I Love Jumbo Wild: An Interview with Josie Ruoss

Born and raised in Cranbrook, BC, Josie Ruoss is a Grade 12 student with a thirst for adventure and a deep passion for wild places. Her passion is inspiring. You might bump into her and her wide eyed smile while hiking the Earl Grey Pass or while climbing at St. Mary’s. Recently, Josie was in Ottawa for the Rotary Adventure In Citizenship program. The program aims to engage youth in Canada’s democratic institutions. Participants are tasked with presenting on an issue. Josie chose to present on the Jumbo Valley.

Eddie Petryshen, Jumbo Wild: You recently went to Ottawa as part of Rotary Adventure In Citizenship and got to present on the Jumbo Valley. What inspired you to speak up in our nation’s capital about the issues surrounding Jumbo?

Sally, Josie (centre) and Anna in the Purcells
Sally, Josie (centre) and Anna in the Purcells

Josie Ruoss:  I was brought up in the outdoors and my parents have always encouraged me to take risks and seek out adventures. I think going into these wild places makes you realize how fragile and beautiful they are. It’s a very important place to me and I believe I should stand up for it because it means so much to me. I think the Government needs to know that many of the youth today don’t want a new ski hill. They need to know that the next generation values wild spaces and that we want to protect it.

EP:  Very true. I think a lot of people who were brought up with similar values feel the need to have wild and protected areas. How was the topic received by those people who might have not been aware of the issue when you presented on Jumbo?

JR:  They were both surprised and concerned. Most of the kids outside of B.C. were not aware of the issue. Every single youth I talked to agreed that the proposed resort was a bad idea, especially since the money could be spent elsewhere on better, more innovative ideas. They were concerned about the wildlife but for the most part, it was the fact that they want areas like this to still exist when they grow old. The kids from other regions of B.C. thought that we have ample ski resorts already and that we should be supporting the ones we already have in the small communities.

EP:  It’s definitely an issue that youth have a lot passion for. But beyond, it’s so refreshing and inspiring to see fellow youth who who are my age (I’m 22) or your age dive into an issue like Jumbo.  What role do you think youth can play in protecting wild places?

JR:  Youth can bring new creative ideas that maybe people haven’t thought about before. We can bring the passion and the enthusiasm I think we need in order to spread awareness about places like Jumbo.

Jumbo Wild, Josie Ruoss, 2015
Jumbo Wild, Josie Ruoss, 2015

EP:  Definitely. So what first sparked your interested in Jumbo? Was it a hike? A protest? A bumper sticker?

JR:  I was eight when West and East Kootenay met there for a protest against the Jumbo resort. Since then it has been my mentors who’ve inspired me to keep an interest in Jumbo. Dave Quinn told me on a hike [last year’s Go Wild hike] through the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy that “the world was run by people who show up.” That message has affected me so much and is something that I will always remember. Also, I think my passion for protecting these places has always been something that I enjoyed. I am reminded of that passion whenever I go outside.

EP:  Awesome, an early grassroots activist I guess you could say. So you must have a lot of childhood memories of being in the wild? How did you feel? Do you still feel that way when you’re in the wild?

JR:  It still gives me the same sense of curiosity as it did when I was little. It’s fascinating, and it makes me wonder how different things work. Hands-on learning was a big part of my family as a child and I was always encouraged to study and examine bugs, rocks and animals.  As I’ve gotten older, the questions have just gotten bigger. The question, “how does a plant grow?” has turned into “how does this ecosystem work?”

EP:  I think that sense of awe and amazement is a good way to operate in life. You draw and paint in your spare time: did the Jumbo or the Purcell landscape inspire or influence any of your art?

Bugaboos, Josie Ruoss, 2016
Bugaboos, Josie Ruoss, 2016

JR:  Definitely. Both hiking and painting are my favourite pastimes because they both help me feel calm and joyful. While exploring those areas it’s easy for your mind to wander and that’s when I usually come up with my best ideas. It’s my belief that anyone who looks at the mountains in the Purcell mountain range would be moved in some sort of way. The Jumbo Valley is really art in itself and looking at it makes you feel a sense of awe. It is really very inspiring.

EP:  There are many reasons, but what is the reason that stands out as the most important to you for keeping Jumbo Wild?

JR:  Because it sets an example for the rest of the world. An example of how people can bring about change in both positive and negative ways. Protecting Jumbo is important because it will set a standard for all the other areas in the world currently needing protection. It will show that as a community and as a society we value the wilderness.

EP:  Thanks Josie!

JR: No problem!