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Province hailed as ‘biodiversity heroes’ in Sea to Sky

LRMP recognizes cultural, wildland and parks value in 50 per cent of land

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Quietly, behind the scenes, bold steps have been taken to protect land in Sea to Sky country.

So bold are the steps that one local councillor, who ran for office on a green platform and has been deeply involved in environmental initiatives in the corridor, went as far as calling the actions of the provincial government heroic.

"The provincial government is a biodiversity hero," said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler at last week's council meeting.

He is referring specifically to the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP), an at-times contentious and lengthy process that was developed at the request of the province with area stakeholders, from industry to environmentalists.

That plan is the region's vision for land use now and into the future. And the reason Zeidler hails the province as champions of biodiversity is because in that plan more than 50 per cent of the land base in Sea to Sky is protected in some way.

"And no one knows it," he said.

Specifically, eight new conservancies were created in the region through the LRMP, recognizing the high importance of First Nations values. The conservancies stretch throughout the Sea to Sky region, one as far north as the Upper Birkenhead to close to the Upper Elaho in the west and the Upper Rogers in the east.

And right in the heart of Whistler there are two new major conservancies flanking Callaghan Lake Provincial Park.

They total almost 45,000 hectares (more than 110,000 acres), and along with the existing parks in the region, they cover more than 25 per cent of the land.

In addition, 27 per cent of the land has been designated Wildland Zones - those areas with high wildlife habitat values and an emphasis on culture, recreation and tourism.

Minister Pat Bell's pride in the plan is obvious. He was heavily involved in its development as minister of agriculture and lands and continues to stay involved now that his portfolio includes the Integrated Land Management Bureau.

"There's a couple of plans that I think really demonstrate our long term commitment to stability in the province," said Bell this week. "This one and the Great Bear Rainforest are the two that certainly come to mind.

"This is an area (Sea to Sky) that's on the doorstep of the largest population base in the province. It's an area that people want to recreate, that First Nations have strong linkages to from a cultural perspective, and it's important that we represent those values. At the same time, we've been able to manage it in a way that still represents the timber values. There's an active forestry industry in the area. There are still areas that are available for mining, for backcountry tourism. So, it's a plan that came together and I think represented the true spirit of collaboration."

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