I vigorously oppose the proposed Sea to Sky Gondola. The project’s developers have failed to evaluate the project’s impacts to the environment and wildlife and provided few, if any details, about key issues including:
• When will wildlife assessments concerning potential impacts from the gondola and associated development be released?
To date, neither B.C. Parks nor the developers have provided those studies for public review.
• What analyses have been conducted to determine impacts to bears and cougars due to potential interactions with humans? Opening up backcountry to a flood of visitors will undoubtedly create conflicts between humans and wildlife. Unfortunately, bears and cougars usually pay a fatal price in such circumstances.
• What measures will be taken to protect bears with cubs? Would gondola operators implement closures during the spring through summer to avoid conflicts with sows with cubs?
Increasing access to areas where bears may not be as acclimated to humans could result in encounters with sows with cubs, increased stress from bears who flee to avoid humans, and separation of cubs from sows.
• What steps will be taken to conserve the area’s biological diversity?
Recreational use of wildlife areas can significantly impact biodiversity, including erosion of ecosystem integrity and harm to at-risk species. Localized impacts to wildlife can be considerable, especially at the microhabitat level. Peer-reviewed studies have found recreational use of more remote areas can adversely affect wildlife. According to a published report entitled “Wildlife and Recreationists: Coexistence Through Management and Research,” “Recreation activities can change the habitat of an animal. This, in turn, affects the behaviour, survival, reproduction, and distribution of individuals. Although more difficult to isolate and study, these indirect impacts may be as serious and long-lasting as direct impacts for many species.”
• Will gondola passengers be permitted to bring dogs on board? If so, what measures will be taken to ensure dogs do not harass wildlife?
Dogs not under the control of guardians may pursue, maim, even kill wildlife. Dogs have been known to chase bears with cubs, sometimes separating cubs from sows. Other wildlife, including small mammals, amphibians and reptiles, are also vulnerable to predation by dogs.
• What is the total footprint of the project, including construction, infrastructure, concomitant development, and foot and mountain bike traffic extending beyond the gondola?
While the actual gondola may be limited in scope, activities, such as hiking and biking, will have impacts far beyond. Furthermore, the gondola could become a Trojan horse for more development.
Have developers assessed impacts of mountain biking to bears with cubs, potential increases in stress to those animals especially in early spring when bears must reserve energy for feeding, and to cougars, whose chase instinct can be triggered from fast moving traffic?
Increasing human traffic can have adverse impacts to soils and vegetation, including soil compaction, vegetation removal, changes in micorhabitats and microclimates, as well as behavioural modifications in wildlife, increases in stress, and alterations in foraging, nesting, hunting and movements.