This is going to be a lean year for the Squamish Eagle Watch program.
Program volunteer Larry Murray is working on a long-term fix to bring funding to the program so it is sustainable well into the future and he has reported interest is out there. The program coordinators are taking a slow approach to ensure the right partners are found for the Eagle Watch program.
Murray said Squamish Savings was providing funding for the program but the financial institution has now opted to put the funding into other causes. This is something Murray said he understood, as Squamish Savings never intended to be the sole funder of the program forever, and the financial institution likes to spread its community grant money around.
Murray is the treasurer of the Squamish Environment Society (SES) and in that position he is sorting out the funding challenges faced by the Eagle Watch program. The 2012/13 program will operate with the minimal amount of funding it currently has.
"The Squamish Environment Society has hosted this program for many years and we have seen the program grow," said Murray. "Its grown in the number of volunteers, in the number of telescopes that we have on the dike, in the number of training programs that we have and the number of days and hours that are put into the project on the dike. The project is growing and it is starting to cost some money."
The eagle season in Squamish begins in November and continues to January. Through those months volunteers are traditionally stationed on the Squamish River dike on Government Road.
Murray said creating partnerships would be a key part of bringing Eagle Watch back to its past glory.
"What we want to do then is to move from a pure environmental perspective into a tourism and economic driven approach along with the environmental," Murray said. "The environmental will still be the lead driver...but we are beginning to realize that we are drawing a lot of people into town for watching the eagles."
According to Murray, there's room for more participation from the tourism operators in Squamish. He said two tourism business operators have come forward and indicated they want to partner with SES and the organization is now working out partnership details to ensure the SES is forging relationships with businesses that share the organization's values.
"We want to ensure they're wearing a green environmental hat," Murray said of any future Eagle Watch partners.
The Eagle Watch Volunteer Interpretive Program was set up in 1995 when the Nature Conservancy of Canada created the Eagles of Brackendale project.