Why are certain trees and ecosystems in Whistler worth saving, while others are not?
I found council's comments regarding tree removal on Lorimer Road and the heli-pad irrational and ironic. During last week's council meeting Mayor Melamed said, "We spend a lot of time here trying to preserve our tree buffers, the natural setting." Councillor Ralph Forysth chimed in with, "...my only request would be whatever we can do to preserve as much of that tree stock as possible. It just seems such a tragedy for those trees to have to come down."
This is the same gang that cleared 800+ trees from Lot 1/9, located adjacent to the helipad and kitty-corner to the stand of trees to house the Celebration Plaza, complete with new "native" shrubs, ferns and the Great Lawn. Guess what's good enough for VANOC isn't good enough for Vancouver Coastal Health and Transport Canada.
These are the same elected officials who stood by as the rare, red-listed Nesters Wetland was destroyed to house the Fort McMurray-looking hydrogen refueling station and gave their approval to remove thousands of mature trees to expand Highway 99 and construct the Nordic ski trails and winding roads into the Callaghan Valley.
Our current council and their First Nations partners believe that cutting Whistler's old growth trees is beneficial for Whistler's long term economic and tourism future. At the Sept. 9 Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) Open House, the mayor told me how "... it's a really good idea to cut down old growth forest because it helps rejuvenate the forest." Did I miss something here?
Richmond Plywood's chainsaws were busy at work this weekend in the Brew Creek area, as they "selectively" cut their quota of harvestable trees.
Removing trees in the village core to clear flight paths for our emergency services and helicopters is fine with me. The only reason I can think of for preserving the trees at Lorimer and Blackcomb Way is to keep the RMOW's free parking lot hidden to tourists.
AWARE on CCF
The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) believes the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) and the equal partnership created between Whistler RMOW and the Lil'wat and Squamish First Nations, recognizes historical land rights and, potentially, affords all partners greater control over the future sustainability of our shared forests. AWARE recognizes the CCF board has made steps to maintain ecosystem diversity through working with Ecotrust Canada. However, we believe the CCF is faced with several challenges, summarized in the bullets below, which it now has the opportunity to overcome:
• The CCF's basic challenge is that it has inherited a landscape in which the valley bottom has been overcut in the past leaving lower value young forest and little mature-second growth;
• The province had mandated the CCF's Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) volume in advance of completion of the Eco-based Management Assessment (EBM). This restricts the impartiality of an EBM assessment in determining the sustainable cut volumes that are environmentally viable within the CCF area;
• Whistler's residents and visitors place extreme importance on our natural environment, especially old growth forests, and we need an extensive assessment of the environmental, societal and economic value of these forests. What is the value the province has placed on our forests? There are exciting opportunities for forest management, such as providing local carbon offset schemes, eco-tourism and land protection programs. Only upon exploration of these options can the local community effectively understand the impacts of losing these forests and the opportunities for protecting them.
We understand forest licensing is managed provincially and if the CCF were not in existence then a private logging company would be assigned this tenure. However, we truly believe that the CCF partners, the local municipality and participating band offices have the opportunity to become a model case study for the creation of environmentally and financially sustaining managed forests, with minimal logging. AWARE would like to see the CCF Board of Directors prioritize work with the provincial government to ensure that the Annual Allowable Cut levels are set to ensure local biodiversity is maintained and that all old growth forest is protected.
Society's increasing environmental awareness creates an expectation, and therefore potential opportunity, for the protection of forest areas. AWARE would like to offer its support for discussions that take place at the provincial level, and locally, as we try to look for alternative options to logging our forest assets as we work to create a sustainable community forest.
If you have any questions regarding AWARE or our position on the CCF please e-mail email@example.com.
Can't see the old growth forest...
I couldn't help but notice the irony of both Ken Melamed and Ralph Forsyth being so upset by the cutting down of a few trees to make upgrades to the helipad at the medical clinic, while at the same time, both of them are in favour of harvesting old growth trees. If either of them want to show this community they have an environmental conscience, take a stand on a real issue and stop the cutting of old growth forests.
I'm sure that they have no idea how strongly the community feels about this matter, or someone on council would have taken a stand to protect old growth on the basis that these trees are far more valuable standing where they are than being cut down for a one time pay out.
Regardless of how environmentally sensitive you feel your logging practises are, it doesn't negate the reality that the removal of old growth is irreversible and permanent.
This issue could become their HST. Maybe they should ask Gordon Campbell how that worked out for him?
Politicians need to make commuter bus work
The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District met in October to discuss the possibility of regional transit connecting everyone betweeen Lillooet and the Lower Mainland. Research shows reports and studies supporting regional transit going back two decades.
There have been requests for commuter service to Metro Vancouver. Lillooet wants a link to the Sea to Sky or Kamloops or both. People in Pemberton and Whistler need access to services in Squamish. There are cries for more transit in Squamish. At the southern end of our neighbourhood is the Lions Gate Bridge. The northern end crosses the Bridge of 23 Camels.
Parallel to Highway 99 is the track that once carried the BC Rail passenger train. The southern terminal was in an industrial area on the North Vancouver waterfront. That's not the end of the track though. It continues east, through the bus loop at the Sea-Bus Terminal.
We have two fledgling transit services which could grow to become a Regional Transit service; #99 between Pemberton and Whistler and #98 between Squamish and Whistler.
The bus between Whistler and Squamish carries commuters from Squamish. It also carries hundreds of people from Whistler each month. A few use it daily. A few more use it one or two times each week. Hundreds of people use it from time to time to shop, use medical or government services, attend university or enjoy a change of scenery.
For nearly three years, no one was in charge of this service. No one noticed that 25 per cent of the riders live in Whistler. No one adjusted schedules that don't work for commuters. No one adjusted fares. No one noticed or advised anyone that costs had exceeded the budget by over 250 per cent. Councils in Squamish and Whistler didn't have anyone offering oversight to this fledgling, experimental service.
Whistler Council panicked. Recent 60 per cent fare increases, threatened service cuts and no schedule improvements could mean the loss of this service. At the moment BC Transit pays about 47 per cent. Squamish and Whistler split the rest. Whistler wants to stop its contribution at the end of December, denying that the service is used by people in Whistler.
Funding for a Regional Transit service requires the will of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the Provincial Government. Are they going to help fund a service to Vancouver if we cannot even operate a service between Whistler and Squamish?
Local politicians must make this system succeed or there will never be a commuter bus to Vancouver. There will never be a bus from Lillooet to anywhere. We will continue to face reduced trips and higher fares from commercial buses. We will continue to buy old used cars with last year's all season tires to commute.
Come on people! Take a large bottle of water and lock yourselves in a room until you find a way to make this work for the next year. Appoint a team to manage and operate it. Appoint a team to provide political oversight. The next time you approach the district or province it should be to tell them the buses are always full. We need more of them.
No horse senses
Enough is enough! Does someone have to get injured or killed before any more livestock are struck on that dark, curvy and often foggy stretch of road between Pemberton and Mt Currie? Do the owners not value their animals or care about people's safety?
As one of the many commuters who have had the misfortune of hitting livestock, driving around herds of horses licking salt off the road and witnessing horrific carnage, I'm sickened, sad and frustrated. Lame excuses that others are opening or wrecking the fences, that "the horses were here before the highway" and that the livestock owner is asking for funding for fencing is ridiculous!
Horses and cows are domesticated and not wild animals in these parts.
The owner of any livestock is responsible for their care. I'm not sure of legalities but I assume it is their civic duty to keep livestock off busy roads for the safety of the animals and drivers.
A simple, inexpensive short-term solution, while the owner(s) take responsibility for fencing would be to fix reflective Velcro bands on the free range animals to help prevent any more unnecessary collisions.
As for the politics of the situation, those involved should be mending fences and not pointing fingers or passing the buck.
No one seems willing
On Halloween night two more horses, apparently a mare and her foal, were hit on the highway between Pemberton and Mt. Currie. One was found dead; the other, in agony, was put down. They were part of a band of horses that have been allowed to roam free, occasionally wandering onto the highway seeking food sources, and in winter road salt.
Eventually someone, perhaps a child will be killed in a vehicular collision with this herd. What saddens and frustrates me as a horse owner is that no one in a position of authority or responsibility, including the owner, seems willing to do anything about it.
Get gutsy this month
"I did not apply to medical school."
"I stopped work because of the travel."
These are actual statements from Canadians living with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, testifying to the serious and life-altering choices they have had to make because they can't find a public bathroom. It's hard to find the bathroom humour in that.
One in 160 Canadians lives with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), including many right here in Whistler, so it's likely that someone you know is affected. IBD is comprised of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, two similar, yet distinct, conditions that cause intestinal tissue to become inflamed, form sores and bleed easily. Patients suffer from symptoms including abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue and diarrhea that is often urgent and unexpected. More than 200,000 Canadians live with IBD. There is no cure, no known causes and little public understanding of the pain, chronic suffering and isolation IBD patients courageously cope with each and every day of their lives.
This November the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC), and Whistler Friends, celebrates the courage of people who are affected by IBD, while trying to increase public understanding of the issues they face. Please visit www.getgutsymonth.ca for more information. Whistler Friends is proud to support the CCFC and over the years has raised more than $64,000 for research for a cure(s). There is likely a cure(s) to be found in our lifetime - and that cure will be realized as more people become aware of the disease, which is why we have chosen the CCFC to be the primary beneficiary for the first Whistler Half Marathon to be held June 4, 2011.
Those who suffer - don't suffer in silence, tell people about your condition.
Those who don't suffer - open your hearts (and washrooms) to those who do.
Waste not just about bears
Re: Sylvia Dolson's letter to the editor (Get Bear Smart, Pique Oct. 14)
I fully appreciate Dolson's concern for our local bears and support her goals of preventing their habituation to human activity and their deaths as a result. However, I am concerned that some of the solutions proposed at various public meetings, namely neighbourhood waste collection bins, come at the price of other sustainability goals.
Waste collection in the neighbourhoods will increase our municipal costs, and at what benefit? One estimate for a subsidized trial was $80,000 for one neighbourhood and it may not solve our bear attractant issues.
If collection bins are in place once a week, will it meet the needs of all residents including weekenders? Will the people who are drawing bears to their homes with waste care enough to walk to the bins with their waste? Will bears be drawn to the bins by the smell? Will it provide all the options for recycling that residents presently have elsewhere in the community?
And what about the upcoming recycling options. There are many existing take-back programs such as those for beverage containers, paint and electronic waste (e.g. old computers) but these are part of an ongoing process to add more such programs. The B.C. Ministry of Environment has already legislated that there will be programs for a host of other products (www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/recycling/) by 2012 and they have committed to the Canada-wide Action Plan for many more programs by 2015 and 2017 (www.ccme.ca/assets/pdf/epr_cap.pdf). The first one promised by the ministry is for packaging and print material. These programs represent a shift from municipal (and taxpayer) responsibility for these wastes to producer (and consumer) responsibility.
It would be impossible for the RMOW to offer all the recycling options, not to mention the Re-Use-It Centre and the upcoming Rebuild it Centre materials, at every bin. That means that residents would be encouraged to take the easier option of disposing of those materials as waste. This would take us away from our stated Whistler 2020 goal of "embracing zero waste."
Instead of an either/or system of bears versus waste goals, I hope that Whistler will follow the example set by the North Shore Recycling Program where they worked together with their local Bear Smart program to develop waste reduction strategies that achieved both organizations' goals (for example, developing bear-friendly backyard composting practices).
The first step would be to clearly identify the problem by asking questions like is a lack of vehicle transport for waste the key factor for problem residences, what do people without cars do now for waste disposal, what do they think solutions might be and would they be willing to use the proposed solutions? Then we can start looking at solutions and working with our partners such as BC Transit, bylaw enforcement, Carney's, etc. to address them.
Hopefully by developing a clear needs assessment and working with the community and partners we can find a solution that reduces waste, reduces bear problems and mortality, encourages car-free residents and does not substantially increase municipal spending on waste collection. I hope this sparks some community discussion and I look forward to working with the Bear Smart team and other members of the Solid Waste and Materials task force (maybe even drawing out some enthusiastic new volunteers).
Emerald Solid Waste and Materials Task Force member
May our children remember
HONG KONG, Nov. 8, 2010 - It was Christmas Day 1941, here in Hong Kong, soon after the attack on Pearl Harbour. A small group of Canadian soldiers from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles were defending the Chinese civilians. They were under-equipped and outnumbered and the Japanese assault rapidly wore them down. The Canadians fought bravely, making their final stand at a place called St. Stephen's School, which had been converted to a field hospital for the wounded from various fields of battle across Asia.
The school overflowed with the badly injured soldiers. On that fateful Christmas Day, the Canadians surrendered, in full expectation that the attack would stop. Instead, a barbarous onslaught continued and many defenceless Canadians were slaughtered.
This three-day visit to Hong Kong has been dedicated to promoting the Asia Pacific Gateway and, particularly, the Pacific Rim interests of people in our riding. I'll be back in time to lay a wreath on behalf of the Government of Canada on Remembrance Day. But, before returning to Canada, I'll be taking a moment today to stand with Minister Stockwell Day, Minister of Canada's Asia Pacific Gateway, at St. Stephen's, once again a school, where the staff and students will today commemorate the Canadians who made their last stand on that sacred ground.
My late father was captured in Singapore two months after the massacre at St. Stephen's and spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war. He and soldiers like him talked rarely about their ordeals but, on his behalf, and on behalf of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, past and present, we must tell our children: we must never forget.
John Weston, M.P.
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky Country