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HIT Team ready to tackle dirty work

First project set for June 14

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For environmentalists who walk the talk and prefer deeds to words the Whistler-Blackcomb Habitat Improvement Team (HIT) has a full slate of on-the-ground and sometimes in the water projects on its slate for 2005.

Since 1997, HIT has tackled some 56 projects around Whistler, with between 15 and 20 volunteers contributing two to three hours of labour to a range of projects from trail maintenance to wetlands restoration.

"We’re not political, we’re just there to clean up and restore what we can of our local environment," said Arthur DeJong, HIT coordinator and the mountain planning and environment resource manager for HIT sponsor Whistler-Blackcomb.

There are eight projects on the "To Do" list for this year, starting on Tuesday, June 14, and running every second week through the end of summer. Members of the public are welcome to come out to any and all events, meeting outside of Merlin’s at the base of Blackcomb at 5:45 p.m. Whistler-Blackcomb will provide transportation, the appropriate tools and refreshments, and participants should bring appropriate clothes to work outside in any weather conditions.

Typically HIT partners with local environmental groups like AWARE, the Whistler Naturalists, the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group and the Whistler Black Bear Working Group on projects. But it also tackles a few projects of its own at the suggestion of members of the community.

"It’s actually a lot of fun, there are some great people involved, and at the end you get to walk away from something real knowing that you made a difference," said DeJong. "Our workers get a real sense of ownership and pride from these projects, as they should. You get to see the impacts of work every year, and know that you did something to improve the local environment."

The first project will involve planting vegetation along the shore of Green Lake, after a local homeowner likely cut down the existing trees and vegetation to improve their view.

According to Veronica Woodruff of the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, HIT’s partner in the project, the culprit left the cut trees on site and the area is not functioning as habitat "and could be considered a fire hazard should we have another dry summer."

The felled trees will be cut up and removed from the site, and the area will be replanted with native riparian shrubs and trees that were provided by Nicklaus North Golf Course.

"Through all of this I’m hoping to see a net gain in habitat," said Woodruff.

If you can’t be at Merlin’s, you can catch up with the group at 6 p.m. at the boardwalk near the float plane dock.

Other projects in the works include:

June 28 – Rebuilding water bars and seeding the North West Passage trail which runs from Whistler Creek to the Whistler Village over the existing subdivisions. "We normally don’t do projects on the mountain, but this trail is really a community trail that gets used by a lot cyclists and hikers, it’s in the Sea2Summit race and Cheakamus Challenge, and we’re really close to getting it to the stage it can look after itself," said DeJong.

July 12 – This is a special project with volunteers putting together packages for an aid program to benefit Romanian mountain communities.

July 26 – Trail restoration in the Whistler Demonstration Forest. This will mostly be trimming second growth vegetation back from the trail.

August 9 – With B.C. Parks, some trail maintenance on Singing Pass

August 23 – An in-stream fisheries project at a location to be named later.

September 6 – A white bark pine restoration project on Blackcomb with the Whistler Naturalists. "One again, we try to keep projects off the mountains and in the valley, but this is a unique project with local ecologist Bob Brett to try and save a local species that’s under attack from a foreign species of fungus," said DeJong. "It’s a very worth project and the sunset from Seventh Heaven is spectacular."

September 20 – Working with the WFSG to install fencing for bull trout counting on lower Blackcomb Creek.

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