Fire fine lights up conservation initiatives

$190,000 from Radium Resort fire earmarked for local conservation projects

A year after Radium Resort was ordered to pay $190,000 to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) after a toxic fire on the resort’s property, a portion of the fine has been directed to deer monitoring and conservation programs in the Valley.

The court-ordered environmental funding was specifically intended for HCTF to direct toward fish, wildlife and habitat initiatives in the area.

“In a very tiny way these creative-sentencing awards, these court awards, are a way for people to understand that justice is being done. Someone broke an environmental law, they were taken into court, they were found guilty, they were required to pay, and that payment finds its way back into the very same environmental landscape that was damaged in the first place,” said Brian Springinotic, CEO of the HCTF.

“It’s a paradox, really. In a perfect world we would not get this money. In a perfect world, no environmental laws would get broken and nobody would be taken to court.”

But in this regular world, Radium Resort’s fine is now contributing toward a study on Kootenay mule deer and to a land conservation partnership.

“There’s a lot of concern about mule deer populations in your part of the world,” Mr. Springinotic said, adding that the study, which is receiving $42,100 from the court award, will look into survival and predation and what can be done to keep the deer population healthy.

HCTF is also sending $30,000 from the fine to the Kootenay Conservation Program, which he said provides stewardship for conservation land to “maintain the ecological integrity of the Kootenays in general and certainly of the Columbia Valley as well.”

There is still $117,900 left from the fine to be awarded. That funding is available through www.hctf.ca and is to be used for local conservation programs. The applications will be open until Friday, November 1st.

“I am hopeful we will receive some high-quality proposals from the Kootenays this year to ensure that the remaining Radium court award funds are invested back into conservation in the Columbia Valley,” he said. “Historically, we tend to receive good proposals from the conservation community in the Kootenays, and we look forward to receiving another strong suite of proposals this coming year.”

The Radium Resort fire started as a controlled burn of two wood piles in February of 2016. While left unsupervised, the fire spread to a pile of construction waste that the Ministry of Environment had previously insisted the resort deal with immediately.

The fire burned for a week, resulting in an air quality advisory for the Village of Radium Hot Springs. Norm Macdonald, then the Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA, expressed frustration at the time.

“It’s a dramatic case of environmental damage being caused by regulations not being followed,” he said.

Mr. Springinotic said there’s a little poetic justice in taking dollars from polluters like Radium Resort and reinvesting the money back into the Valley.

“There’s a certain kind of direct line of sight, if you will, between the infraction and the remediation… to make sure that the results of that penalty go back into the resource that was damaged in the first place,” he said.

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