By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: April. 13, 2012
The environmental impact of the Sea to Sky Gondola will be negligible, say the environmental consultants for the gondola. The consultants recently completed a comprehensive study of the project as mandated by the BC Parks.
“We have done an environmental assessment and the impact is minimum. There will be no significant adverse impact of this proposal,” said Dave Williamson and Mike Nelson, the principals of Cascade Environmental, the research group hired by the gondola proponents.
The consultants were interviewed at an informal meeting the Sea to Sky Gondola proponents, Trevor Dunn and David Greenfield, had organised at the Howe Sound Inn on Thursday, April.12.
Alix Pierce-Douglas, the manager of Cascade Environmental, said the proponents have met, even exceeded, the best management practices set out by the province for environmental assessments.
With feedback from BC Parks, the consultants refined their impact assesement to 30 core values, including ecological, environmental, ldlife, and cultural.
“We can’t identify any significant impacts. The foot print here is so small,” Williamson said.
The wildlife won’t be particularly vulnerable, Williamson added.
The research hasn’t identified any significant habitats for falcon nest, or mountain goats, or any other species such as bear, deer, cougars, bob cats, etc.
Mike Nelson said the gondola in itself won’t amplify any chances of bear-human or cougar-human conflicts.
“This is Squamish, we live in bear country, and we know how to manage any potential conflicts,” he said.
Williamson said they have adhered to the best management practices defined by BC Parks for every parameter, be it riparian, wildlife, or vegetation.
“We have been very precautionary, and we have adhered to the best practices. To give you an example, on the Oleson creek, the best practice is to protect water shrews with a 100 metres buffer. We said yes, we will respect that buffer,” he said.
He said a few wetlands have also been identified for protection.
Proponent Trevon Dunn called the recent criticism of the gondola, “disappointing,” but said he is willing to listen and answer his critics with qualified science.
Dunn said he and his partners have been accessible to the community from the get go.
“Perhaps there are a few people who felt they were not consulted, but it’s just the way it is with these big projects,” he said.
A few minutes later, Brian Vincent walked into the room. The animal rights advocate has been fierce, and one might add, a rabid critic, of the gondola.
“They haven’t done a thorough assessment, and they are bringing boat loads of tourists into an area where there are bound to be more conflicts,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s the bears and cougars that ultimately pay a price for it,”” Vincent said.
He had a suggestion for the proponents: Close the gondola from spring through summer.
“They laughed at me when I said that, but they are not considering the impacts opening up back country would have,” he said.
Dunn said the assessment has been completed under the stringent guidelines provided by BC Parks.
“We haven’t gone out and counted every bear, but we have far exceeded the standard set by BC Parks,” Dunn responded.
“We will also advise the mountain biking community of the trails that can be used and if there’s a concern, we have the ability to limit lift access,” Dunn noted.
He said people hiking the Chief won’t see any part of the gondola, and a narrow strip of land, just over 2 hectares, will be reclassified as protected land.
He said it’s pertinent to mention the area at the top temrinal was logged, and would probably be logged again in another 30-4o years.
“In our minds, the impact of having hikers will be much less than logging. Basically, we are changing the value of this place from resource to recreation.”
The consulants will soon present their impact assesment report to BC Parks.