Letters to the Editor for the week of December 29th 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MICHAEL ALLEN
  • Photo by Michael Allen

Keeping grizzlies safe

Thanks very much to the Pique and (bear researcher and writer) Michael Allen for responsibly publishing "Fishing Grizzlies" in the Dec. 22 issue and not detailing the location of these grizzly bears.

The article still gave us a glimpse into their lives. It's a good example to all of us in the age of social media: post your grizzly bear pics if you want but, for the sake of the bears, please don't post the location!

In the fall and, as the article shows, even into early winter, sources of high-energy foods like berries and salmon can be critical for bears to gain those extra pounds of fat to see them through the winter.

In the case of females that have bred in the spring, scientists tell us that without a certain threshold of body fat they may not be successful in producing cubs while overwintering in their dens.

Safeguarding key food sources in fall and ensuring that humans don't interfere with bears feeding is vital. It's also really important in the spring that, when grizzlies first emerge hungry from their winter dens into a largely snow-covered landscape, they can find enough food — often at lower elevations — to see them through to the relative abundance of summer.

At the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative, we believe one of the key components of a grizzly recovery plan is to ensure that these important seasonal food sources are secure, and we are working toward that end.

Eight years ago, the 2008 Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan called for recovery plans to be done for our local grizzly bears to bring them back to self-sustaining numbers. Years of radio-collar and DNA research now exist and we hope that 2017 will finally be the year that the provincial government capitalizes on that investment and actually embarks on the recovery planning that was called for.

Another welcome government action would be to give conservation officers adequate regulatory mechanisms to deal with bears being interfered with and potentially endangered by people, whether it be grizzlies on a salmon stream or black bears grazing along the shoulders of paved roads in and around Whistler.

All populations of grizzly bears in and around the Sea to Sky region remain threatened due to impacts on the bears and their habitats by us humans. So we need to give them space, and that includes photographers and other bear lovers not getting too close.

That also includes limiting further development in key habitats. There is no legal grizzly bear hunt in the Sea to Sky, but there are bad actors out there who would illegally kill a grizzly for its hide or body parts or simply because they dislike or fear them — all the more reason not to share the location of grizzly sightings, dens, etc.

Grizzly researchers believe that in some areas west of Highway 99 the numbers are beginning to show signs of increase, but to the east, in the Garibaldi-Pitt and Stein-Nahatlatch populations, the numbers are perilously low and not improving.

Here in the Sea to Sky, we are all familiar with, and often pretty casual around, black bears, but while neither species of bear is normally aggressive, always remember that grizzly bears can be highly protective of their cubs or food.

Johnny Mikes
Field Director, Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative

The flipping bird

In an episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson once mentioned that the Audi had taken over from BMW as the No. 1 car for douchebags.

Last year on Boxing Day — with certainly worse weather — I made the drive from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler.

How lucky I feel to witness and measure what a difference a year makes on the highway in bad weather.

The trip started when we broke through the clouds at what felt like 100 metres from the ground. I have never touched down in a blizzard before or had to drive in Vancouver during one. There's a reason no one goes to work on snow days in the city.

Being passed on Granville Street while driving a four-wheel drive vehicle, with new winter tires, on two inches of snow by a BMW with low-profile tires, most likely driven by someone with very little winter driving experience, doesn't exactly make me feel safe.

Nor does it when an Audi station wagon with a bike on the back passes me in a variable-speed corridor doing 10 kilometres over the speed limit on a road with no visible lines. 

Which brings me to the best part of my drive. Having flipped a car in my youth, and also having T-boned a car sliding over the centre line, I admit, I may drive more cautiously now, but I still drive at or near the speed limit — sometimes I may even go over it.

In any case, with a posted speed of 60 km/hr on the Sea to Sky Highway, I slowly caught up to the car in front of me and cautiously followed him at a safe distance. A few minutes later, someone caught up to me and followed me at a safe distance. For almost half an hour we drove safely and comfortably, three in a row, until the 4x4 Jeep from Alberta ahead threw on his flashers and let me safely pass under the lights at Powder Mountain.

Knowing the roads a little better, I led the way, driving just a touch faster and pulling out in front a few hundred metres. Then, just as I hit Pinecrest the f****** Whistler Connector bus, followed by an Escalade, passed us doing 70 to 75 km/hr on a corner with no visible road lines (I'm going to assume you are both professional drivers — shame on you). Then a Volvo passed us (add that to Clarkson's list), and then another Audi passed me on the other side of the f****** road doing 75 km/hr before I finally hit Whistler. Safely.

The variable speed corridor is amazing. That first half hour to 45 minutes was great, almost comfortable. But apparently some people still think that it means driving 10 km/hr over is OK because you probably won't get a ticket. Except that 60 felt unsafe in those conditions. 

Frankly, it's pretty Darwinian to even need a variable speed limit. When the possibility of dying truly exists, you'd think one would slow down. Have some respect for those around you. I'm assuming by the vehicle you're driving you're not a child.

Back home, in Alberta, people instinctually know that when you can't see the lane lines it means there is only one lane each way and after passing a couple accidents and cars stuck in the ditch, one can easily conclude there's a pretty good chance you'll end up in the ditch yourself if you go for a pass.

I'm pretty sure that ending up in the ditch at some point in time is a rite of passage for everyone in the prairies. It's where all the cops usually are, attending to accidents.

So if speed traps are never going to be set up in this weather, people are probably free to travel maybe 20 km/hr over the speed limit and not get caught. So maybe the limit should have been set at 50 km/hr or even 40km/hr? Maybe there should be variable no passing signs?

This isn't the rest of the world — nobody actually believes in the speed limit here. And that's pretty ridiculous considering there are no ditches, only oncoming traffic, cliffs and solid-rock walls — not exactly a great situation for second chances.

I can only think of one solution. I'm going to flip bad drivers the bird and lay on my horn as they go by. Because every day when I get up in pain, I'm reminded that some douchebag in a 4x4 that spun over the line and hit me because he had a heavy foot, is responsible for my injuries. 

You are not in the World Rally Championships, you aren't even a good driver, and your whatever-thousand dollar 4x4 doesn't turn you into Batman.

I feel the only way this is ever going to stop is if it becomes socially unacceptable. Like smoking.

So give a dirty look, shake your fist and lay on your horn as these douchebags drive by you while tweeting how bad the roads are, and how slow everyone was driving while they passed them in their amazing douchebag 4x4s.

Snow days mean slow days. Period.

Jon Parris

Action on housing needed

Whistler doesn't like the homeless. Whistler has created the homeless because there is no housing.

At this time of the year, I believe there are over 300 homeless people. The food bank serves over 300 people every month as well.

Last year, the businesses were short 1,100 workers and I think they are actually short 2,000 workers because the workers are tired of fighting to stay in Whistler.

So 95 per cent of the homeless are the workers and the five per cent don't work because they have no energy to work and don't sleep properly.

After 30 years the problem of housing is still here — build something.

Three years ago, I called the provincial government in Victoria, because I believe we need a shelter in Whistler. After that, I called back to get an answer to my call. The lady said to me, "you don't need a shelter in Whistler because the people live in cars and tents."

The problem is it's illegal to live in your car or tent.

And if you find a job, the first question the employer asks you is where do you live, because the business loses too much money for training the workers only to have them leave because they can't find housing.

The bylaw's solution is to give a fine to everybody that lives in the car, or to tow the car. This is a great solution.

Personally, I want to ask bylaw to close its eyes for the people that live in Parking Lots 4 and 5. The people are tired, and 85 workers have already left town.

I think Whistler Blackcomb sold the mountain because it knows the problem.

If this continues, Whistler will be a ghost town in another seven years, I'm sure.

Sylvain Travers

Dance-show thanks

Pemberton Dance Studio would like to thank everyone who attended the How the Grinch Stole Christmas dance concert.

Inspired by the classic Dr. Seuss story and performed by young dancers between the ages of three and 12, this family-friendly event gathered close to 300 people over the two days of the shows.

A big thank you from all the dancers to Angela Barth; Cheryl Southall and Dan Cindric with the Pemberton and District Community Centre; the Rotary Club of Pemberton, with special thanks to Steven Hitchen; thank you to Colleen from Pemberton Hardware; Rod and Ashley from Windsor Plywood; as well as Tammy from Two Rivers Meats.

Pemberton Dance Studio would like to thank Dave Den Duyf with the Pemberton Community Church; Dean Feser with Arts Whistler; and Rob Elliott for amazing tech support.

A sincere thank you to all the parent volunteers who contributed above and beyond in making this event happen.

Happy holidays!

Anna Kroupina

Multi-million dollar soccer pitch not needed

Whistler has many wonderful recreation opportunities — it's part of what makes Whistler such a great place to live. But really, spending up to $6.2M on an artificial turf soccer field? I question the value of this investment for such a small niche recreation segment. I support Councillor Sue Maxwell questioning the need for this expenditure. Come on Council, I'm sure you can find better investment opportunities that can pass a rigorous needs analysis.

Daniel Jonckheere

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