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Endangered snake findings disputed

Stewardship Pemberton, Sunstone Group hope to work together on mitigation efforts



Pemberton council is hopeful to learn more about how development in the Mackenzie Ridge hillside area could impact an endangered local snake population.

The sharp-tailed snake is a red-listed, federally endangered species that had never been found on the Canadian mainland until local herpetologist (and Pique contributor) Dr. Leslie Anthony found one by chance in 2011.

Stewardship Pemberton then obtained a Habitat Conservation Trust Fund grant to take an inventory of the species. During the council meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 15, Anthony and Stewardship Pemberton board member Veronica Woodruff explained that the group has documented 13 sharp-tailed snake specimens from seven locations in the hillside region since the initial discovery.

Of concern to Stewardship Pemberton is a third-party environmental assessment that was prepared for the planned Sunstone Ridge development. The report, compiled by Abbotsford-based Dayesi Services Ltd., indicates that no sharp-tailed snakes have been observed on the subdivision site, nor does the land provide suitable habitat for the reptiles. The assessment does, however, indicate that a snake habitat mitigation plan would be implemented due to the potential for sharp-tailed snakes living on the property.

A condition of a development permit for the land is for Sunstone to work with the village and Stewardship Pemberton to mitigate impacts to the snake. Woodruff recently met with Sunstone officials and offered Stewardship Pemberton's assistance, free of charge, to help develop a plan and is awaiting a response.

Woodruff said the inventory of the sharp-tailed snake has not included Sunstone lands as Stewardship Pemberton wants to respect private property rights. However, Woodruff said one incidental sighting of the snake was made on the land in 2011.

After meeting with Woodruff last week, Sunstone Group vice-president Nyal Wilcox said the developers are interested to continue discussions with Stewardship Pemberton, which had alerted them to its findings after the assessment had been completed.

"We're interested to hear exactly what (Woodruff) has in mind and we're happy to work with her," said Wilcox

Mayor Jordan Sturdy said the information in Tuesday's presentation could have "significant impacts on a number of levels," possibly affecting more than just the Sunstone development. Council is expected to receive a staff report on the issue next month.

Community Alcohol Policy to be developed

The Winds of Change Steering Committee is spearheading the development of a Community Alcohol Policy that would be applicable to the entire Pemberton Valley, an initiative supported by Pemberton council.

Committee chair Sheldon Tetreault presented the idea to council Tuesday. Winds of Change recently received a $21,000 grant from B.C. Healthy Communities to develop the policy, which aims to harmonize the approach to alcohol guidelines between the village, Lil'wat Nation and Area C.

The policy would look at designating facilities, properties and events where liquor would be prohibited, as well as looking at management practices and harm-reduction strategies. Community consultation would also be considered in the drafting of a community policy.

Tetreault noted that Whistler is one of few B.C. communities to have developed a municipal alcohol policy. If the Winds of Change partners were to pursue one, he said, it would likely be the first coordinated, multi-jurisdictional policy in effect nationwide.

Mayor Jordan Sturdy at first expressed hesitation over the idea, highlighting his concern that it could add "another level of legislation and bureaucracy" to liquor regulations at a time when the province is currently investigating changes to B.C.'s approach to alcohol.

However, Coun. James Linklater, council's representative on the Winds of Change committee, said he felt that pursuing the policy "could give the committee a little shot in the arm in terms of relevance."

A third-party consultant will be hired to help come up with a policy draft.