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WCWC supports Whistler council on grizzlies

Environmental group ads voice to call for bear impact studies at Nordic venue

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By Clare Ogilvie

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) is supporting Whistler council’s call for a grizzly bear hazard assessment at the Olympic Nordic venue.

“I think Whistler council has taken a wonderful and reasonable stance on this,” said Joe Foy, national campaign director for WCWC.

“They are looking after the citizens of Whistler who will be one of the main users of these trails. They are looking out after the grizzly bears too and we want to support them.”

The news came as WCWC took part in a report card assessment by the Impact of the Olympics Community Coalition, an Olympic watchdog group. It investigated how the Vancouver Organizing Committee for 2010 (VANOC) is doing upholding its sustainability goals.

VANOC’s failure to, so far, do the grizzly bear study was one of the reasons WCWC felt it had to give the organizing committee a D- grade on how it is doing.

The 31-page report card, paid for by the federal government, focused on four main areas: environmental commitments, civil liberty commitments, public expenditure and transparency, and housing and displacement. It was released on Monday.

Foy believes there is still time to do the grizzly bear study before the June 1 construction season begins.

“We are signaling that first of all we are very optimistic that VANOC will in fact do the study,” he said. “However, we also think it is fair to signal that we will make an issue as much as we can if they don’t.

“We are prepared to really say ‘thank-you’ if they do. I think it would be good for their brand.”

At issue is the plan by VANOC to put 25 kilometres of “legacy trails” in the Madeley Valley near the Olympic Nordic venue in the Callaghan Valley. VANOC says the trails are needed to make the Nordic centre economically viable after the Games.

Ministry of Environment biologists have found evidence of grizzly bears living and breeding in the area where the additional trails are proposed. VANOC says its research shows there are no resident bears in the trail area.

A grizzly bear assessment would help settle the issue.

Whistler council said in April it would send a letter to the Environmental Assessment Office outlining its support for the Ministry of the Environment’s position.

Council unanimously called on VANOC to do the grizzly assessment to see if the trail system needs to be modified and, if need be, to close the trails to protect bears and humans.

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