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Nearly 40 years ago, when a group of Vancouver businessmen first proposed development of Whistler Mountain as a ski area and future site for the Winter Olympics, the federal government offered to make Garibaldi Provincial Park a national park. The offer, ironically, was made to help facilitate development of the Whistler ski area, which was then accessible only by rail and a treacherous dirt road. The irony is that today there is serious discussion about making the so-called Stoltmann area a national park in order to preserve it. And the Stoltmann’s proximity to Whistler, and therefore its value as a tourist attraction, is part of the argument being made for preserving the area. There are many, many issues to be discussed and evaluated before the Stoltmann National Park proposal takes even the first step toward becoming a reality, but there is an artificial urgency to deal with the matter immediately — artificial in the sense that logging, which could be halted or postponed, is now taking place at both ends of the 500,000 hectare proposed park. Among the issues are: loss of forestry jobs, forestry companies’ loss of previously established cutting rights, commercial and recreational backcountry use, overlapping jurisdictions (the proposed park overlaps with Whistler’s proposed community forest and with the existing Local Resource Use Plan, as well as with the provincially protected area in the Callaghan Valley), First Nations’ claims to the land, and funding for maintenance of a national park. On top of the issues there is the antagonistic state of relations between the federal and provincial government and the province’s inability to make long-term plans due to its current (perpetual?) state of crisis. The province has also stated that its own Protected Areas Strategy has preserved enough land in south-western B.C. Whistler, through councillors, the chamber of commerce and the One Whistler group, has called for an economic study to evaluate the costs and benefits of a national park, as a park would generally seem to be in the resort’s long-term interests. Squamish council has passed a motion asking Prime Minister Jean Chretien not to support a national park, as any further reduction in forestry would not meet Squamish’s immediate interests. But what are the long-term interests of Squamish and Pemberton? Despite the fact a backbench Liberal MP intends to introduce a private member’s bill to make the Stoltmann a national park, the issue really hasn’t caught fire anywhere outside of the Sea to Sky Corridor, yet. That will likely have to happen before the federal government takes an interest. That may also be necessary to bring a resolution to what seem to be the incompatible interests of Whistler and the other towns in the corridor. One final bit of irony: If the national park proposal does gain some momentum it may be the First Nations which have a greater say in the issue than either Squamish or Whistler. But as the situation stands right now, First Nations have little or no say in what goes on in the Stoltmann.

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