Now that the 2010 Games are half a year in history, we can really celebrate what makes Whistler so successful - stunning natural assets and biodiversity.
For the rest of 2010 we get to examine Whistler's nature through the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB), the other 2010 celebration. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is leading the way to healthier ecosystems here by raising awareness about the ecological and habitat values of Fitzsimmons Fan Park. Anyone interested in learning about the Fitzsimmons Fan is invited to a Community Open House Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Spruce Grove Field House from 4 to 6 p.m.
Fitzsimmons Fan Park is the area where Fitzsimons Creek flows into Green Lake. Based on observations by the Whistler Naturalists and keen Whistler birders, this area is one of two key nesting sites for migratory shore birds. The other is Cheakamus Lake. Due to its beauty, easy access and location, Fitzsimmons Fan Park is frequented by many Whistler residents, guests and in many cases their dogs.
Through the RMOW Park Use Bylaw, it is illegal to have dogs off leash in the Fitzsimmons Fan. Consistent use of the area as an unsanctioned off-leash area has threatened the viability of the park as a bird nesting site. The most important nesting habitat is the low shrubs and tall grasses along the creek that connect the beach with the upland area of the park. For the past nine years, unleashed dog use of the park has disabled birds from using this crucial habitat to nest and rear their young.
The open house will allow park users to identify ways to protect and enhance the bird-nesting habitat in the park. This collaborative approach will enable all park users to come up with creative solutions to the current challenges the park faces.
"Whistler residents love the environment. Here's a chance to put action behind that love and find ways to protect birds' nests in Fitzsimmons Fan Park," says Heather Beresford, RMOW Manager of Environmental Stewardship.
This past June, to kick off Envirofest, well-known BCIT Instructor Danny Catt, a biologist, world traveler and internationally published photographer with over 25 years of experience in the field of environmental education, hosted a community panel here where he used his global lens to explain why biodiversity is so important in the resort community setting.
"By looking around the world, you can start to see how fabulous Canada is for biodiversity," Catt says. "The gem in the country in my view is British Columbia. I really look at the world, try to bring it back home, and then have everyone realize we can be economically viable and still protect ecosystem goods and services."
Ecosystem goods and services - the things the planet provides us for free and sustain all life - are priceless components that cannot be undervalued in our challenging quest for "sustainable development," Catt says.
"People come to Whistler and then go back home to Japan, the U.S. or wherever they came here from and they take with them the experience of being in a resort that has been successful by showcasing and protecting biodiversity," he says. "That exposure is priceless and needs to be protected."
2010 has been declared the International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations in order to halt or significantly stop the rate at which the world is losing its biodiversity. And for tourism, and the world, to eventually be sustainable we must nurture the goose that laid the golden egg - biodiversity. When the nature of this place that attracts guests to Whistler translates to 11 per cent of annual provincial tourism revenues, protecting and enhancing biodiversity here pays off.
Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on. The "nature" of Whistler is not just stunning Coast Range ecosystems around us, it's also the natural commitment of Whistler's citizens to understand that the ongoing success of this place is vitally supported by an ongoing commitment to biodiversity.
While we can't deny building a resort community and hosting the Games has not impacted Whistler's biodiversity, we have worked hard to minimize the net impact. Biodiversity and tourism are so integrated, they affect each other in a way that can make or break tourism economies.
Want to learn more about Whistler2020? Check out www.whistler2020.ca .