Roommates Jenny Lehmann and Zach Garland, first place finishers in the women’s and men’s categories of the 2011 RBC GranFondo Whistler cycle race respectively, weren’t the only winners on Saturday September 10. The Cheakamus Community Forest ended the day a winner too, thanks to a generous $25 000 donation from the RBC Blue Water Project on behalf of RBC GranFondo Whistler.

The Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF), a partnership between the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Squamish First Nation and the Lil’Wat First Nation, is committed to managing the watersheds around the world famous resort of Whistler. Knowing that the “business as usual” approach to forestry is no longer acceptable and wishing to develop a new approach, they are working with Ecotrust Canada to help in this process with technical and professional support.

With five community watersheds requiring protection, millions of visitors demanding that scenic quality is maintained, and local residents needing livelihoods, thoughtful planning is necessary.  The program developed by the CCF in partnership with Ecotrust Canada, which manages for the full suite of resources available in a forest, works to ensure that best practices are employed to protect and maintain water quality, biodiversity, scenic quality and fundamental integrity of the Sea to Sky corridor. The RBC Blue Water Project donation will go some way towards helping achieve this vision.

More specifically, the donation will go towards one of four Ecotrust Canada initiatives in the CCF. The RBC Blue Water Project posted all four projects to their Facebook page and encouraged the public to vote for their favourite – the project with the highest number of votes would receive the funding. Voting continued at the two-day RBC GranFondo Whistler registration event at a booth manned by Neil Hughes, Forestry Program Director at Ecotrust Canada, with the help of Elaine Springay. Then it was race day…

And the most votes went to: ‘A new management model for community forests.’

The $25 000 donated by the RBC Blue Water Project will enable Ecotrust Canada to continue our work with the CCF to make them the first community forest on the coast to voluntarily adopt Ecosystem Based Management. The work involves developing a plan to identify threats to watershed integrity and functionality, setting new targets for old forest protection, and laying the foundation for integrating social and cultural requirements into the long term future of the forests.

On hand to receive the cheque from the RBC Blue Water Project, Neil is very excited to put this generous donation to good use as part of our ongoing commitment to the CCF and to preserving and restoring our water resources for current and future generations. “Our hope is that we can move to a place where the forest is managed for the full range of resource opportunities it could provide in terms of timber, recreation, non-timber forest products and carbon offsets. We will spend the next month or so drawing up the next steps for this project and identifying possible additional funders to turn this into a real success.”

Speaking of success, our congratulations to all the RBC GranFondo Whistler riders on their success, and a big thanks to the RBC Blue Water Project for being a part of building the conservation economy.