Stoltmann national park proposal...
By Amy Fendley
How would you like to live next to a national park?
The Western Canada Wilderness Committee has been pushing for several years to have the Stoltmann Wilderness Area preserved. Last fall the organization expanded its initial 260,000 hectare proposal to 500,000 hectares, stretching up to the western boundaries of the Resort Municipality of Whistler. The organization is also proposing the area be designated Canada’s first national park reserve in the Coast Mountain Range.
The proposal has generated a number of letters of support from people across the country, addressed to municipal governments in Whistler and Squamish.
Joe Foy, campaign co-ordinator of the WCWC, says a 500,000 ha national park will be easier to create than trying to preserve 260,000 ha of wilderness.
The proposed Stoltmann National Park Reserve, named in memory of conservationist, Randy Stoltmann, who proposed that the area be protected shortly before his death in a mountaineering accident, encompasses the traditional territories of the Klahoose, Lil’wat, Sechelt and Squamish First Nations, as well as the pristine headwaters of the Squamish and Lillooet River systems and the Sims, Clendenning Mountain Range, Upper Elaho and the Upper Lillooet valleys. Combined, the four contiguous valleys make up half of all the unlogged valleys over 5,000 ha left in the 4.2 million ha Lower Mainland region.
The WCWC’s expanded proposal also includes the Pemberton Ice Cap, the Soo Valley and the Upper Bridge valley, stopping jut short of the Chilcotin Mountain Range north of Bridge River.
The proposed park would link with existing protected areas to include Rainbow and Cougar Mountains and the Callaghan Valley.
But due to overlapping jurisdictions, the Stoltmann Wilderness proposal is in conflict with tenures issued under the province’s Commercial Backcountry Recreation policy, Whistler’s Land Resource Use Policy and the Whistler Community Forest proposal.
Members of Whistler’s Advisory Parks and Recreation Committee moved to discuss the national park proposal at their next meeting, saying there is a need to better understand the proposal before any decisions can be made.
"Whistler planners have been looking to put that land in the LRUP," said Jill Almond, chairman of the Advisory Parks and Recreation Commission.
"Our main question, was ‘gee, it looks like the two boundaries overlap, maybe a national park will preclude some of the uses that already exist there.’ We’re a parks and recreation commission so we’re interested in making land available for recreation and at this point we haven’t discussed it."
Foy was scheduled to make a presentation on the proposal to Whistler’s Forest and Wildland Advisory Committee this month.
Foy says that the proposed park’s boundaries next to Whistler are flexible and will give Whistler more control.
"The people we’ve talked to in Whistler have been very supportive," said Foy. "What’s required to happen is not only to get Whistler, but Squamish and Pemberton on board. These communities are worried about how this will affect them economically... clear-cutting the last few stands of old growth in the area is not going to change the province’s economic situation."
The WCWC argues that clear-cutting the Stoltmann Wilderness would preserve fewer jobs than it would destroy.
In the Sea to Sky Corridor, tourism currently accounts for more than 30 per cent of employment and Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton — the three communities closest to the proposed Stoltmann Wilderness — are the fastest growing communities in the Lower Mainland region.
RMOW Councillor Ted Milner says the national park proposal would put Whistler in a similar situation to Canmore, Alberta, having a link to a major park without being included within it.
"It should be preserved and protected," said Milner. "There is only a limited number of coastal rainforests in the world. We are amongst the last.
"Most of the old growth has already been logged, but it’s got to be a balanced decision. Squamish can be convinced. Whether they agree or not, they’re going be out of wood soon anyway."
In 1996 the province announced the creation of 24 new parks in the Lower Mainland region, protecting 14 per cent of the area. But the WCWC wants to see a large Lower Mainland park system, at least another 13 per cent of the land base, protected by 2000. This would be a start to the ultimate goal of protecting 40 per cent of the province’s lands.
The WCWC has sent out postcards in the Sea to Sky Corridor announcing its intention to create the national park and Foy says that in a recent follow-up call to the premier’s office, at least 6,000 of the postage-paid mail-outs had been sent to Victoria.
"We argue that the Stoltmann makes sense," said Foy. "From a preservation, ecological and job-creating point of view. Tourism is the number one job creator in the province, this part of the world will bring tourists to see the wild."