‘Yes’ vote good for AWARE proposal 

Olympic Wildlife Refuge in upper Soo Valley proposed as green legacy for Games

Winning the 2010 Olympic Winter Games will boost AWARE’s push for a wildlife refuge near the site of the proposed Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley.

"It’s definitely positive for this proposal, no question," said AWARE director Eckhard Zeidler.

"So far the feedback has been really positive, and people think it would really be an appropriate environmental legacy for the games."

To date, the Olympic Wildlife Refuge in the upper Soo Valley is the

only natural legacy proposed for the Games, although a lot of attention has been given to responsible development and green certified buildings.

AWARE, which is the lone environmental group that participated in the Olympic bidding process proposed the concept for the Soo Valley to offset the developments taking place in the neighbouring Callaghan Valley. Olympic developments planned for the Callaghan include a Nordic Centre, a First Nation’s golf course, athlete housing and a potential employee housing development that could one day house up to 8,000 people.

Although the province has made it clear that it was not interested in creating more parkland within the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management area (LRMP), AWARE believes a Wildlife Refuge would protect wildlife values in the upper Soo, while allowing certain kinds of non-motorized commercial recreation to take place.

The original proposal calls for a 6,500-hectare roadless Wilderness Refuge. But it could also change before it is formally tabled to the public and the Sea to Sky LRMP.

"What’s happened since we first made an announcement of what the proposal would be, is that we’ve been contacted by all kinds of groups and individuals who want to provide input into it, and who want to make it a little bit stronger," said Zeidler.

"We look forward to meeting with everybody over the next few months and fine tuning the proposal so we can present it formally in the not-to-distant future. It has to be fairly well fleshed out for the LRMP table, because that is where the proposal will go forward."

AWARE has also been in contact with Richmond Plywood, which owns the timber harvesting tenure for the proposed Wildlife Refuge. Zeidler acknowledged that they would have the most to lose if the area was protected.

But he is confident that some kind of agreement could be worked out with the company that would mitigate the impact.

"They’ve certainly expressed an interest to give their input," he said.

"The forester up there, Tom Cole, and his concern for the Soo, and the values up there are clearly evidenced by the kind of forest practices up there. They’ve being doing some really good stuff.

"The main value we see in there is its roadless character. But we’re looking forward to a productive relationship with Richmond Plywood and everyone else who’s interested in the project."

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