On the down side, the Whistler Naturalists still dont have a president after Dan McDonald left for Australia to work on his Masters degree. In fact, the group doesnt have an executive at all after their annual general meeting on Nov. 10.
The good news is that the level of interest is still high, with up to 22 people committed to serving on the board of directors or on various committees. Board positions will be finalized after the groups first meeting later this month. The group also has money in the bank for various projects.
Bob Brett, the founder of the Whistler Naturalists six years ago, said the group has a clearer idea after last year of what can and cant be accomplished. "Having ideas is great, but at the end of the day were a volunteer organization and somebody has to actually do the work, and its actual work. People get busy and dont always have the time in the end," he said.
"That said, I think we actually accomplished quite a lot in the last year, and I think theres a lot thats positive that we could build on. I think were at a point where were going to take off this year."
Brett said he would like to see the group get back to the basics, refocusing on Whistler Naturalists events like the speaker series and various special projects.
This past year the Whistler Naturalists hosted seven speaker events. Starting in January, the Whistler Naturalists are hoping to host speakers every month until May, kicking off with a presentation by John Nemy. Other speakers have yet to be confirmed.
The Whistler Naturalists also hope to bring back their annual nature photography exhibition, and have a tentative plan to hold it in February as part of the Celebration 2010 Whistler Arts Showcase.
Funding will continue this year for the ongoing monitoring of Wedgemount Glacier and Overlord Glacier by Karl Ricker and Bill Tupper. Their collected data will be included on the Community Habitat Resource Project (CHiRP) mapping project at www.chirpwhistler.info, and will show how the glaciers have receded over the years.
The Naturalists are also involved in the Spring Creek Environmental Project, which is a small section of forest area near Spring Creek School that is being used for educational purposes. Theres a plan to build a garden that includes samples of different native vegetation outside of the school, but that has yet to go ahead.
Another project the Naturalists have been involved with is an ongoing project to save native Whitebark pine species from a foreign fungus that is slowly killing the trees. Volunteers have been busy collecting cones from the trees, growing seedlings at a nursery and replanting the trees in high alpine areas, hoping to keep the species alive until the trees develop a resistance to the disease, or a cure or treatment can be found.
"This is just a great story for us because its got a little of everything," said Brett. "Its a great topic for us for so many ecological reasons, the symbiotic relationship between the trees and species like the Clarks nutcrackers and squirrels and bears; its about geology, climate change, exotic species. I really feel this is money well spent, and is something we should definitely continue."
The Whistler Naturalists also held a mushroom festival in October that brought together three of the leading experts from around the province as well as more than 40 interested members of the public. The 2005 festival will be bigger, with dozens of mushroom experts expected.
The Whistler Naturalists finished 2004 with a record 255 members. In addition to membership, the group was supported by a $500 CHiRP grant, $2,000 Grant in Aid from the municipality, $1,000 from the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation for the Whitebark Pine Conservation Project and Spring Creek Environmental Forest Project, and $5,000 from the Community Foundation of Whistler for the Glacier Monitoring Project and the Lost Lake Interpretive Trail Handbook that is still in production. The Whistler Naturalists also raised $1,200 from events, including the speaker series and mushroom festival.