By Steve Hubrecht

After months of searching, the District of Invermere finally has a new environmental planner.

Anne-Sophie Corriveau stepped into the role a few weeks ago, and is excited by the possibilities it presents.

Local environmental groups such as the Columbia Youth Environmental Action Group (Columbi-YEA) and other citizens concerned about climate change have been lobbying Invermere council for more than a year to hire a dedicated climate change resiliency coordinator. Earlier this year this district confirmed it was searching for an environmental planner and began advertising for the position. In late spring, asked about the role by members of the public, Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young explained the district was struggling to find somebody with the right qualifications and willing to move to Invermere to fill the job.

As it turned out the answer was right under the district’s nose, in the form of somebody it already employed.

Corriveau has worked as the district’s FireSmart coordinator for about a year. She initially didn’t apply for the environmental planner position because she didn’t consider herself qualified. When other district staff found out her background, however, they encouraged her to send in a resume. She did, was hired and began in the job in August.

“I’m very excited,” Corriveau told the Pioneer. “If we think about climate resiliency overall, on a worldwide scale, it can be overwhelming. If you bring it down to the community level, however, it brings it down to a level that we can handle. There are things we can achieve and these things really do help. I like that scale. Little projects can add up to a big difference. We can have an impact.”

Corriveau is originally from Quebec, but has been permanently based in British Columbia for more than half a decade, and spent considerable time in the province even before that. She completed an environmental program for CEGEP, followed by a bachelor’s degree in geologic engineering, and then a Master’s degree in Earth science. It was her Master’s thesis project that first brought her to B.C. for summer field work. 

“It was a mix of lab work and field work in remote areas, characterizing rocks found in northern B.C. and the southern Yukon,” said Corriveau. “I came back three summers in a row, and along the way I fell in love with the province.” Once the fieldwork was done she decided to stay out west, writing up her thesis in Kamloops.

With her degree finished, Corriveau still had no desire to return to Quebec. In the summer of 2017, friends who knew her love of the outdoors suggested she join the BC Wildfire Service. She did, and spent the summer and fall battling blazes on Vancouver Island and in the Cariboo.

“I was hooked,” she said.

The next summer and fall she became a smokejumper (smokejumpers are firefighters who provide an initial response to wildfires by parachuting onto the scene out of airplanes) based out of Mackenzie in the Fraser-Fort George area north of Prince George. She continued in this role for a few summers, spending the winters working in wildfire risk reduction on the B.C. Coast.

The experience she gained in those winter jobs led to her role as Invermere’s FireSmart coordinator. She has already spent quite a bit of time in the Columbia Valley, as it was in the valley that her partner was based, so she was delighted at the opportunity to move here full time.

Since both the environmental planner position and the FireSmart job are part time, Corriveau will continue on doing both for the foreseeable future.

Corriveau is eager to tackle a number of initiatives as environmental planner. Her first big project will likely be creating a draft version of a single-use plastic bag ban bylaw. She’s also keen to pursue a number of granting opportunities that support climate action. Corriveau is also looking to increase climate resiliency, and first up in that regard is improving the Toby Creek dike to better handle in the increased likelihood of floods on Toby Creek. Another big project she’s looking to dive into is the district’s Active Transportation Network Plan.