CFOW grants $34,000 to environmental projects 

The Community Foundation of Whistler announced its second round of grants for 2004 this week through the Environmental Legacy Fund (ELF).

Seven different projects received $34,000 this year, with money going to black bear studies, trail upgrades, fish stewardship and an educational guide for visitors.

Since 1999 the CFOW has made $172,000 in environmental grants, and ELF is the foundation’s first, largest and fastest growing fund out of the 17 different funds available. ELF’s main contributor is the RMOW, through tipping fees collected at the landfill, and to date grants of $102,301 have been made from income on those tipping fees.

This year’s ELF grants include $19,271 for the Whistler Museum and Archives Society. Of that money, $8,271 will go towards the Bear Population Monitoring Project; $5,000 for a black bear hair trapping project that will help to identify family groups, relationships and travel patterns in the valley; and $6,000 for a project to determine the forest history of the Whistler area.

The Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group received $4,896 to build V-Weirs on the River of Golden Dreams.

According to Heather Beresford, the stewardship co-ordinator for the RMOW and the head of the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, a set of V-Weirs will be installed along a narrow section of the river before it intersects with 21-Mile Creek. The goal is to bring the water level up.

"We call that area the ditch," said Beresford. "It’s not a great piece of river. In the summer it gets pretty shallow and the water gets warm, which is troublesome for the fish to get through.

"Complicating this issue is the number of canoeists out there in the summer. When it gets shallow in that section they get out to push their canoe, and they stir up all kinds of mud."

Two or three V-Weirs with notches out of the middle will be set up along this section, slowing the flow of water and bringing the water level up. This will keep the water colder for fish and minimize the disturbance by canoeists.

The weirs won’t be permanent, and can be increased in size and moved around the river to where they are the most effective.

Other features, such as logs and boulders, will also be added to that section of river to slow the water down and create more habitat for fish.

The Whistler Naturalists Society received a grant of up to $5,000 to publish a Naturalists Guide to Whistler that will be available to locals and tourists.

WORCA received $3,200 for the River of Golden Dreams Trail and Habitat Restoration Project, fixing some of the erosion that took place after the flooding last October while bringing the trail up to standards.

The J.J. Whistler Bear Society received $1,633 towards a Bear Smart presentation.

"We didn’t get the total amount we were asking for, we were going to run the presentations all summer, but (the ELF advisory committee) suggested we just have one feature presentation, so we’re planning a big one towards the end of August," said Sylvia Dolson, the executive director of the J.J. Whistler Bear Society.

The society is hoping to bring in bear expert and documentary filmmaker Charlie Russell, who has spent time studying grizzly bears in Russia, and has set up bear programs in B.C. and Alberta.

August was chosen for Russell’s presentation because there are a lot of visitors in Whistler, says Dolson, and because the number of bear-human conflicts increase towards the end of the summer and bears descend into the valley in search of food.

ELF grant applications are heard by an advisory committee that includes CFOW board members, RMOW council and administration, a Citizen at Large and a representative from local environmental group AWARE. The advisory committee then makes its recommendations to the CFOW.

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