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Opening remarks The status of the Callaghan Valley has always been a bit hazy. The Protected Areas Strategy study may clarify the situation — when a decision is finally made.

Opening remarks The status of the Callaghan Valley has always been a bit hazy. The Protected Areas Strategy study may clarify the situation — when a decision is finally made. But it should be remembered the study only applies to the western end of the valley and the fate of the entire Callaghan has still to be determined. On Monday Whistler council came out in favour of Option 2 in the three-bears scenario presented by the Callaghan Lake Protected Areas Strategy study team, but a final decision by the provincial cabinet on the fate of the lands is still months away. Option 2 would continue to allow mechanized access, such as heli-skiing and snowmobiling which are currently done in the area, but prohibit resource extraction. Option 1 would protect the area, prohibit resource extraction and development and phase out mechanized access. Option 3 would offer little conservation and would allow resource extraction. A fourth option, to reduce the size of the study area, has also been discussed. In a presentation last month study group leader Don van der Horst told council: "I suspect if we went with Option 3 the entire valley would be added to the Soo Provincial Forest. But that would probably not be that big an impact (because most of the harvestable forest in the Callaghan Valley is outside the proposed protected area)." Van der Horst said the bigger impact, if Option 3 is chosen, would be from mining. He added that a study team member from the Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Ministry has some serious concerns about the "protection" that Options 1 and 2 would allow. Van der Horst said there "seems to be a pretty strong leaning toward Option 2" among the general public. If Option 1 or 2 is eventually adopted it would likely mean the creation of a provincial park, and would not allow the development of an alpine ski area. Dianne and Nan Hartwick are, of course, still battling the provincial government over the right to develop Powder Mountain as a ski area. The Hartwicks feel they have the development rights but successive provincial governments have ignored them. As for the rest of the valley, previous provincial governments have always been reluctant to rule out future development. Former mayor Drew Meredith once suggested that the reason the province was offering financial incentives if Whistler chose the pipe option for the waste water treatment plant expansion was because the Social Credit government was eyeing the Callaghan for future development, and it could tie in to Whistler’s expanded sewage treatment facility. Also, a previous Whistler council at one time considered annexing part of the Callaghan, so that any development in the valley was done within municipal boundaries and would then be subject to Whistler rules and bylaws. If the ceiling on development in Whistler is maintained some consideration must be given to development outside the present municipal boundaries. To ignore it would be to force the price of real estate in Whistler even higher, as Aspen found out 15 years ago when it put a freeze on all new development. The Callaghan is still a likely area for development consideration, but forest companies also have timber rights in the valley. So while the PAS study may be helpful in determining the future of part of the Callaghan, there are a lot of issues still to be addressed. – Bob Barnett

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