If the state of British Columbia’s economy and political affairs in the spring of nineteen-hundred and ninety-nine could be represented by one location within the province it might be the Callaghan Valley.
In fact, the Callaghan might be symbolic of the last 30 years in B.C. The first road into the valley was built by a Socred working under the auspices of developing an alpine ski area, but he used the road to harvest some of the best and easiest to reach timber and the ski area never materialized.
The Callaghan has seen numerous logging operations over the years, as well as some successful silviculture practices, including the use of pasteurized biosolids from the Whistler sewage plant which has helped accelerate second growth timber to maturation.
The Callaghan was also the site of the North Air gold mine in the late ’70s and early ’80s. More recently it provided the setting for several months of filming by a major Hollywood motion picture production.
And in recent years the Callaghan has become a centre for recreation, as snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, fishermen and others use the valley on an individual and commercial basis.
Trying to co-ordinate all these disparate land-use activities in one valley is a political matter, one which would seem to be in the hands of the provincial government’s various ministries of Forests, Mines, Crown Lands, Environment, Tourism & Small Business, Fisheries and perhaps even Employment & Investment. But "co-ordinate" doesn’t seem to be part of the vocabulary of the provincial ministries.
Last year the Callaghan was identified as the site for the nordic events in the Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics — an event of enormous economic and cultural impact if it comes to pass, but one which has strangely generated very little interest or discussion amongst most people in B.C. However, two groups that did notice the Callaghan is tied to the Olympic bid were the Lil’wat Nation of Mount Currie and the Squamish Nation, both of which have claimed the valley as part of their traditional lands.
Sorting out First Nations’ rights to the Callaghan is going to take several years, particularly in the case of the Lil’wat as they have rejected the treaty negotiation process.
Meanwhile, Western Forest Products is ready to take advantage of this confusion, as it has plans for several cutblocks in the Callaghan this summer — cutblocks which are very close to the areas identified as potential sites for the nordic events in 2010. The provincial government, which seems to be spearheading the Olympic bid, could step in and tell Western Forest Products to harvest in other areas of the valley, thus ensuring that the best options for the Olympics and future uses of the Callaghan remain open, but the government has more immediate concerns.
And so we have a microcosm of British Columbia in 1999 all wrapped up in one little valley. Logging plans are proceeding ahead at full speed regardless of long-term plans for the land, while commercial backcountry operators and individual recreationalists compete for their slice of the valley. Meanwhile there are still mining rights in the valley, a law suit pending over the right to develop an alpine ski area in the Callaghan and First Nations demanding compensation for use of the land.
And the provincial government, which is supposed to be overseeing the best use of Crown land, is so engulfed in day-to-day crises that it can’t plan beyond next week.