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Greening the Games



AWARE to propose a wildlife refuge as a legacy of the 2010 Winter Games

In the long list of legacies that Vancouver and Whistler are set to inherit as a result of the bid for the 2010 Winter Games, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) would have liked to have seen something for the wildlife.

"If this is supposed to be the most environmentally progressive Games of all time, we were wondering where is the real environmental legacy in all of this? Where is the green space?" asked AWARE director Eckhard Zeidler.

Early on AWARE noted that virtually all of the sustainable legacies proposed for Whistler in the Vancouver 2010 Bid package were limited to environmentally-friendly buildings. Projects included a new ice rink and entertainment centre in Whistler, an upgrade to the Whistler Conference Centre, an athletes village, a sliding centre on Blackcomb Mountain, a Nordic centre in the Callaghan Valley, a First Nations golf course in the Callaghan, and a land bank for employee housing that could one day house up to 8,000 residents.

"To us it looks like a lot of houses, a lot of development. It doesn’t look like anything we would call a green legacy," said Zeidler.

To rectify the situation, AWARE decided to table its own ideas for an environmental legacy.

At their monthly meeting on June 5, AWARE presented a proposal for an Olympic Wildlife Refuge in the upper reaches of the Soo Valley.

If Vancouver’s bid is successful on July 2, AWARE will champion the proposal at the municipal, provincial and federal level, as well as the ongoing Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) process.

The goal is to protect a substantial area to off-set the various Olympic developments planned for the neighbouring Callaghan Valley, keeping the upper Soo Valley unlogged, unroaded, and suitable for wildlife.

"If even half of the projects proposed for the Callaghan come to pass, we are going to see a sizeable amount of development up there. The question is, what are we doing to mitigate the wildlife situation? There could be a lot of people in the Callaghan, which is going to have a lot of impact on wildlife. Do we care if they have space?" asked Zeidler.

The idea that the group settled on, under the direction of Zeidler, was a 6,471 hectare Olympic Wildlife Refuge. It will connect to the existing Callaghan Valley Provincial Park over a low mountain ridge that divides the two valleys.

Using government reports, aerial photos and local knowledge to build their case, AWARE determined that the Soo Valley is currently home to moose and goats, as well as reclusive birds of prey like the goshawk and spotted owl.