An AWARE-sponsored plan to create a substantial Olympic Wildlife Refuge in the Soo Valley got a boost recently when the final recommendations from the Sea to Sky LRMP round table were submitted to the provincial government.
AWARE will make a major announcement regarding the proposed OWR at a special monthly meeting to be held on Dec. 10 in the Telus Conference Centre, starting at 7 p.m.
Although he couldnt provide details, Eckhard Zeidler, the Wilderness Backyard director for AWARE and the principal architect of the OWR plan, said the Sea to Sky LRMP was a positive step for the Soo proposal.
"It looks good. We have agreements with all stakeholders in the area and although the government really has the final word on this thing, its in the Sea to Sky LRMP recommendations and things are looking good," said Zeidler.
The Sea to Sky LRMP has been in the works since the spring of 2002. Zeidler and AWARE first tabled his proposal for an Olympic Wildlife Refuge in the Soo Valley in May of 2003 as an environmental legacy for the Games that would effectively offset Olympic development in the neighbouring Callaghan Valley.
The Sea to Sky LRMP process was not authorized to create any more protected areas, but members of the round table discussed the need for special management areas that take into account the environment, as well as values like tourism and recreation. As a result, the OWR would not be a protected area, but a special management zone where forestry and mining would not be permitted.
Both industries agreed, with some alterations to the proposed boundaries and concessions and compensation for the forestry industry. The new concept will be presented at the AWARE meeting, along with detailed maps of the OWR.
Zeidler said the process, while challenging, produced a good result that was better than he initially hoped for.
"It was an expensive process, expensive but gratifying if we didnt show up with this idea, it wouldnt have happened, and thats very gratifying to everyone who worked on this. That and the fact that all the different stakeholders in the region looked at the idea and said, yeah, that seems like an appropriate thing to do."
The original proposal was about 6,471 hectares, only 493 hectares of which were suitable for forestry purposes. The remainder was largely rock and ice, marshland and meadows. The new proposal is considerably larger, and while its still largely rock and ice, there are a few additional valleys and forested areas in the plan.
"Every time I talk about this plan in the future, Id have to give credit to everyone at the LRMP, including the resource industries," said Zeidler. "Once we get our heads around the idea that if we cant have new protected areas and still want to maintain biodiversity and wildlife in the region, these recommendations were putting forward to government will go a long way to make that happen.