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Callaghan study not a threat to backcountry recreation Tenures will be extended until final decision made Backcountry tour operators in the Callaghan Valley will not be left out in the cold if the provincial government hasn't made a land-use decision for the area before their tenures run out. The future of the Callaghan Valley, situated 20 kilometres southwest of Whistler, will be plotted at a meeting in the Whistler Conference Centre Saturday, and without a doubt local heli-skiing, snowmobiling, ski touring operators and the proponents of the dormant Powder Mountain Ski Resort proposal will want to know what the future of the Callaghan holds for them. Don van der Horst, chair of the Callaghan Lake Study Team, says the status quo will be maintained in the Callaghan until the final decision is made by the provincial cabinet. "I think we would definitely have to consider extending any tenures that would run out prior to a final decision being made," van der Horst says. "We aren't going to leave anyone hanging out there to dry." After the public input is gathered, van der Horst expects a recommendation will go to the Inter-Agency Management Committee made up of senior government officials in early 1995. From there, a recommendation will go to the Provincial Cabinet and "who knows how long a decision can take at that level," he says. A number of private snowmobiling groups, Tyax Heli-Skiing and the Mad River Nordic Centre currently operate in the area and all have varying amounts of time left in their tenures, according to van der Horst. The Callaghan is one of 10 regions in the Soo Timber Supply Area currently being studied under the NDP governments' Protected Areas Strategy plan, designed to protect 12 per cent of B.C.'s land base as park land by the year 2000. The 11,376 hectare study area contains Callaghan Lake, the largest road-accessible sub-alpine lake in the Coastal Mountains, Mount Callaghan, Powder Mountain, Mount Cayley and Brandywine Mountain. Only 3.5 per cent of the study area is operable forest land. No mining, logging or road building is allowed in the study area at present. The area is most used for recreation - both summer and winter. An executive summary of the Callaghan Lake Study Areas outlines 5-10 full-time jobs dependent on the tourism and recreation activities in the area, while existing "activities requiring mechanized access such as heli-skiing and snowmobiling" create roughly 2,400 tourism/recreation user days per year. While a high level of geothermal activity in the area bodes well for the possible use of the earth's heat to generate power, the province has put a hold on all independent power projects and the long-term implications for geothermal power have yet to be addressed. According to van der Horst, one of three options will be chosen for the Callaghan - ranging from complete protection and conservation to an emphasis on resource extraction. Option one would maximize protection of the area's wilderness and promote the Callaghan as a park. Logging and mining would still not be allowed and heli-skiing and snowmobiling would be phased out and prohibited. The second option would balance protection of the area's natural resources with increased recreational access and activity. Resource extraction would be prohibited and mechanized access would be allowed. Option three calls for the development of mining, logging and tourism activities in the study area with the least protection of environmental values. The Pinecone-Burke and Stawamus Chief PAS studies are already further along than the Callaghan, and van der Horst says the amount of time it takes to reach a final decision on those areas should set a guideline for the time it will take to get the final word on the Callaghan from cabinet.