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parks announce

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There will be one less park and slightly less area protected, but the province kept very close to the Lower Mainland Regional Public Advisory Committee’s recommendations in announcing protected areas this week. The B.C. government announced it is targeting 23 new parks and protected areas in the Lower Mainland, representing 136,000 hectares of unique natural and cultural features. In August the RPAC had recommended 24 areas be protect, totalling 138,000 ha. For the Whistler area, the protected areas were virtually identical to the recommendations, including: Callaghan Lake — A 2,250 ha. area of old growth forests and excellent backcountry recreation opportunities a handful of kilometres south of Whistler. Brackendale Eagle Reserve — A significant wintering site for bald eagles between Brackendale and Squamish, it’s also a habitat for spotted owls and has aboriginal burying grounds and culturally modified trees. Tantalus mountains — A 10,040 ha. area of spectacular waterfalls, mountaineering potential and spotted owl habitat that dominates the viewscape along Highway 99 near Squamish. Sockeye Creek — A 6,130 ha. area north of Pemberton that adds intact watersheds, stands of Western red cedar and spotted owl habitat to Birkenhead Provincial Park. What is not included is most of the proposed 260,000 ha. Randy Stoltmann Wilderness Area. As well, in the Whistler area, the 19 Mile and 21 Mile Creek areas were left unprotected. The two areas, above Alpine Meadows and on the Rainbow Lake Trail respectively, were proposed for protection under the so-called Mayors’ Option of a couple of years ago but were not recommended for protection by the RPAC. While both areas could be subject to logging, Squamish District Forest Manager Paul Kuster said in August 21 Mile was unlikely ever to be logged and there were no immediate plans to log 19 Mile. This week, the province said the most recent addition to B.C.'s parks represent a continuing commitment to preserve the province's natural heritage. The Liberal opposition said the government is "walking away from B.C.'s forest dependent communities, "because the land use plan does not provide workers with other job opportunities. According to Liberal MLA and forestry critic Ted Nebbeling, forest-dependent communities Squamish and Pemberton will be especially hard hit. The government, however, says part of the new parks plan includes a variety of projects that would employ forest workers. Included in that is $5 million from Forest Renewal B.C. to train and employ forest workers in watershed restoration, timber supply enhancement and research projects. There's also an intention to begin a Sea to Sky land and resource management plan that will focus on resource development zones.

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