A couple hours north of Whistler, beyond Gold Bridge, the watersheds of the Gun, Tyaughton, Relay, Leckie, Slim and Eldorado Creeks form what is usually referred to as the Spruce Lake area. The area is used by heli-ski firms and float plane operators in Whistler and Gold Bridge, as well as Tyax Mountain Lake Resort and a number of guide outfitters. The area has been proposed for protection for years, but when the provincial government announced in November the Stein Valley would become a park, it also said, in a much softer voice, that 80,000 ha would come out of proposed protected areas, including 30,000 ha out of the proposed 93,000 ha Spruce Lake Protected Area. "Whistler is definitely the big-time loser if this area isn’t protected in its entirety," says Dennis Perry, a director of the Southern Chilcotin Wilderness Society. "If Whistler doesn’t get involved Lillooet is going to make the decision, and they’ll log it." Last year an area to the north, known as Big Creek, was given protected status. The proposed Spruce Lake Protected Area had been in the Protected Area Strategy process for the last two years and Perry says the society was anticipating a favourable decision by March or April of this year. But with the creation of the Stein Park, the Spruce Lake area was placed under the Lillooet-based Local Resource Management Plan. The LRMP stake holders are now saying the study process won’t start until the spring and it could be up to two years before a decision is made. In the meantime, the LRMP study doesn’t preclude logging companies from applying to build roads into the area. And the 30,000 ha that came out of the proposed protected area — Taylor Valley, Upper Nichols Valley, Slim Creek Valley and Bonanza Basin — are being eyed by logging companies now. "I think Whistler can do an incredible amount here," says Perry. "In particular Ted Nebbeling." The Southern Chilcotin Wilderness Society has written the Whistler mayor to ask for his support in getting protected status for the Spruce Lake area. Nebbeling wrote that he is a "supporter of preserving unique land masses for future generations to enjoy in its pristine state. I have also stated that this must be done on a provincially planned basis, rather than a one at the time approach." Nebbeling wrote that he needed a comprehensive plan, including all applications being considered, so that the right choice could be made. The Spruce Lake area is the transition zone between the Coast Mountains and the Chilcotin Plateau and represents unique bio-physical types not included in B.C.’s provincial park system. It is used year round by hikers, fishermen, snowmobile clubs, heli-skiers, horseback expeditions, hunters, cross-country skiers and photographers. In 1987 the Ministry of Forests proposed an 82,000 ha Wilderness Area in the Lillooet Forest District. Forest Minister Dave Parker stated at the time: "Our priority for future wilderness is definitely Spruce Lake. The area has exceptional wilderness, recreation and wildlife values." The Wilderness Area designation never happened. In 1990 the Ministry of Parks assigned the Spruce Lake area the highest priority for the Southern Interior Region within its System Plan.