A related story - backgrounder on Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, by Anders Ourom, July 2014

This story arose from a blog post on SquamishClimbing.com at the link: Logging planned above Squaw (Slhanay)/Olesen Creek

The logging of Olesen Creek is behind Stawamus Chief and Squaw (Slhanay) and was of concern to climbers and other recreationists.

Anders Ourom provided the following perspective:

There may be other aspects to this question that should be considered. It may be in the best interests of Squamish, climbers, and the Park, that logging resume in both upper Olesen Creek and, when the time comes, in upper Shannon Creek. Perhaps limited logging, using the best modern techniques and with a high level of consultation and planning, but nonetheless logging. AFAIK, both areas remain in the working forest, and as such are important to the economy of B.C. and of Squamish. Climbers shouldn’t simply rule out the possibility of resumed logging there. Also, upper Olesen can’t be considered in isolation – whatever happens there is the precedent for upper Shannon.

Upper Olesen was logged in the 1950s and 1960s, into what is now Stawamus Chief Provincial Park. There was a fire lookout on Slhanay, and are still old cables along the trail to the north summit of the Chief. The last logging in Olesen Creek was in late 1991, when an area across from the Chief, below the bluffs, was heli-logged, supposedly to remove “dead and down” timber. That scandal was the proximate cause of the Chief being added for study under the Protected Areas Strategy in 1992, and being made a park in 1995.

Upper Shannon was logged in stages in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Each time they’d reopen the road, then log a few blocks. The last block was in about 1988, 1 km northwest of Petgill Lake. The road would be driveable for a few years each time, but gradually become rougher, and eventually you’d have to go on foot or mountain bike. In the late 1990s (?) the road was blocked. However, for practical purposes there was then little obstacle to hiking, climbing and mountaineering in the area; it just sometimes took a little effort.

Perhaps there is a bit of old growth left in upper Olesen or upper Shannon. In any case, logging is nothing new in the area, and if it’s time to resume logging in Olesen Creek - now mostly second growth – upper Shannon Creek will soon follow. There seems to be quite a lot more timber there, and that may be the real concern. If logging is stopped in upper Olesen, the argument may then be that that should also apply to upper Shannon– which may not be in the interests of Squamish, climbers, and the Park. It would in effect privatize upper Shannon.

As part of the Access Society, I was a member of the study team that got the Chief and area made into a provincial park in 1995, drafted a management plan, and looked after the park for years. When the park was created, we considered what the boundaries should be, in context of other uses and needs, particularly forestry and mining. (Some of the area outside the park was and may still be subject to mineral claims.) We also considered what might be added to the park, including the upper Malamute, which we couldn’t get added at the time, and the gravel pit, which we thought had been safely added in 2005 so as to protect the park – until we were betrayed.

The boundaries were set so as to be continuous with what became Shannon Falls Provincial Park, rise to the height of land east of the Chief, include Slhanay, and be bounded by the roads to the west. Upper Olesen Creek and upper Shannon were specifically left out of the park, the former due to the road zigzagging through it, the latter because it really isn’t visible from the Chief. In both cases also because they’d been logged, and were in the working forest. It made sense to us – define the area which reasonably needed to be protected, and could be, but don’t ask for more.

I don’t know what the actual value of recreation in upper Olesen is now, as compared to its value for forestry. Likewise the respective values of forestry and recreation in upper Shannon. Whether the recent spurt in recreation will be sustained is also an open question. Many of the routes, cliffs and climbs up there were explored years if not decades ago. It may be a “nine days wonder” situation.

Forestry continues to be important to the economies of Squamish and B.C. Perhaps less so than it was, but still important. Removing upper Olesen and/or upper Shannon from the working forest would have significant economic impacts. A reasonable balance needs to be found, perhaps in allowing “state of the art” logging in those areas, as a showcase as to how forestry, recreation and tourism really can co-exist. Not just standard cut blocks, as may be what is planned, but something really well done. It could even be a display for tourists of what responsible, truly sustainable modern forestry is about. (The promoters of the recent development acknowledged that upper Shannon would in due course be re-logged.)

Climbers have slowly built a positive relationship with Squamish and its people. Our interest is to maintain that, protect the Park, and be open to responsible forestry in upper Olesen and upper Shannon. Knee jerk opposition to long-planned logging seems unwise, and may not help climbers, and the Park. As someone said not long ago, it’s not as though the area is a wilderness, or that no development is visible from the Chief. Perhaps there’s a need to revisit the Park’s boundaries, after nearly 20 years – bearing in mind that it will always be vulnerable to commercial/industrial development and incompetent or corrupt governments. Reopening the boundaries of a Park with values of international significance requires careful thought, particularly bearing in mind the pressures on it.

2020 Commentary

There are a couple of points Anders has raised to do with commercial interests operating in park land and Crown land.

The logging may actually improve access for climbers and mountaineers. If stopped, it would be a precedent for the Upper Shannon which is used as an approach to Habrich, Sky Pilot and Goat Ridge. When logging roads are improved, access to the mountains is improved. If all logging in Shannon Creek is stopped because there is a commercial gondola operation, Anders makes the point that it essentially privatizes the valley.

The second point is that the founders of Stawamus Provincial Park, i.e. the Climber's Access Society and others, were betrayed. Anders does not go into detail but I believe it is related to the legerdemain that occurred when a zoning change was made to Stawamus Chief Provincial Park to allow the gondola to operate through the park. There was no consultation. The "deal" was concluded behind closed doors without public knowledge.

Harassment of hikers at Cypress Bowl, January 2016

Germane letter about backcountry access in one of the North Shore mountain parks.


 Letter from Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister to Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment, January 2016 (193 KB)

This letter was posted by Whyte_Lake on ClubTread.com. See the following URL for the full context of the discussion:

Cypress Provincial Park Backcountry Access Corridor, page 9

Selected quotes

Cypress Mountain Resorts has an access policy which limits all visitors from accessing the base area from 22:00 to 09:00.

The Hollyburn Hikers Access Trail, which does not require transiting the base area, is open at 07:00, and offers an excellent option for early morning skiing or snowshoeing.

BC Parks supports limiting the access to the base area from 22:00 to 09:00 to ensure public safety during the winter months when the ski hill is in operation. BC Parks is working with Cypress Mountain Resorts to continue to ensure that all park users have safe and reasonable access to the park.

2020 Commentary

The letter from the Assistant Deputy Minister to Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Environment illustrates the duplicity of the environment ministry and that the rot goes right to the top.

BC Parks comes out in support of commercial interests to unreasonably restrict backcountry access to the Howe Sound Crest Trail. There is nothing "reasonable" about restricting access to the trail. BC Parks posts a ranger to help the mountain resort enforce the policy. BC Parks posts signage to ensure compliance with the policy. The resort posts a guard at the base of the mountain to take the licence plate number of anyone from driving up the provincial road leading to the park prior to 7 AM. The resort threatens to tow vehicles violating the policy that restricts public access on a provincial road.

It is more than ironic that the ADM dares to mention the Hollyburn Hikers Access Trail as an alternative to the Howe Sound Crest Trail. It wasn't BC Parks that was on the front line in 1984 fighting for public access through the controlled recreation area to Hollyburn Mountain. It was the backcountry skiers and mountain clubs. They were the ones that staged an over 100 strong demonstration on the powerline that culminated with the arrest of leader John Beltz for allegedly trespassing in the park. BC Parks was shamefully absent, working behind closed doors with Cypress Bowl Recreation Ltd. to close Hollyburn Mountain to public access. Just as they are shamefully siding with the current tenure holder of the controlled recreation area at the base of Black Mountain.

It puts backcountry skiers on the Howe Sound Crest ski traverse at significant risk by delaying access until after 9 AM. An early start is required. So much for the concern with public safety. Those are hollow words coming from BC Parks. It reveals their total lack of concern with public safety - mouthing a concern for public safety as though they mean it.

Another letter to Jim Standen, this time about Spearhead Range, March 29, 2016

Backcountry skier Dave Percival and party expected solitude and untracked snow in the Spearhead Range on a sunny Easter weekend. Contrary to expectations they found heli-skiing in full swing on Trorey and Tremor Glaciers, clearly in contravention of their policy to avoid the area on sunny days and weekends.

To: "Jim Standen" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;
Cc: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:36:23 PM
Subject: Whistler Heli-Skiing Actions in Garibaldi Park, March 25, 2016
To: Jim Standen.  Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks
Dear Mr. Standen
I am writing to complain about the actions of the Whistler Heli-Skiing operation in Garibaldi Park this Easter weekend. 

On March 25, my friends and I, who are members of the BC Mountaineering Club, were back-country skiing on the Trorey and Tremor Glaciers in Garibaldi Park. This area is relatively close to the Blackcomb downhill skiing operations and is visited by dozens, if not more, self-propelled skiers and mountaineers each day on a weekend.  We were disappointed to find that portions of both glaciers had been tracked out by Whistler Heli-Ski clients, resulting in its appearance as a downhill ski area, rather than the pristine wilderness that it is intended to be. Furthermore, the noise of continued flights by Whistler Heli-Ski helicopter detracted enormously from our wilderness experience that day. 

Whistler Heli-Skiing's website claims that their tenure "includes 173 glaciers and 475 runs in an area that is 50 times the size of Whistler Blackcomb".  This begs the question why they were flying in an area that is frequented by so many self-propelled wilderness enthusiasts. Furthermore, Whistler Heli-Skiing claims to avoid popular back-country areas on sunny days and weekends.  Clearly, this is not the case.

I respectfully ask that you request Whistler Heli-Skiing to avoid highly used areas of Garibaldi Park, particularly on a weekend.

Yours sincerely
David Percival, North Vancouver

Repsonse by Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks.

May 4, 2016

Dear Mr. Percival:

Thank you for your email of March 29, 2016, regarding Whistler Heli-Skiing’s activities in Garibaldi Park on March 25. 

The Trorey and Tremor Glaciers where you were backcountry skiing is within the area where Whistler Heli-Skiing is permitted to operate within Garibaldi Park. I understand that Whistler Heli-Skiing makes efforts to avoid this area during periods when there is likely higher backcountry use, including weekends. Although the date in question was not a weekend, it was a holiday. In the future, we will encourage Whistler Heli-Skiing to use other portions of their heli-skiing tenure on holidays when they anticipate higher levels of use in the Spearhead area of Garibaldi Park.

Thank you again for your email.


Jim Standen

Assistant Deputy Minister

BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division

2020 Commentary

It should be a no-brainer to Whistler Heli-Skiing that a sunny Easter holiday would see backcountry skiers in the Spearhead Range. In the long run, conflicts like this will work against them.

Park values trumped by business concerns - Friends of Strathcona Park

This is the perspective of Bob St. John of Friends of Strathcona Park, January 9th, 2016.
I have witnessed the same sad pattern of our legitimate concerns regarding parks being trumped by business concerns.
Most of my direct experience with government and parks was while I was a director of the Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) from 2008 to 2012. There were two issues we had to deal with:
1. The Campbell government was hell-bent on allowing a resort exclusive access to a complete ecosystem, the Bedwell River Valley. From Freedom of Information (it sort of worked then) we learned that the government ignored its own BC Parks staff who were against the project, ignored the Strathcona Public Advisory Committee (government appointed) who were 100% against the project, ignored all public input which was 100% against, and changed the Park Management Plan in a silly way to suit the resort. The FOSP responded by building an 18 km trail from the spine of the island to the resort on the Pacific coast, mainly to show that the public should have the same right of access as the resort had, and to monitor resort development in the valley. Finally, some in the FOSP thought they had a legal case against the government (not me), but lost badly in court. The resort to this day essentially owns the valley.
2. A foot-bridge allowing access to the popular Crest Mountain Trail washed out. Parks put up a 'closed indefinitely' sign and refused FOSP permission to build a 3 km alternate access trail. FOSP organized a trail building / protest event which got 50 people out on the highway to Gold River. We did not stop traffic, but had signs. Parks opposition collapsed. They even sent out a rare ranger to help with trail location. Then the Campbell cabinet authorized $40,000 funding for a new bridge.
My take-away is that the government believes:
a) “The economy is the cornerstone of everything”
Business makes money and pays taxes, non-profits do not.
b) “As long as we ‘mitigate’, we can do as we please”
Decisions are often made before public consultation. Mitigation is the favourite appeasement.
c) “If it’s legal, it’s okay”
The court case showed the government had the right to run rough-shod over management plans and public input.
d) “Citizen input comes only from special interest groups”
Powerful interest groups get the government's attention. Resource Extraction lobbies get cabinet level exposure. Non-profits get mid-level department employees who are most likely operating under guidelines from above. I met with Minister Terry Lake in 2010 who was dismissive of FOSP mainly because we didn't have a significant voter base.
d)“Peaceful direct action is terrorism”
Government is usually terrified of direct action because they cannot control it and because it attracts unwanted media attention.
When we write letters, or emails, or go to court, we are playing into their hands. They have 9 park rangers with limited funding, but dozens if not hundreds of spin artists and lawyers who are good at what they do, and have unlimited funds.
I would suggest we try playing on turf of our choosing a few times and see what happens. Could we not stage an event that publicizes a problem we have? I am not suggesting lying down on the road, but signs and handouts may get media attention if done properly. It may even get some respect from the outdoor community and get our name out there.
I am not suggesting we not continue with our current approach of consultation, but I think we need a two-pronged approach. The FOSP, through it's actions, has not been ostracized by BC Parks but may actually carry more weight because of them.

2020 Commentary

This letter was published to the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. list server.

Take a look at the photos on picasaweb. Are those people engaged in criminal activity? Where do you stand?