Faces & Places: Dave Phelps

Dave Phelps, one of the original team who managed wildlife in the Kootenays back in the 1970’s, died September 27, 2016. He is survived by his wife Ellen and his son Todd and his wife, Kate Potter and their daughter Sophia. About 100 of his friends and colleagues got together recently to celebrate his life and his contribution to wildlife and land management in the Kootenays. It turned into a half a wake and half a roast sort of event. He was a great character and a good friend. He was also incredibly effective at buying land. Cheap. Always cheap. His crowning achievement (working with many others) was the Mt. Broadwood Conservation Property south of Fernie. Shell Oil wanted 2.8 million dollars for the 28,000 acres involved. Dave, and the Nature Conservancy, got it for a buck. In the words of Ray Demarchi, “It was the best land deal since the Americans got Alaska for 7 cents per acre”.

Dave joined the Wildlife Branch in 1971 and became wildlife land manager in 1973. He and Ray Demarchi were instrumental in creating the first land acquisition program for wildlife in the Kootenays. Every acquisition was an adventure and a story in itself; all we can do here is simply list them. Dave was crucial in the purchase of South Bummers, the Earl property at Newgate and 3 sons properties on Premier Ridge, properties in the Pend d’ Orielle Valley (working with Guy Woods) and several other properties in the West  Kootenay and Kettle Grandby Area including the Gilpin Range acquisition, the land at Meadow Creek where the kokanee hatchery is now, North Bummers and the Cherry Creek Ranch (additions to the Bummer Flats property) and the very large Crown Zellerbach property west of Canal Flats, other private lands on the east side of Columbia Lake, the Cutt’s ranch south of Elko, other properties there, the Big Ranch at Sparwood and of course, Mt. Broadwood. A total acreage in the range of 50-60,000 acres.

He was a grand character and a crucial part of the history of conservation in the Kootenays.

Dave Phelps and Ray Demarchi, 2007

Photo and story provided by Bob Jamieson