This is an open letter to Jennie Aikman, B.C. Parks and Terry Lake, B.C. Minister of Environment. It was copied to The Chief for publication.
I sincerely hope you have been following the letters to the editor lately in regard to the effect that mechanized access is having on Garibaldi Park. No doubt you are now reconsidering your assessment that heli-skiing is an appropriate activity in the Spearhead Range in the park, particularly considering their vast tenure holdings elsewhere.
To that end I would like to request that B.C. Parks and the Environment Minister Terry Lake make public the facts that have led them to recommend continued heli-skiing.
Specifically, how is the following draft statement:
“Based on the public comments submitted via the questionnaire, 68 per cent of respondents are not in favour of heli-skiing continuing in the park… most respondents were not in support of heli-skiing in the park”…
Rationalized with the following:
“However, the ongoing operation of Whistler Heli Skiing is important to Whistler’s economy and contributes to the diversity of the recreational opportunities offered in the park. Furthermore, the presence of the heli-ski operator in the park provides an important measure of public safety… The plan amendment proposes to allow heli-skiing to continue in the Spearhead area of the park.”
As is well known, Whistler Heli Ski holds a large amount of heli-skiing tenure outside the park. Whistler Heli Ski and numerous other mechanized ski guiding operations demonstrate daily that the service they provide in support of the local economy is entirely viable without the use of the park. Furthermore, as is well known, backcountry users are by necessity self sufficient for rescue and communications and local helicopter service is available for evacuation. If some rescues occur due to unprepared downhill skiers straying from the commercial ski areas, then that is an issue that falls into the responsibility of management by Whistler Blackcomb, not Whistler Heli Ski.
You are ethically obliged to explain in a compelling and factual manner (not merely rhetorical) the incongruity of your decision. Without such an explanation the public can only assume that such an inexplicable decision is based on undue influence by certain commercial “stakeholders” at the expense of traditional self-sufficient park user “stakeholders.”
In conclusion I will point out that this request for clarification has already been extended by myself to Whistler Heli Ski and B.C. Parks, resulting in only some informal unsubstantiated assertions by a single heli-ski guide employee and silence from B.C. Parks. Perhaps Minister Terry Lake could correct this error in process.