Update: Minister Bill Bennett denies role in Revelstoke conservation officer decision

Minister Bill Bennett is denying any involvement in the decision to remove the conservation officer position from Revelstoke.

The Columbia Kootenay zone has four conservation officers — two in Golden

Minister Bill Bennett is denying any involvement in the decision to remove the conservation officer position from Revelstoke.

Bennett was implicated in the decision after documents received through a freedom of information request indicated he gave approval for the position to be moved from the community.

“Lori just heard back from the Minister’s office and Minister Bennett is supportive of moving the position in Revelstoke,” wrote Danielle Jmieff, the division issues manager for BC Parks and the Conservation Officer Service (COS), in an e-mail.

The e-mail was sent to Doug Forsdick, the chief superintendent of the COS. Lori is likely Lori Halls, the assistant deputy minister for BC Parks and the COS.

The documents were obtained through a freedom of information request and provided to the Times Review by Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald (NDP).

“Input from the community of Revelstoke was neither asked for nor included in the decision to remove Revelstoke’s conservation officer. Instead, the ministry was more interested in consulting with Bill Bennett, the MLA for Kootenay East, who supported this very serious cut to the community,” said Macdonald, in a news release. “It is beyond ridiculous that the way decisions are made on such important issues is for an entire ministry of professionals to await the final word of a guy who knows absolutely nothing about the conservation service or the community of Revelstoke.”

Bennett responded by calling the accusation “inaccurate” and “just not true.” He said as the lone government MLA in the Kootenays, he was notified about the decision as he often is when matters come up regarding the region, but that was the extent of his involvement.

“It’s not my ministry, it’s not my riding. I’m not in a position, nor do I have the authority or the expertise to sign off on this decision or post a decision,” he told the Times Review. “Until today, I hadn’t even remembered this issue coming across my desk. I’m responsible for energy and mines, I’m responsible for core review. I don’t have the time or the interest to be involved in all of my colleagues decisions.”

Revelstoke lost its conservation officer in December when Adam Christie retired and his position was transferred to Golden. The move has been widely condemned by local stakeholders, who fear it will lead to increased poaching, human-wildlife conflict and other violations.

Much of the information obtained in the FoI request is redacted so it is not known why Bennett was involved in the conservation officer decision. The COS is part of the Ministry of the Environment, whose minister is MLA Mary Polak.

The 87-page response to the request for access to information contain letters to the Ministry of the Environment from Macdonald, Revelstoke Bear Aware and the Revelstoke Rod and Gun Club that have already been made public; as well as numerous internal e-mails discussing how to communicate the decision to the public and respond to media requests.

The response does contain statistics on response calls in Revelstoke, Golden and Invermere, but any analysis of the information, or justification for the decision is not included. Dozens of pages are redacted, citing clauses in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that allow information to be withheld.

In a letter to the Times Review sent in January, B.C. Minister of the Environment Mary Polak said that have two officers in Golden and two in Invermere, “would provide the best level of service to the entire [Columbia Kootenay] zone.

“The review was based on location and types of complaints and calls received through the region, and took into consideration the safety and wellbeing of our officers,” Polak wrote.

 

2014-05-01 MOE-2014-00027 Records Conservation Officer Position in Revelstoke by AlexCooperRTR

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Revelstoke has launched a community well-being survey. (Contributed)
City launches community well-being survey

Everyone residing in Revelstoke aged 12 and over is invited to complete it

BC Liberal incumbent Doug Clovechok is seeking re-election as MLA for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding in the provincial election. (File photo)
BC VOTES: Get to know BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok

Clovechok talks highways, housing, childcare and the environment

NDP candidate Nicole Cherlet on the campaign trail in Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap- Revelstoke Review)
BC VOTES: Q&A with BC NDP candidate Nicole Cherlet

Cherlet talks highways, housing, childcare and the environment

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Columbia River-Revelstoke Green Party candidate Samson Boyer. (Contributed)
BC VOTES: Q&A with BC Green Party candidate Samson Boyer

Boyer talks highways, housing, childcare and the environment

Vernon Fire Rescue Services and Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP were called to a report of an electrical fire at the emergency response centre operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society on 37th Street Sunday, Oct. 18, just before 5:30 p.m. The fire displaced shelter residents who have been set up with services at the Vernon Recreation Complex. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon shelter residents find refuge in hotels, motels, recreation complex after fire

Electrical fire at Turning Points Collaborative Society’s emergency response centre on 37th Street

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna man charged after allegedly stealing senior’s car

Elderly woman’s car was stolen while she was shopping

Salmon Arm RCMP say residents have been receiving calls from fraudster claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP warn of Publishers Clearing House telephone scam

Police say scammer requests fee to claim sweepstakes prizes

Osoyoos Fire Department responded to reports of a vehicle engulfed in flames Sunday (Oct. 18) evening at a Lambert Court residence. (Osoyoos Fire Department)
Osoyoos Fire Department knock down car fire near home

Blaze was ‘really close’ to becoming a structure fire

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels more Okanagan concerts

The Contenders and Colin James postponed until 2021

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Most Read