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ubcm meetings

Whistler’s enthusiasm for a community forest designation may be tempered following last week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Penticton. "What we might and might not be able to do... they may be changing the goal posts," Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said this week. O’Reilly had a 15 minute meeting with Forest Minister David Zirnhelt at the UBCM convention and appeared to come away less enthused than he was before the meeting. "We’ll see what the rules are; it may be less attractive than we first thought," O’Reilly said. "He’s going to get a lot of applications. It’s expensive even to apply for." The province has invited municipalities and First Nations to present local forest management proposals under the community forest pilot project. The community forest tenure is designed to increase the direct participation of communities and First Nations in the management of local forests and to create sustainable jobs. Whistler is interested in the whole municipality, including the Callaghan Valley, being designated a community forest. Currently there are numerous provincial ministries and departments with jurisdiction over the forest, depending on whether it is logging, backcountry recreation, gravel extraction or something else taking place. "In our case we’re trying to control the environment around us," O’Reilly said prior to the UBCM convention. "But right now we have to deal with different ministries for different issues, and they don’t talk to each other." O’Reilly came away from last week’s meeting with the feeling backcountry recreation issues may not be part of the community forest package. "If we don’t get control of backcountry recreation it’s not as attractive," he said. However, it will be a couple of weeks before the province publishes its request for proposals package, which will include the criteria by which proposals will be evaluated and selected. Submissions will be received up until Jan. 15, 1999, but O’Reilly said it will likely cost in the order of $50,000 just to prepare an application. More than 80 expressions of interest in the community forest program were received by the Ministry of Forests last February.