Rob Neil and Bill Hanlon
On September 28, 2021, Ray Demarchi passed away leaving a huge hole in our hearts.
Ray was a true friend and mentor and, in our opinion, his contribution to wildlife management and wildland retention as the Kootenay Region’s wildlife biologist and later as BC’s Chief of Wildlife is unparalleled.
Much to the consternation of his detractors, senior managers, bureaucrats, and politicians Ray never relinquished his passion and commitment to wildlife conservation and, consequently, regardless of any controversy or opposition, his perseverance and foresight resulted in the implementation of a number of initiatives that benefited wildlife and people. Some of the higher profile and influential social and environmental initiatives that Ray initiated or participated in included;
Co-ordinated Access Management Planning (CAMP) – led to the reduction of adverse motorized impacts on sensitive habitats and vulnerable wildlife species and concurrently established an opportunity to hunt, fish and recreate in a non motorized environment.
Protected Area Strategy (PAS) – led to the protection of unique and special wildland places such as the Purcell Conservancy and The Height of the Rockies Provincial Park.
Guide Outfitter Management Strategy – led to the restructuring of the commercial big game guide outfitting territories in the Kootenays which improved the economic viability of this industry.
Co-ordinated Resource Management Planning (CRMP) – led to the development of a deferred rotation grazing system that resulted in improved grassland ecosystems that benefited wildlife and domestic livestock.
Conservation Land Acquisition – led to the purchase of many high value conservation properties and a unique working relationship with non-profit conservation land organizations such as the Nature Trust of BC and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Notable conservation land acquisitions included the Mount Broadwood, Sheep Mountain, Darkwoods, Big Ranch and Hoodoo properties.
This short list of actions and processes, that Ray initiated or supported, are really a testament to his dedication and commitment to wildlife conservation
Ray, if you knew him, had an alpha personality and could be a very opinionated man with entrenched convictions about how wildlife should be managed. But, to Ray’s credit, we learned over time, that if you had a similar strength of character and presented an alternative management option that was logical and practical, even though it may contradict his opinion, he would support and accept it and make every effort to ensure it’s success. This ability to adapt and accept other opinions was another of Ray’s admiral qualities.
Ray had an engaging personality and, as we often observed, was “larger than life” whenever he was in your presence or in a room packed with people. Besides this characteristic and Ray’s unquenchable commitment and dedication to wildlife Ray had a wry sense of humour and enjoyed music, art, back country horse riding adventures, hunting, debating, auctioneering and eating, drinking, travelling, and consorting with his friends. We were fortunate to enjoy Rays magnetic persona and be part of his wide range of interests.
We have travelled with Ray on the trail, often in really adverse conditions, and similarly we have supported him through political adversity and opposition to his sound land and wildlife management practices. Ray engaged us in round-campfire discussions where consensus was often difficult to reach but in the end the results were usually constructive in terms of establishing the direction and processes that led to positive and constructive land management decisions. Ray was always the catalyst that brought the appropriate players together in these informal processes.
We will continue to remember and appreciate Ray’s advice, mentorship, and strength through all the adversity that we collectively faced while trying to ensure that wild spaces remain in our Province and that wildlife was recognized as an important part of our culture and heritage.
Ray will be missed but he embodied the best in terms of a wildlife manager, and we are convinced that his wildlife and wildland conservation legacy will persist in the Kootenays in perpetuity.
Safe travels and keep a loose rein amigo.