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Whistler Heli-Ski

January 10, 2017

In what GP 2020 hails as a victory for accountability, BC Parks provided us with a new map of Garibaldi Park showing the overlapping Wilderness Conservation Zone and heli-skiing permit area boundaries. We were also informed by Ms. Jennie Aikman, Regional Director, South Coast Region, BC Parks that the heli-ski permit area has been significantly reduced in area. Ms. Aikman states in her letter to GP 2020,

In the case of the heli-skiing permit Whistler Heli-Skiing has reduced their permit area to remove areas of high use in the vicinity of Decker Mountain, as well as runs in the Iago and Quiver areas. We recently had our mapping specialist digitize the boundary of the Wilderness Conservation Zone and have now overlain this with the updated heli-ski tenure mapping. I have attached a copy of the mapping for your reference. While the mapping does indicate a minor overlap of the heli-ski tenure with the Wilderness Conservation Zone, I wish to reiterate, as we discussed during our meeting with you in October, that the heli-ski tenure overlap may be the result of less precise mapping and spatial information that was available at the time the zoning was established. Regardless of the cause of the overlap, BC Parks continues to work closely with the heli-ski operator to minimize potential impacts to park values.

GP 2020 welcomes this news from BC Parks as it starts to address the significant irregularities with the permit that we raised with Ms. Aikman. It also confirms that the mapping that GP 2020 initially undertook to show the overlap between the permit area and the Wilderness Conservation Zone was largely accurate and our conclusions were sound.

The map released by BC Parks can be found here: Whistler Heli-Ski Tenure Map Reduced 2016

We note at this time that the Wilderness Conservation Zone's western boundary on the new map appears to go through Berna Lake, whereas as the map at the Diamond Trailhead kiosk shows the boundary going 400 meters west of the lake.

Map showing the area for the permit that expired in 2016: Spearhead Heli-skiing Park Use Permit Map (expired 2016)

 

December 21, 2016

In a letter dated December 19, 2016 from Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister at BC Parks to our organization Garibaldi Park 2020, Mr. Standen has confirmed that the significant irregularities with Whistler Heli-skiing Ltd.'s park use permit (PUP) cited by 2020 do exist. Despite the irregularities the permit was renewed for a further ten years.

Highlights from the letter:

  • BC Parks admits the heli-skiing PUP trespasses into the Wilderness Conservation Zone (WCZ)
  • Implicitly accepts our accusation there are up to seven helicopter landing zones lie anywhere from 400 to 1,500 meters inside the Wilderness Conservation Zone
  • Commits to redrawing the WCZ to exclude the permit area in a future park management plan
  • Authorizes helicopter landing zones along the boundary of the Fitzsimmons Mountain Goat Winter Range, in violation of the government's own mountain goat management guidelines pertaining to harmful effects of helicopter noise on mountain goats
  • Admits that research is lacking on whether heli-skiing is having an effect on Mountain Goat and other park values
  • Admits that after 30 years there is still no plan to monitor goats in the Spearhead Range

The extension of the PUP for a further ten years is tantamount to playing Russian Roulette with the Fitzsimmons mountain goat herd. There is inadequate research on the herd yet another ten years of harmful helicopter noise is permitted. We don't have sufficient information about the herd so how is it possible to determine the long term effect of the helicopter noise?

The full text of the chain of letters is appended below.

November 14, 2016

We wrote to the Minister of Environment after uncovering further irregularities with Whistler Heli-skiing Ltd.'s park use permit for heli-skiing in the Spearhead Range of Garibaldi Provincial Park.

September 17, 2016

2020 wrote to Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment demanding that the Whistler Heli-skiing park use permit for the Spearhead Range not be renewed in October 2016 when the current permit expires. We have uncovered significant irregularities with the current permit that cause us great concern.

September 12, 2016

2020 raised concerns about the commercial heli-skiing permit in Garibaldi Park in our June 23, 2016 blog article entitled BC Parks approves heli-ski landing zones in Garibaldi Park's wilderness conservation zone. In the blog article, 2020 contends,

Mapping by 2020 reveals for the first time that a commercial recreation park use permit for helicopter landing zones inside Garibaldi Park's wilderness conservation zone was granted to Whistler Heli Skiing Ltd. by BC Parks.

This concern was responded to by Mr. Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division on September 2, 2016. Mr. Standen's letter contains the following paragraph,