Whistler’s natural environment is one of the community’s greatest amenities, and residents and visitors alike understand the importance of the natural environment to the success and viability of the resort community.
Standards of environmental quality in Whistler exceed those in typical communities, and the Whistler community has committed to protecting the environment through Whistler 2020.
Development Permit Areas for the Protection of the Natural Environment
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) introduced two new development permit areas for protection of the natural environment in its recently revised Official Community Plan (OCP): Wetlands, Riparian and Other Sensitive Ecosystems. When development is proposed for lands within these areas as shown on OCP Schedules I, J and K, the proponent must contact the RMOW Planning department to initiate the development permit process.
Environmental Protection Bylaw
The Environmental Protection Bylaw No. 2000, 2012 assists the RMOW in meeting community goals for protecting the environment. The bylaw gives the RMOW a clear, consistent, and comprehensive tool to:
- protect streams;
- provide a clear tree cutting permit process;
- manage invasive species; and
- enforce the OCP's Development Permit environmental guidelines.
The RMOW monitors a set of ecosystem indicators such as pileated woodpeckers, beavers, vegetation plots and ice on/ice off to track the state of our natural environment. It has also partnered in the past with the Whistler Biodiversity Project whose goal is to document as many species as possible in the Whistler Valley.
Fitzsimmons Creek Delta Bird Sanctuary
The south side of the Fitzsimmons Creek Delta is a sanctuary for nesting birds – meaning it is a people and dog-free zone. The main nesting area is marked with a cedar rail fence, and an interpretive sign on site explains the approach to visitors. All dogs must be on a leash, and it is an offence through the Parks Use Bylaw to allow dogs to harass birds and bird nesting areas.
The bird sanctuary was developed by the RMOW, in collaboration with the Whistler Naturalists Society, the public and local biologists, in 2010. Large sandy deltas, such as the Fitzsimmons Creek Delta, are key habitat for migratory birds, especially shorebirds and water fowl, and are important for nesting, resting and feeding during the spring and autumn migration periods. Such deltas are rare in the Sea to Sky Corridor, with the only other one in the Whistler area being on the east side of Cheakamus Lake.
The species recorded to nest on the Fitzsimmons Creek Delta include:
- Waterfowl: Trumpeter swan, Greater white fronted goose (rare), Ross’ goose (very rare), Snow goose (v.rare), Canada goose, Mallard, Northern pintail, Harlequin duck (rare), Common goldeneye Bufflehead, Hooded and Common mergansers
- Shorebirds: Great blue heron, Green heron (rare), Semi-palmated plover (rare), Killdeer, Pacific golden plover (rare), Wilson’s snipe, Greater yellowlegs (rare), Solitary sandpiper (rare), Semi- palmated sandpiper (rare), Bairds sandpiper (very rare), Dunlin (very rare), Ring- billed gull (rare), California gull (rare), Caspean Tern (very rare), Common tern (rare)
- Raptors: Osprey, Bald eagle
- Songbirds: Horned lark (very rare), American pipit, Savannah sparrow
Toads at Lost Lake Park
Every year thousands of tiny Western Toads migrate from the beach area in Lost Lake Park to the surrounding forest areas. These toadlets are smaller than the size of a dime, and their migration typically occurs between the end of July and end of August and takes two to four weeks. During peak hours an estimated 1,800 toads per hour can cross the beach trail.
To protect the toads during the migration period, the RMOW asks residents and visitors to be cautious in the area. Increased signage goes up, and the RMOW may also close sections of Lost Lake Park to give the toads safe access to the forested areas. Residents and guests are also encouraged not to drive to the park. Be careful, be respectful and help these little guys make their way home.
Weather conditions can significantly alter their behavior but the toadlets tend to be most active in crossing areas from 8 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. during the migration period.
For more information, please contact the RMOW's Fish and Wildlife office at 604-935-8323 during April through October, or Heather Beresford, Environmental Stewardship Manager at 604-635-8374 year round. You may also visit the Frog Watch BC website.
Photo credit: Bob Brett