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Small victories but hardest work still ahead

No shortage of candidates for AWARE board at annual general meeting



By Andrew Mitchell

Although change can be difficult to provoke at times, the Association of Whistler Area Residents (AWARE) has learned patience over the years as well as the value of persistence. If they can’t get things resolved overnight, they have committed to at least keep things moving forward.

At the association’s annual general meeting last week, outgoing AWARE president Brad Kasselman listed the various projects and campaigns the organization has been involved with in the past year, as well as the group’s various successes. Separately they might seem like small victories, but together they add up to significant changes.

“A lot of the campaigns we’re involved in are long and drawn out, sometimes over years, but we are making progress in a lot of ways just by making sure we have a voice in the process,” said Kasselman. “Sometimes it comes down to volunteers, and other times it comes down to us raising money or finding a grant so we can pay somebody to be there.”

Kasselman has been the AWARE president the past two years, and will remain active on the board through 2007-08. Although a new board was elected after the meeting, the executive of the board will not be decided until directors vote at AWARE’s next board meeting in May.

Last year was busy for AWARE:

AWARE continued to be the sole environmental voice at the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan table, hiring Johnny Mikes to carry on discussions with other stakeholders. The province is currently reviewing the draft plan, while consulting with First Nations on their own land use plans, but Kasselman believes that AWARE’s long participation in the process — started in 2004 and originally expected to finish in 2005 — has yielded some results.

“We were able to work with the stakeholders and come up with a whole new zoning for Crown land called a Wildland Zone, which allows for recreation and activities like mining but restricts logging and timber harvesting activities,” said Kasselman. “These zones will cover about 20 per cent of the total area, which is significant. Everyone at the table recognized the need to set aside non-timber zones, and create a level of protection that wasn’t there before.”

Most of AWARE’s involvement in the past year has been monitoring activity in the designated Wildland Zones to ensure that partners are abiding by the agreement in principle while the province evaluates the plan.

AWARE is also continuing to advance its campaign to protect the Upper Soo Valley from industrial development, off-setting land in the Callaghan Valley that is being lost to Olympic development, proposed First Nations development and the installation of a waste transfer station for Whistler. The Whistler-Blackcomb Employee Fund has provided some funding to help with the project, which is also waiting to the see the results of First Nations land planning with the province.