Mention old growth trees and logging and most people think British Columbia and Clayoquot Sound. Mention Whistler and most people envision skiing and pristine wilderness.
But a new plan to log Whistler's existing old growth trees could soon see Whistler moving away from eco-tourism and into the old growth logging business.
The B.C. government has downloaded the responsibility of managing B.C.'s forests from the Ministry of Forests to the local municipalities and First Nations, in what has been termed a ‘Community Forest.'
A Community Forest is defined as 'a forestry operation managed by local government, community group, or First Nation for the benefit of the community.'
Exactly how the community of Whistler and local First Nations will benefit from the removal of priceless old growth ecosystems remains to be seen.
In this case, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), Squamish Nation and Lil'wat Nation are partners in a community forest venture with Richmond Plywood acting as the operating contractor. The logging encompasses wilderness areas surrounding Whistler and include Brandywine, Callaghan, Madely, Rainbow, 19 Mile Creek, Wedge, Cheakamus and Daisy Lake recreation/wilderness areas.
Sounds good on paper, but it's a different story on the ground.
Under the new land use plan, the three partners have committed to cutting 20,000 cubic metres of wood per year over a 25-year period. Approximately 50-per cent of Whistler's Community Forest land is old-growth forest, particularly in the upper elevations.
What do we receive in return? $30,000/year split three ways.
Hardly seems worth it considering how we're destroying these carbon sinks forever.
Despite assurances from our elected officials and promises of ecosystem-based management endorsed by Eco Trust Canada, many residents find it difficult to trust that the logging will be carried out in a sustainable manner.
Whistler residents were promised a dream community at the Whistler's Athletes Village post-Olympics, but families are now facing the reality of living metres away from a toxic-spewing asphalt plant and quarry.
During the ‘green' Olympics, council destroyed a rare, red-listed wetland and wildlife habitat area to house a controversial hydrogen refueling station and bus depot.
In a letter submitted to council, Allan Crawford, owner/operator of Canadian Snowmobile Adventures asked how Whistler can market itself as a champion of sustainable development if it proposes to log at-risk ecological communities identified by all three levels of government?
Whistler's draft Protected Area Network (PAN) Plan describes Whistler's old growth forests as being "sensitive and important ecosystems." This classification is based on the system developed and employed by Environment Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service.
Our eco mayor, Ken Melamed was quoted in the Green Bylaws Toolkit for Conserving Sensitive Ecosystems and Green Infrastructure as:
"In Whistler, we clearly recognize that we are stewards, of the natural systems that surround us. They are a critical factor to our resort's success and contribute to the quality of life we enjoy. As British Columbians, we share in the appreciation of our natural heritage. While a decade ago, we were pioneering conservation planning with few examples to follow, the Green Bylaws Toolkit provides us with comprehensive approaches and examples for stewardship planning and bylaws in one document. Increasingly in my 10 years in local government, I have witnessed the benefit of tools for the protection of the environment. I am pleased to encourage all local governments to use the Toolkit as the lens through which they evaluate community development."
MAYOR KEN MELAMED, Resort Municipality of Whistler
A rally to protest the resort's plans to log over 50 per cent of Whistler's old growth will take place on Thursday, Sept. 9 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Mountain Square, Whistler Village with a march to municipal chambers to voice residents' opposition.
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