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The project does not have the support of the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC), but AWARE is continuing to engage VANOC on a number of fronts including the Upper Soo.
AWARE recently came out against the construction of up to 25 kilometres in ‘legacy trails’ at the Whistler Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley, believing the environmental assessment was flawed and that the trails come too close to an area identified as a grizzly bear corridor. The existence of grizzlies in the Callaghan was only confirmed last fall.
AWARE has written a letter to the B.C. Environment Office voicing its concerns and opposition, but have yet to hear back. Construction on the trails is slated to start this summer.
While the issue has been divisive, even within AWARE’s board of directors, Kasselman said it was important to respond to the issue and be a voice for the bears. If nothing else, he says AWARE’s feedback might result in the relocation of trails or additional mitigation.
“It’s hard sometimes, especially when we already have a full plate of things going on and we’re forced to respond, but that’s what we’re here for,” he said.
Another project that AWARE launched this year is a snowmobile monitoring project. With a grant from Shell Oil, AWARE hired someone to count the number of snowmobiles using the more popular trailheads in the corridor, as well as the types of vehicles that were being used to transport the sleds.
“Everywhere else in the Pacifc Northwest, snowmobiles are really restricted where they are able to go for various reasons, but around here things are relatively unrestricted and it’s bringing people from all over,” he said. “The goal is to establish baseline data on the volume of snowmobiles using the backcountry.”
AWARE is concerned about the potential impacts to wildlife, air quality, water quality and the backcountry experience — after finding snowmobile garbage in areas not accessible by trails or through others means.
On the educational front, AWARE has started a Western Toad Project with signage through Lost Lake Park advising people to be aware of the blue-listed toads as they migrate through the park. AWARE has also started an environmental club at Whistler Secondary School, bringing in an international program called the Hopeful High School Hooligans. The club does different projects and field trips each week, while producing a comedy on environmental issues.