Environmental fund soliciting project proposals 

Think you can “green” up the Sea to Sky corridor? Then Whistler wants to hear from you.

The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Environmental Fund (WBFEF) is entertaining requests for funding from non-profit organizations so that they can help preserve and enhance natural environments throughout the region.

“We are excited to hear about what is being planned for the future and look forward to seeing a lot of interesting and valuable proposals again this year,” Allana Williams, Chair of the WBFEF, said in a news release.

Founded in 2001, the WBFEF has since raised over $200,000 from Whistler-Blackcomb staff members and other donors, money that has helped sponsor a total of 32 environmental projects in the Sea to Sky corridor. A board consisting of Whistler-Blackcomb staff members makes decisions on which projects to sponsor.

“We look at all the projects and weigh them out,” Williams said in an interview. “We just, as a board, decide how to break it down, but again we go for the projects that have fallen in line with our mandate.

“We tend to fund projects (where) you can see a physical outcome, you can see a product from it. So we don’t fund labour and we don’t fund studies where we get a paper out of it.”

Most recently, the WBFEF gave $5,320 to the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) to sponsor the addition of a greenhouse to its Community Greenhouse program.

The program has already established three greenhouses — one at Myrtle Philip Community School and two others at Spruce Grove Field House. The fourth, supported by the latest sponsorship money, will be located at Alpha Lake Park in Whistler Creek.

Greg McDonnell, executive director of the WCSS, said the greenhouse program has been “wildly successful.”

“We have a waitlist of community members that want to be involved, and basically we can't build the greenhouses fast enough,” he said.

The aim of the program is for community members to grow their own organic food, and McDonnell hopes that it can help reduce greenhouse gases by reducing their “food miles”, the distance traveled to obtain food. Ten per cent of the crops are donated to the Whistler Food Bank.

The program was established as part of the Whistler 2020 Affordability Strategy, which aims to make Whistler more affordable for community members.

Other projects sponsored by the WBFEF include a “genetic hair tagging” project by independent bear researcher Michael Allen.

According to Williams, Allen would cordon off areas with barbed wire and set up an attractant to draw a bear. The wire would catch some of the bear’s hair as it went underneath.

Allen would then submit the hair samples for analysis. The samples allowed Allen to see how bear populations were developing and help Whistler-Blackcomb make decisions that are beneficial for the bear population.

“People want to do something and they can't always spend time volunteering,” Williams said. “(The fund) gives them a chance to do something for the environment.”

Other projects funded through the Environment Fund include the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, an organization that helps to improve fish habitats by monitoring populations, as well as the Whistler Biodiversity Project, which aims to catalogue all species native to Whistler.

The deadline for accepting proposals is June 15, and all inquiries can be directed to Arthur DeJong, Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager for Whistler-Blackcomb at adejong@intrawest.com .

“We want to get as much enactment on the ground as possible,” DeJong said. “We want to see as much physical progress as possible through this funding.”

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