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AWARE proposal for Soo Valley unveiled Friday

New special management areas part of Sea to Sky LRMP package



After more than a year of negotiations with stakeholders, AWARE will present the results of the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan round table at a special meeting Friday, Dec. 10 at the Telus Conference Centre, starting at 7 a.m.

The presentation also includes an update on AWARE’s proposal for an Olympic Wildlife Refuge in the Soo Valley, a green legacy to offset the development taking place in the neighbouring Callaghan Valley with the creation of the Whistler Nordic Centre.

The original OWR proposal called for an area of almost 6,500 hectares to be set aside as a wildlife refuge in the Soo Valley, but according to AWARE director Eckhard Zeidler the area agreed upon by LRMP members will be significantly larger if the provincial government approves of the Soo Valley option.

The area also won’t be officially called the Olympic Wildlife Refuge without the endorsement of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Committee, which has not been given. VANOC and the IOC do not allow any unlicensed uses of the Olympic trademark, or any variation of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games name or logo.

Zeidler is confident that VANOC will adopt the proposal, reinforcing their stated intentions to host sustainable Games.

"The reason we stepped up with our own plan is because we saw there was very little that was green about these Games, other than some new buildings being built with environmental standards," said Zeidler, describing the plan to Pique Newsmagazine last week. He says the Soo-Callaghan Valley area, divided by a low mountain ridge, is an important wildlife corridor for moose, deer, mountain goats, and cougars, as well as a sanctuary for birds of prey like the Goshawk and Spotted Owl. AWARE also found a study suggesting the area has a high linkage potential for migrating grizzly bears, of which there have been unconfirmed sightings in the Callaghan Valley.

Other highlights of the Sea to Sky LRMP process include agreements for additional special management areas to benefit tourism and wildlife values, such as a forest buffer along the Sea to Sky highway, the use of environmentally sound logging practices in some timber areas, and general floodplain management considerations that enhance fisheries.

Because of the parks created through an earlier Protected Areas Strategy, the members of the Sea to Sky LRMP round table were not allowed to create any new parks or protected areas in the corridor.

However, most table members felt those conditions were too restrictive, and that some activities should be prohibited in certain areas to protect tourism, recreation and environmental values. As a result most LRMP members agreed to a second set of meetings to take a more detailed look at areas that have special needs, and came to an agreement on all but three of the most contentious areas - the upper Elaho Valley, upper Sims Creek Valley and Douglas Creek Valley.

All of the Sea to Sky LRMP members agreed to the plan with the exception of the energy sector, which objected to attempts by other members to prohibit the construction of run-of-the-river hydro projects on 11 creeks, including the Birkenhead River, Sims Creek, Squamish River (above the Elaho), Sigurd Creek, Ryan River, Callaghan Creek, Ashlu Creek, Sloquet Creek and upper Soo River. A proposed project on Fitzsimmons Creek in Whistler was not mentioned.

The forestry industry backs conservation on seven of those waterways, excluding the Ashlu, Callaghan, Ryan and Sloquet.

The mining industry did not back the proposal because they felt they needed the agreement of the energy sector to proceed, but they did support the proposed Olympic Wildlife Refuge.

Maps of the proposed Olympic Wildlife Refuge as well as maps regarding the Sea to Sky LRMP will be available at the presentation. Members of the public are welcome.

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