things that are at odds with that,” said Lownds.

Meghan Tabor, the manager of Tourism Revelstoke, said they could not comment until the membership was consulted.

City council is scheduled to discuss the letter on Tuesday, June 13. Staff is recommending the proposal is referred to the environmental committee, economic development commission, and tourism infrastructure committee for consideration.