By Alison Taylor
Olympic organizers are tight-lipped about the DNA evidence of
grizzly bears living close to their proposed legacy trails in the Callaghan
In response to several questions and requests for interviews,
the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Games released an
e-mailed statement last week from Linda Coady, vice president of
"VANOC and a comprehensive group
of stakeholders are entering into an environmental assessment process for which
the end result may be the creation of legacy recreation trails,” she said.
“Legacy trails will only be developed
if through this process, and in light of all available findings, responsible
government authorities are confident that design plans and mitigation measures
meet and exceed environmental assessment requirements and VANOC's
VANOC was given the green light to
build its $116 million venue in the spring of 2005. But it was limited to
building only the competition trails and facilities. The development of the
Callaghan legacies was to come at a later date following a separate
environmental assessment report.
There were concerns at the time about
the impacts of the legacy trails, including the environmental repercussions in
the Callaghan Valley.
Chief Bill Williams of Squamish
Nation said First Nations have known for 20 years about the grizzlies living in
“We’re well aware of it,” he said.
They are not concerned about legacy
development if there is no impact on the grizzlies but they are opposed to
encroaching any further in their territory.
“If the trails do not directly impact
the patterns of the grizzly bears then we have no real issue,” said Williams.
The environmental assessment for the
Olympic legacy trails is expected to get underway this fall and involves, among
other things, roughly 25 kilometres of recreation trails in the upper reaches
of the valley — that’s reduced significantly from the 50-75 kms
A recent government study has identified four resident grizzly
bears in the upper Callaghan Valley through DNA testing. Cubs have also been
sighted in the area with their mothers.
The proof of grizzlies in the area calls into question the
future of the Whistler Nordic Centre.
A draft document of the government’s Sea to Sky Land and
Resource Management Plan also details management of grizzly bear populations in
the area. Stakeholders who drew up that plan called for a Grizzly Bear Recovery
Plan for the area. It is not clear at this time if there was consensus for that
recommendation among the group.
In that document, which was produced in April 2006, the
stakeholders recommended a recovery plan for four Grizzly Bear Population Units
in the LRMP area by 2008. That includes the bears in the Callaghan, which are
Stakeholders recommended that the grizzlies achieve “viable”
status, which could take upwards of 50 years.
The draft report states: “Consideration should be given to
assigning a higher priority to completing work in areas that are being
developed for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and adjacent areas.”
The provincial government has not yet approved the plan.
– with files from Clare Ogilvie