The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment usually hosts its annual general meeting early in the New Year, but this year they decided to push it back a few months to accommodate a special guest speaker.
The meeting takes place on Tuesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at MY Millennium Place. Kicking off the evening will be guest presenter Karsten Heuer, an author and filmmaker. His latest project, titled Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot with the Endangered Porcupine Caribou Herd, has won 17 international film festival awards, and has since been made into a book.
Being Caribou documents Hueurs time with a 123,000 strong Alaskan caribou herd and explores the outside factors that are endangering the animals, including proposed oil exploration and extraction in the Arctic Refuge. The five-month documentary covers a period of the herds 1,500 kilometre annual migration from the Yukon to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Heuers presentation will include scenes from his film, slides, and a discussion of the issues.
Heuer is recognized as a powerful public speaker. Before Being Caribou Heuer published Walking the Big Wild, a book about his experiences hiking from Yellowstone National Park to the B.C.-Yukon border, a distance of over 2,000 km. As well as a journal of his experiences, the book covers the issues of development, resource extraction, and the impact they have had on Rocky Mountain wildlife.
Admission is by donation, and the suggested $10 donation will include a membership to AWARE.
Following the presentation, AWAREs directors will give short accounts of their activities of he past year before opening the floor for nominations for next years board.
According to president Brad Kasselman, most directors plan on returning to the board, including himself.
"Weve got a lot done in the past year," he said. "Weve tightened up on the things were working on, were trying to work on Olympic issues and IPPs (independent power projects), and the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan is ongoing. Id like to keep those things moving in the right direction.
"I feel I wasnt able to be as effective as president as I could have been at the beginning, it took a while to understand how to deal with the position. For me to leave now, where I feel Im now having a significant positive influence its not a good time to step down."
While AWAREs board has been focused on high level projects, Kasselman says they have also been involved in funding or otherwise supporting smaller on-the-ground projects within Whistler in cooperation with groups like WORCA and the Naturalists. One of those projects is a comprehensive inventory of Whistler species, spearheaded by ecologist Bob Brett.
On the financial side, AWARE is in a strong position after receiving a $2,800 Community Enrichment Grant from the municipality. They also have some funds left over from last year, although theyve been working to spend that money.
"What we found a few years ago is that we were winding up with lots of funding and no action," said Kasselman, adding that volunteer board members dont always have the time to see each project through in a single year. As a result AWAREs bank account continued to grow, although they were obligated to spend the money through their charitable status.
"Weve changed things around to make sure we spend the money we get, put it to work," said Kasselman. "The problem is that some projects dont take a year, they take two years or three years, so instead of asking for lump sums well be looking for incremental amounts to see projects through."
An environmental fund in the U.S. is interested in supporting AWAREs project to create a wildlife refuge in the Upper Soo Valley, and Kasselman says AWARE will continue to seek funds from groups like the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation, Whistler-Blackcomb Employee Environment Fund and Community Foundation of Whistler for specific projects.