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Bears, goats and politics If someone were looking for a textbook example of the factors and battles that go on before land use decisions are made in British Columbia today, they need look no further than the proposed Cayoosh Resort at Melvin Creek. For the past 10 years Al Raine has been studying the area off the Duffey Lake Road, fulfilling requests from various ministries and the Environmental Assessment Office for snow analysis, wildlife studies, habitat inventories, impact assessments, archeological sites and dozens of other types of data in an effort to win approval to develop a ski resort at Melvin Creek. This is as it should be. Before the provincial government grants someone the right to use Crown land it should be determined what impact that development is going to have on the land and whether that is in the province’s best interests. Neither the provincial government nor anyone else had sufficient data or knowledge of the Melvin Creek drainage prior to Raine’s application, so he was required to do the studies to produce the data that will lead to a decision. That decision is expected to come from the Environmental Assessment Office in the next few weeks. One way to tell that a decision is imminent is the offensive mounted by those opposed to the plan. Earlier this year it was grizzly bear expert Wayne McCrory speaking in Whistler against the Cayoosh project. Last week it was the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee speaking out. Next week the two groups plan slide shows in Vancouver and Victoria. Their primary concerns are the proposed resort’s impact on grizzly bears, although Ministry of Environment staff were more concerned about goats. SPEC also alleges political interference by former cabinet ministers Moe Sihota and Glen Clark. But one has to ask why these organizations weren’t been heard from earlier. This is a project that has been grinding its way through various approval processes for the past 10 years. Two rounds of public meetings were held in various communities soliciting input. But it wasn’t until after the deadline for public submissions closed that SPEC and McCrory submitted letters to the Environmental Assessment office outlining their concerns with the proposed resort’s impact on grizzlies. Raine’s bear expert, David Hatler, notes in his response to the two late submissions that McCrory had known of Hatler’s involvement in the Cayoosh project for at least two years, because Hatler discussed his involvement with McCrory at a Grizzly Bear Scientific Advisory Committee meeting in November of 1997. Hatler goes on to refute McCrory’s and Koop’s arguments and calls into question several of their statements. It is also pointed out that McCrory’s figures for the size of the resort (skiers-per-day) were inflated by 141 per cent. While in Whistler McCrory reported — and Pique Newsmagazine accepted — that the Cayoosh Resort would have up to 29,000 bed units. In fact Raine proposed to develop 16,800 bed units. That figure was amended, following an independent analysis of the resort proposal, to a maximum 14,700 bed units. The issue of mountain goats was more serious. Ministry of Environment staff disagreed with the findings of Raine’s expert, so the province hired two independent experts in mountain goats to review all the findings. The independent experts concluded the goats and the resort are compatible, provided certain steps are taken. It would appear that the Cayoosh Resort proposal has, after $2 million and 10 years, met the requirements for a project certificate from the Environmental Assessment Office. That doesn’t sit well with some, but the data and documents to make that decision are available for all to see. Now all Raine has to do is reach agreement with First Nations, produce a detailed master plan, find financing for the resort and start building.

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