The West Kootenay EcoSociety has hired Montana Burgess, 32, to take over as executive director from David Reid, who resigned in March.
Burgess has worked for the society for a year as a community organizer. Before moving to the West Kootenay in 2012, she worked for the Climate Action Network in Ottawa for eight years as an operations manager. At several international climate conferences, including the most recent one in Paris, she was the head of logistics for the Climate Action Network internationally.
“When I met my husband, we decided we wanted to move back to BC,” she says, “and we made a list of all the things we wanted in a place: community, arts, activism, affordable acreage, and the Kootenays was the only place in BC. Coming to Nelson I knew I would be in the West Kootenay indefinitely, so I have really dug in.”
Burgess says she likes the Nelson-based EcoSociety’s ability to do a lot with a little.
“One of the amazing things is how much we can accomplish on such a tight budget. We do so much with volunteers. There are a few paid staff and no one is full time. We make the dollar stretch.”
She also likes the EcoSociety’s role as a convener, and its proactive stances.
“It’s a place for community members to come together around the environment, food security, climate change, and protecting wild spaces, so just the tremendous volume of things is impressive. And some of the cool campaigns we have done are what attracted me to the EcoSociety. I think it is impressive how the society went for it when it came to Jumbo and took on the litigation aspect of it. Other organizations were doing great things but it is useful sometimes to marry litigation with political campaigning and organizing.
“And the markets in Nelson, providing a space for farmers to sell their food, and for craftspeople. I am a big fan of the Nelson markets. I hope we can take more of a role in the region in advocacy around food security, talking about how the West Kootenay can further ensure that we have good healthy food supplies for our community.”
In addition to various programs related to climate change and ecosystem health, the EcoSociety runs the Cottonwood Market, the downtown market, Marketfest, Garden Fest, a winter craft fair, Seedy Saturday, Kootenay Rideshare, the EcoCentric show on Kootenay Co-op Radio, and nature programs at the Kokanee Creek Visitor Centre. They also work as partners with Earth Matters and the Friends of Kootenay Lake.
What else does Burgess want to accomplish in her new job?
“A big piece for me will be learning about the management of the organization and continuing the good work David Reid has been doing. We are going to launch a new climate campaign to get this region carbon neutral by mid-century. And then I am also interested in building more capacity for the organization. We have been stretching dollars a lot, but I think it is time [to get more funding] so we can organize more volunteers and create more jobs in the Kootenays with our organization.”