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Resources Minister in Whistler to talk LRMP

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Management plan for area expected in fall of 2002

Stan Hagen, the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, will be in Whistler on Monday, Jan. 21 to host an open house on the development of a Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP), and to meet with local government representatives.

The public open house will take place at the Whistler Conference Centre from noon to 1:30 p.m., in the Parkhurst Room, and is open to everyone.

The meeting with local government representatives will take place that evening at the Big Sky Golf and Country Club in Pemberton, and is open to government and municipal officials and the media.

The Sea to Sky LRMP process was announced by Permier Ujjal Dosanjh on Jan. 26, 2001 and is expected to be completed by fall of 2002. The plan will balance resource and recreational interests in the Squamish Forest District, which runs from the border of Greater Vancouver to the border of the Lillooet LRMP area north of Pemberton, and includes the communities of Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.

At the time it was made clear that the plan would include the 1996 Protected Areas Strategy, and that no new debates would be held on the creation of new parks.

The Protected Areas Strategy preserves approximately 22 per cent of the Squamish Forest District in parks. Environmental groups have argued that the majority of that parkland is rock and ice and does little to protect regional biodiversity.

For its part, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment said it will be putting together a game plan for the open house.

"I don’t know what Minister Hagen is speaking on yet, but we’ll go in with our agenda and see what happens," says AWARE president Mitch Rhodes. "The agenda will include, obviously, the LRMP and things related to that like micro hydro projects and hopefully there will be some talk about the Olympics, and the developments that go along with that."

Future development in the area is a big part of the plan. According to a government report at the time the Sea to Sky LRMP was announced, the process is necessary to plan for expected growth.

• The current population in the plan area has doubled in the past 20 years, from about 15,000 residents in 1981 to approximately 31,000 in 2000 – a 3.9 per cent increase for each year. The population is also aging and the number of retirees is growing.

• The labour force has grown by 7 per cent a year from 1981 to 1996, faster even than the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The growth was most significant in Whistler and Pemberton.

• While the goods-producing labour force has grown, there are fewer jobs in forestry, mining, energy and utilities. The service industry continues to grow in food and accommodation sectors, business, and personal services.

• The largest sources of basic employment are tourism (40 per cent), public sector (21 per cent), construction (15 per cent) and forestry (12 per cent).

• The largest sources of basic income are tourism (25 per cent), public sector (21 per cent) construction (14 per cent) and forestry (13 per cent).

The report also analyzed the data in the report to anticipate future growth trends. Among the findings:

• Slower, but continued growth driven by the in-migration of retirees, "urban refugees," and workers. The average population growth is expected to drop to 2.8 per cent annually, compared to 1.4 per cent for the GVRD, resulting in a permanent population of about 64,000 by 2026. Projections could be affected by a number of potential major investments, including ski facilities at Cayoosh and Brohm Ridge, the 2010 Olympics, and improved transportation infrastructure.

• Economically, growth is expected to continue in tourism, in knowledge-based businesses, in retirement incomes and in value-added products (forestry). Forestry will continue to be an important part of the economy, but it is expected to continue to decline in relative important to the plan area.

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