AWARE to focus on 2010 Olympics, Upper Soo legacy 

AGM focussed on new board members and big-ticket items

Big projects dominated the agenda for the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment last year and it’s likely to be the same for 2006 and beyond said president Brad Kasselman.

Many of the highlights were outlined at last week’s AGM for the organization and four new board members were elected.

The board also met Wednesday night to vote on a new executuive, which now consists of Brad Kasselman, president, Carson (who prefers not to give a last name) as vice-president, Jamie Coner remains treasurer and Sara Jennings is secretary.

Four new board members include Kiran Pal, Marc Zurbuchen, Sara Jennings, and Marie LN Fortin.

"All of those people have proven track records of holding events, raising funds, creating opportunities to raise awareness, and they are young," said Kasselman, adding that he is very excited about the new members.

"It is a full board and we had lots of interest."

Pal is director of LUNA, a popular organization which provides alternative late night entertainment for Whistler’s under 35 crowd. Sara Jennings was born and raised in Whistler and is engaged with many community initiatives including the on-going debate over a public-private partnership at the waste water plant.

Zurbuchen has become the champion of the One Tonne Challenge in town, and Marie LN Fortin is with Hilltrip, an organization dedicated to improving the sustainability of the mountain environment and lifestyle.

Kasselman said last year was an important year for re-building of the organization as some strong board members left to pursue other goals, including current councillor Eckhard Zeidler and Tina Symko.

Several important issues were addressed including raising awareness around the Millar Creek wetlands, and the quest for the Upper Soo Legacy.

AWARE was also able to facilitate a new land designation at the LRMP table, the Wildlands Zone.

"(This took) a large percentage of the harvestable timber in Sea to Sky out of the resource extraction land base because it is either in sensitive riparian areas on, or steep slopes, or significant wildlife conductivity habitat," said Kasselman.

"The forest industry has agreed to stay out of all areas designated Wildlands Zones until the LRMP is finalized by the provincial government."

AWARE has a staff person monitoring forestry companies’ plans to make sure the Wildlands Zones agreement is followed.

Kasselman said AWARE also worked hand in hand with other groups in Whistler to achieve important goals, and that forming these partnerships will be very important as issues continue to come to the forefront.

AWARE partnered with WORCA this year to help them get money for trail rehabilitation and repair and it gave $12,000 to the Fisheries Stewardship Group to facilitate a study on Alta Lake and the River of Golden Dreams.

"I see a lot of really valuable partnerships having taken place last year," said Kasselman.

For the coming year the item at the top of the agenda, said Kasselman, is cementing a strong relationship with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"I think VANOC has been good about recognizing that they need to engage us," said Kasselman. "They have come forward offering to do updates but we don’t want it to stop there. We don’t just want to be painted a pretty picture we want to be able to have input.

"…Nothing has been formalized yet, but we are going to be pursuing that and we hope they will be receptive to that."

It is also crunch time for the Upper Soo Legacy and AWARE plans to get the issue in front of as many decision makers as possible this summer.

"It is really getting to that crucial time where we need to influence key opinion leaders get them up there this summer," said Kasselman.

"We need to continue to do the biological research related to rare plants and animal species and show the relative uniqueness of that environment. Already we know that Whistler’s oldest trees exist in the Upper Soo. We intend to take it further than that and to take media and VIPs up there to experience it for themselves."

AWARE also plans to add its voice to others up and down the Sea to Sky corridor on Bill #30, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, introduced in the legislature April 27, which will effectively cut municipalities and regional districts out of the decision-making process when Independent Power Projects are on Crown land.

AWARE will also be focusing on gaining new membership too. The next meeting will be at the Westin resort and Spa at 7 p.m. June 7. Or go to www.awarewhistler.org for more information.

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