AWARE announces campaigns for 2001 

The Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment has announced its active campaigns for 2001, continuing a process that started last year with the groups first strategic planning session.

"There are over 100 active files on AWARE’s watch list, too many for a volunteer organization to act upon," says AWARE president Mitch Rhodes. "We decided to take a more focused approach, to concentrate our energy and resources on a few key issues that were most important to our members."

Last year members chose four issues: The Elaho Valley, the Lillooet Land Resource and Management Plan, the Whistler Valley Wetlands and Community Composting. Although none of these issues was resolved, AWARE feels that the public is more informed and things are heading in the right direction.

Public response and protests in the Elaho Valley aided in the district forest manager’s decision to say no to a logging road to the back of the valley and one cutblock that was of interest to the local Squamish Nation. The international environmental campaign against Interfor, the logging company that owns the timber rights in the Elaho, was so effective that Interfor has voluntarily deferred logging in the Elaho until First Nation land claims there are settled.

The Lillooet LRMP process is now in the hands of government, and environmental groups like AWARE have managed to put a lot of pressure on the government in recent weeks and months to support new protected areas.

The Whistler Wetlands portfolio is an ongoing issue, but AWARE has been active in seeking protection for wetlands adjacent to Green Lake and Function Junction. They are working with developers to find compromises in these areas that would preserve wildlife values.

The Community Composting Campaign was successful in demonstrating the need and desire for a community-wide compost program. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District office has commissioned a study to look at the different options available to the area.

"This year we decided to take a different approach," says Rhodes, addressing members at the March 1 monthly meeting. "We looked at where board members’ issues lied and where we thought we could inspire people."

The AWARE campaigns for 2001 can be divided under six different headings:

Whistler Valley Wetlands and Greenbelts – This heading includes all issues that effect Whistler’s valley bottom. Specific issues include the wetlands at Function Junction and Green Lake, the Emerald Forest rehabilitation project, and protecting the spruce forest adjacent to the Health Care Centre.

Community Composting – While this campaign is moving in the right direction, AWARE wants to keep the pressure on local and regional governments to follow through. They also want to continue to educate the public and work with governments, businesses, and residents to make the program successful.

Whistler’s Wilderness Backyard – This includes campaigns like the Elaho and Lillooet LRMP that are of importance to Whistler residents or are of ecological significance. It also includes the Sea to Sky LRMP, as well as recreation and logging tenures and backcountry issues.

The Whistler Sustainability Project – Whistler is working to become the first environmentally sustainable community in the world, using The Natural Step sustainability framework as a model to reduce its ecological footprint. The municipality, Whistler-Blackcomb, Chateau Whistler, Tourism Whistler, AWARE, and Foto Source are all early adopters of The Natural Step framework, and plan to roll the program out to the community in May.

Transportation – The municipality’s Transportation Advisory Group is actively working on a program to get people out of their cars and onto more environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Initiatives include pay parking, subsidized transit, bike/ski lockers in the village, and working with businesses to promote car pooling, transit use, bike facilities and other alternatives to the single passenger vehicle.

Olympics – AWARE is involved with the 2010 Olympic bid, with members sitting on the environment, transportation, Callaghan Valley development, and athlete housing groups. AWARE is also pressuring the Bid Corporation to adopt the sustainability framework in bidding for and organizing the Winter Games.

As AWARE continues to grow, the board members have also began Initiatives 2001, an internal strategic planning process that will look at AWARE from an organizational standpoint.

"With the Olympic bid, the Sea to Sky LRMP and the sustainability project we’re going to be busy, and the question is are we ready as an organization to handle it?" asks Rhodes. "We’re moving into uncharted waters here, and while I’m convinced we’re going in the right direction, we have to be prepared."

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