By Andrew Mitchell
The Community Foundation of Whistler announced grants totaling $73,396 from its Environmental Legacy Fund (ELF) last week, which will be issued to regional non-profit groups that meet ELF’s criteria.
The grants were awarded to projects that establish conservation activities, enhance natural habitat, and encourage public education and awareness of environmental stewardship.
The largest chunk of funding, some $40,900, went towards the Whistler Biodiversity Project headed up by ecologist Bob Brett and supported by the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE).
The goal of the project is to catalogue all species of plant, animals and insects found in Whistler, and identify any rare or invasive species that require special attention. To date, there have been studies of native plants, invasive plants, trees, amphibians, bats, mushrooms, lichens, dragonflies, and other species.
A total of 901 native species and 76 non-native species have been confirmed to date by the biodiversity project. When other species lists compiled by local birders, the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, and other organizations are considered, Whistler has 1,117 native species and 89 non-native species.
At least two rare plant species have been identified, as well as Coastal Tailed Frogs that were discovered and accommodated while building the Olympic downhill race course. The status of up to 28 rare species needs to be clarified.
According to Brett, the funding will help continue the study while also coming up with monitoring plans for any rare species discovered. One focus of the study this year is the ongoing search for invasive species of plants that supplant indigenous species, and harmful newcomers — like bullfrogs — that will have a negative impact on local amphibians and fish. Brett will once again bring in experts on amphibians to help with that study, and will expand his study to include some species of mammals.
“The long-term goal is to find out what rare species live here and come up with some monitoring plans that provide indicators for the Whistler 2020 process, and for general conservation,” he said.
“If we don’t know what we have here, there’s always a chance that we could lose it. It’s the same thing with invasive species like bullfrogs. If we don’t recognize them or have a plan to deal with them, a lot could happen before we even realize there’s a problem.”
Other projects receiving ELF funding include:
• $6,500 for the Slow Food Cycle Sunday in Pemberton Valley, an annual event that raises awareness of homegrown and organic foods, as well as the benefits of eating food that is locally produced.
• $2,300 for the Lost Lake Interpretive Signage Project, on behalf of the Rotary Club of Whistler.
• $11,000 for the Get Bear Smart Society Education Bathroom Book project.
• $4,000 for phase three of the Forest History Project, determining the age of local forests and Whistler’s forest history, also headed up by Bob Brett.
• $6,196 for the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group for the Crabapple Creek Enhance Project.
• $2,500 for the Spring Creek Elementary School Parent Advisory Committee for the Outdoor Classroom Project.
In addition, the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) recently received a $2,100 cheque from the Whistler Valley Trail Run Society. The gift included $1,100 in proceeds from this year’s race, plus an additional $1,000. The money will go towards the Whistler Youth Endowment Fund and the Whistler Youth Foundation grant program.
The CFOW currently manages 24 funds, with an endowment of $3.5 million.