stoltmann wilderness 

Environmentalists call for Banff-sized park west of Whistler Stoltmann proposal doubles in size By Andy Stonehouse What do you do when your on-going quest to protect the last chunk of uncut forest land on the B.C. coast falls on deaf ears? Why not double your request and try to sell it as a national park? Campaigners with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee have decided to up the ante in their battle to protect lands north-west of Pemberton and Whistler by doubling the amount of property they hope to see protected. For more than three years, the WCWC has actively campaigned to establish a 260,000 hectare wilderness preserve in the area between the upper reaches of the Lillooet River and the Elaho River, a major tributary of the Squamish River. And for just as long, campaigner Paul George said the provincial government has dragged its heels on the request, despite a growing body of support for the plan from B.C.'s green public. Now the organization has decided to increase the size of the reserve, named after WCWC researcher Randy Stoltmann, and press Ottawa with the idea of converting the 500,000 hectare area into B.C.'s first coastal national park. "We were really getting nowhere at all with the B.C. government, so we looked at the photos and thought about making it a much larger area," George said. "It made a lot more sense — you'd have a large wild area, including the Bridge River, the upper Soo, and you could put the national park headquarters in Whistler." The WCWC's expanded "Stoltmann National Park" would abut Whistler's municipal boundaries and create a property rivalling Banff or Jasper. George admits that the organization really hasn't run the idea of a Whistler-based park past local officials, but said he hopes to get some indication of local support with a massive mail-out of poll cards to every resident in Whistler, Pemberton and Mount Currie. The cards, which began showing up in mail boxes this week, ask the prime minister and the premier to push for the creation of the new park reserve. George said he hopes a quiet ground swell of support will gradually emerge and encourage the powers that be to consider the Stoltmann park proposal more seriously. He uses the example of the South Moresby National Park Reserve in the Queen Charlotte Islands, created through a mixture of public pressure and support from local First Nations groups. "It took about eight years of effort in South Moresby to get things going, so I'd say we're about a year and a half from seeing things happen in the Stoltmann area." WCWC supporters say the timing of the park plan is critical, especially as logging crews continue to push roads deeper and deeper into the region, despite this week's news of a semi-permanent shut-down at Interfor's Squamish Mills operations.

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