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Mapping the future Developing water courses and environmentally sensitive lands is going to get a little tougher in the Whistler Valley — at least the municipal planners can now say how sensitive an area is. The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment got a glimpse of the new Cadillac of maps in the municipality's map fleet last Thursday when members of the municipal planning department brought examples of the new Environmental Sensitivity Maps to the meeting. The detailed maps are color coded at 1:5,000 scale and show in great detail the areas of severe and high environmental sensitivity. What the maps do, according the municipal planners, is give an accurate picture of what areas should be instantly "red flagged" when development proposals hit muni hall. The environmental mapping series was kicked off two years ago and has been expanded substantially over the past year to fill gaps in the RMOW's resort monitoring program. The new maps will be unveiled at the Town Hall meeting in November. The maps were prepared by Talisman Land Resource Consultants and delineate a 50-metre riparian zone "buffer" on all permanent water courses and water bodies. A 50 metre riparian buffer has been added to all wetlands based on the municipality's updated wetland mapping. The new maps, although impressive, are only lines on paper unless the riparian buffers are enforced, wetlands protected and old growth integrity in the resort maintained, says AWARE president Ken Melamed. Areas that will be given "severe" sensitivity will be : Old Growth Forest 251-plus years old, all wetlands except those that have been significantly disturbed, and alluvial forests interpreted from air photos. Areas given "high" environmental sensitivity will be: 141-250 year old forest. The Resort Municipality of Whistler contains 16,529 hectares. Just over 21 per cent of that area, or 3,517 hectares, is old growth forest 251 years or older, while 1,498 hectares is classed as forest 141-250 years in age.

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