Spotlight on Stewardship: Whistler Lakes Conservation Association

Green Lake photo credit Marie McCallum

Spotlight on Stewardship: Whistler Lakes Conservation Association

The Whistler Lakes Conservation Association (WLCA) is a non-profit society with a mission to be the advocates and voices for Whistler lakes, to work collaboratively with others, and to act to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of Whistler lakes. They formed in 2020 and have since been working to promote and practice conservation and environmental protection on the five Whistler Lakes; Alta, Alpha, Nita, Green, and Lost. The WLCA acknowledges that their goal is not new as Whistler is on the shared, unceded ancestral lands of the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Úxumixw, people of the Squamish Nation and the L̓il̓wat7úl, the people of the Lil’wat Nation. The ancestors of these two strong Nations shared the responsibility of the land, lakes and waterways and cultivated and cared for the ecosystems all across their territory. To learn more about the history of these nations in the Whistler area, visit the WLCA website here.

Over the last decade, many local lakeside residents have noticed changes in the environment and are increasingly concerned about the impact of human activity on, in, and around the Whistler lakes. Some of the associated concerns include improper land development, dock construction, excessive nutrients from fertilized lawns, and poor boating practices. WLCA is run by a passionate team of directors and volunteers that include locals that live on the lakes, concerned citizens, and professionals. They are hoping to address issues relating to boating, barges and dock systems, water quality, and contamination for the five Whistler lakes. To date, this enthusiastic group of volunteers has taken on several projects that include supporting the fall “Lake Clean-up” program with volunteer divers that retrieve litter under and near the docks, participating in meetings with the Resort Municipality of Whistler Environment Stewardship Manager, and establishing a Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP) in partnership with BCLSS.

As part of the VLMP program, dedicated volunteers started monitoring each of the five lakes in 2021, collecting surface temperature and water clarity, with the addition of vertical temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles at Alta Lake. BCLSS conducted an audit of the sampling methods this past summer as a quality assurance measure in order to ensure the volunteers are collecting valid data. The data collected by the volunteers will be added to a provincial database and will help inform regional stewardship and management actions. The WLCA has acquired a new dissolved oxygen meter and they are planning to expand the VLMP to a higher level program by adding water chemistry and dissolved oxygen and temperature profiles.

Moving forward into 2022, the WLCA have prioritized issues and will be focusing their efforts on water quality, water use, and watershed health. Through these actions, the WLCA hopes to ensure that Whistler lakes are healthy and sustainable, that noise, environmental, and safety impacts due to poor boating are addressed, and to minimize the impact of human activity on shorelines, riparian areas and uplands. In the near future, the WLCA plans to work with the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council to promote the removal of invasive species from watercraft and to stop the dumping of unwanted koi and goldfish in Whistler Lakes, and to learn more about the history of the lakes from Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations and long-time residents. The WLCA has much more planned for the coming years and we can’t wait to see what they accomplish!

The BCLSS is grateful to work with such an enthusiastic group of volunteers and we are excited to see what future initiatives WLCA takes on. Their dedication to the water monitoring program and to promoting sustainable practices around the Whistler lakes is inspiring and encouraging. The WLCA is hoping to engage more residents who live on or near the lakes of Whistler in order to better protect and maintain these areas for years to come and will be distributing the “How Healthy is My Shoreline” and “Waterfront Living – the Benefits of Shoreline Care” brochures to all lakeshore residents. If you are interested in becoming a member of the WLCA, visit this link. To stay up to date on their activities, visit the Whistler Lakes Conservation Association website. Thank you to the WLCA board and volunteers for their initiative and continued lake stewardship!

Written by Marie McCallum

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