Basalt to be removed from interpretive forest
By Loreth Beswetherick
The municipality and the Ministry of Mines have managed to hammer out a compromise over a private contractor’s plan to remove up to 200 tons of basalt rock per year from the Whistler Interpretive Forest.
Andy Russell has been given the go-ahead to remove basalt from the Loggers Lake area but it will not come from the highly-visible site he originally staked earlier this year. He has, instead, been granted permission to extract rock from a less intrusive one-hectare slide site to the back of the lake, said Whistler’s director of parks and recreation Bill Barratt.
Earlier this year Russell applied for a permit to remove rock from an area near the Loggers Lake parking lot off the Forest Service Road. His application caused a political rumble until Russell volunteered to withdraw it and search for another site.
The rock is part of a distinctive geographic feature in the interpretive forest — the ancient volcanic cone that forms part of Loggers Lake. The lake itself is a key feature in the interpretive forest recreation area. The Ministry of Forests has pumped more than $1.5 million into the interpretive park over the last nine years to refine its tourism and recreational potential.
In terms of the Mines Act, however, the Ministry of Mines saw no reason to deny Russell a permit and, the Mines Act supersedes all other jurisdictions. Russell did however, still have to get Ministry of Forests approval to haul his load over the forestry road.
Whistler had thought the interpretative forest was covered by a no-staking reserve and said so within the 30-day period from Sept. 17 they had to make comment on the application. The ministry said this was not sufficient reason to decline the permit.
Barratt said a deal has, however, now been struck that will see Russell compensated with another claim provided the old site, where he had started sorting rock, was cleaned up.
He said the compromise is better than nothing but he is still not happy. "It’s some distance away so it is an improvement but we don’t understand why, when he went in illegally without a road permit, that they had to compensate him," said Barratt. "It’s really unfortunate."
Barratt said stone masons have told him they all recognized they could stake land in the interpretative forest but no one did because of the sensitive nature of the area. "This guy knew it was an interpretive area and had no consideration. He went in using the Mines Act, which is so draconian."
The basalt rock is used in architectural landscaping as facing stone and flagstone and is currently in high demand.
Barratt said the municipality is continuing to work with the Mines Ministry to ensure a similar occurrence will not happen again. He said the ministry has been extremely co-operative and recognizes the sensitive nature of the area and its tourism value. "We hope to come up with a process that will enable us to have a type of conditional staking reserve over a much larger area because these issues aren’t concentrated just on the interpretive forest."
In the meantime, the Ministry of Forests is asking that Loggers Lake specifically be made a no-staking area.
Barratt said there are a significant number of staked mining claims throughout the valley and surrounding hills that date back to the 1940s. He said some, like ones on Rainbow, have been turned back over to the Crown for lack of tax payments. "It certainly is something that needs to be addressed from our perspective," said Barratt. "And Mines recognizes that."