By Loreth Beswetherick For the first time since its inception 11 years ago, Whistler’s environmental organization will be revisiting its mandate "to protect and improve the quality of the environment in the Whistler area." The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment new board of directors indulged in some navel gazing at their first monthly meeting, held Feb. 3. Bolstered by new blood that brings corporate planning and financial expertise to the team, AWARE is now embarking on a long-term strategic planning process. Their next meeting, slated for March 2, will be a long one devoted to mapping out a strategy with the help of a professional facilitator. AWARE president Stephane Perron said members will be invited to join the board of directors and everyone will be asked to bring food for a potluck dinner. Perron said new vice president Mitch Rhodes will seek out a local facilitator who may want to do the work in exchange for a tax receipt. "But, if we need to, we will pay for it because we feel it is a very important exercise." Part of the exercise will be revisiting the AWARE mission statement and developing some sort of financial plan of action. Perron said clearly defining the AWARE identity and establishing some guiding principles is imperative if fund-raising is to be successful. "It will help when we are asking for money," he said. "It will give people a better understanding of what we do. We want to do this before we start applying for grants, including the municipal grant-in-aid." The education versus advocacy discussion started at the AGM last month, also spilled over into the February meeting and is something that will likely be thrashed out in the strategic planning session next month. "All those things will come out," said Perron. "We discussed that and we definitely see that we do have to move more toward educating the community in a generic sense and remind people how they can make choices in their own lives that can make things a whole lot better." But it’s not likely that AWARE will put down the advocacy banner. "I don’t think we will steer away from being more issue specific in our community but again, maybe we will try to educate the community about the issues at hand so that they can take action. Maybe we will lean a little more to helping people try and make up their own minds about things rather than going out as a small group trying to speak on behalf of the whole community." Already AWARE has done some restructuring. As opposed to having a host of committees and committee members, the group now has only three: a communication, events and membership committee. Issues that arise will be tackled on more of a project-by-project basis and members will be encouraged to take ownership of issues. The group has also decided to re-hire an executive secretary, something they had in the past but did without for the last year due to a funding shortage. Perron said it’s a chicken and egg situation. Being organized will help with raising funds but the funds need to be in the bag to pay for the position. The group has, however, decided it needs to fork out for someone for between 20 and 40 hours per month and will advertise the job. First on the AWARE project agenda this year is a commitment to work with Whistler-Blackcomb’s Habitat Improvement Team (HIT) in an effort to erect a wildlife pole complete with bird and bat boxes. A bear awareness seminar with large carnivore biologist Wayne McCrory is also in the cards. McCrory has a special interest in grizzlies and was guest speaker at the AWARE AGM last month. Perron said the seminar may be held in the Melvin Creek area to highlight habitat awareness in the Cayoosh range. The group has also booked a 47-seat bus — sponsored through the Western Canada Wildlife Committee — to ferry locals to Lillooet Feb. 19 for an open house on the Lillooet Resource Management Plan which, when adopted, will determine how the land is to be used in the future. The LRMP covers the Lillooet Forest District and includes areas used extensively by Whistlerites for recreation.