Sea to Sky LRMP kicks off in open house 

The Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) process gets underway in Whistler on March 3 in the Whistler Conference Centre with a public open house.

The Pemberton open house took place on March 1, and there will be another in Squamish on March 6.

Premier Ujjal Dosanjh and Forests Minister Gordon Wilson announced the LRMP on Jan. 26, and hope to have a plan in place by the fall of 2002.

While it will be a challenge to balance resource and recreational interests, the Forests Minister has made it clear that the government has no intention of reopening the 1996 Protected Areas Strategy that protected 22 per cent of the Squamish Forest District as parks.

The open houses will introduce the LRMP process to the public, provide information and seek public input. Several plans concerning everything from forestry to recreation in the corridor have already been completed and will be included in the tentative LRMP proposals.

The government has also prepared a report on the social and economic factors to be considered in the Sea to Sky LRMP:

• The current population in the plan area has doubled in the past 20 years from about 15,000 residents in 1981 to approximately 31,000 in 2000 – a 3.9 per cent increase for each year. The population is also aging and the number of retirees is growing.

• The labour force has grown by 7 per cent a year from 1981 to 1996, faster even than the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The growth was most significant in Whistler and Pemberton.

• While the goods-producing labour force has grown, there are fewer jobs in forestry, mining, energy and utilities. The service industry continues to grow in food and accommodation sectors, business, and personal services.

• The largest sources of basic employment are tourism (40 per cent), public sector (21 per cent), construction (15 per cent) and forestry (12 per cent).

• The largest sources of basic income are tourism (25 per cent), public sector (21 per cent) construction (14 per cent) and forestry (13 per cent).

The report’s authors also analyzed the data to anticipate future growth trends. Among the findings:

Slower, but continued growth driven by in-migration of retirees, "urban refugees", and workers. The average population growth is expected to drop to 2.8 per cent annually, compared to 1.4 per cent for the GVRD, resulting in a permanent population of about 64,000 by 2026. Projections could be affected by a number of potential major investments, including ski facilities (Cayoosh, Brohm Ridge), the 2010 Olympics, and improved transportation infrastructure.

Economically, growth is expected to continue in tourism, in knowledge-based businesses, in retirement incomes and in value-added products (forestry). Forestry will continue to be an important part of the economy, but it is expected to continue to decline in relative importance to the plan area.

Eckhard Zeidler, a director of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) says the open house meeting is a good place to for conservation-minded individuals to get the message across that the public is in favour of new parks or protected areas within the LRMP boundaries.

"The premier and forests minister say they do not expect any new protected areas in the LRMP – this is the first opportunity for the public to tell the government and table members that they may not see it the same way," says Zeidler. "There’s a lot of unfinished business, for instance in the Upper Elaho."

The open house will take place from 3 to 8 p.m. in the Parkhurst Room of the Whistler Conference Centre.

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