Marilyn Burgoon in front of the Nelson courthouse in 2017. File photo

Prominent Slocan Valley environmental activist dies

Marilyn Burgoon was ‘tough and determined’

A Slocan Valley resident who founded and led the Perry Ridge Water Users Association, worked for several years for the Valhalla Wilderness Society, and got the Lemon Creek fuel spill before the courts has died.

Marilyn Burgoon passed away on Dec. 18 after an illness.

The Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Anne Sherrod wrote in an email to the Star: “The forest on the front side of Perry Ridge is standing today because of Marilyn and the various alliances she made.”

Sherrod called Burgoon a natural leader who faced down a lot of opposition.

“Marilyn endured incessant personal attacks by pro-logging forces. Her life was hard in some ways. I knew her to arrive at our office sometimes ill and in tears from the negative treatment she received. But she was tough and determined.

“Marilyn was the best watershed activist in this province, and one of the best activists, period, that I have ever known. It’s a shame that she received no recognition until she died, but the scope of her work was geographically more or less confined to Perry Ridge, so she wasn’t widely known. But she never gave up, ever.”

In 2014, following a spill of jet fuel into Lemon Creek that polluted the stream and the Slocan River and caused an evacuation, Burgoon launched a private prosecution of the fuel company under the Fisheries Act when federal government prosecutors declined to do so.

“If government is not going to apply the laws of Canada, it is up to the people to do so,” she told the Star at the time. “I had no choice but to launch a private prosecution and let a judge review the evidence.”

She waged a public campaign, insisting that the government take over the prosecution she’d started. Eventually it did, and the matter is still before the courts.

Regional District of Central Kootenay director Ramona Faust told the Star she has known Burgoon for three decades.

“I was always deeply moved by Marilyn’s depth of commitment to justice for water quality, often giving more than could be expected,” she said. “Her work over the three decades I have known her will endure.”

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