It took several years of negotiations, but last week the Lil’wat Nation signed a land use agreement with the province that will protect almost 800,000 hectares, more than half of the band’s traditional territory.
The agreement, coming less than one year after the Squamish Nation and In-SHUCK-ch finalized their own land use agreements, also represents the final step of the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP).
The agreement was signed at Millennium Place on Friday, April 11 by Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell and Lil’wat Nation Chief Leonard Andrew.
For Andrew, it was a reason to celebrate.
“We’re very happy with the final piece, it’s been a long time coming in dealing with our territorial lands,” he said. “Prior to this a lot of dealings have taken place without the Lil’wat Nation, so this is a big step forward. And it proves something — we can work together and negotiate with our neighbours and government. Where we take it from here, it’s really up to us.”
Andrew was especially proud of the establishment of six conservancies in the territory that will be protected from logging, mining, and other forms of resource development.
“That means a lot to our people, those are the very areas we wanted to protect from the beginning, and now we have an agreement in place that does that. The whole plan is very good, but those areas in particular are something we can be proud of.”
One theme that came across from all the speakers was the improved relationship between the Lil’wat and various levels of government.
“It’s changed tremendously in the past few years,” said Andrew. “We all made a commitment, whether it’s through protocol or talks, that we would work with each other. Whatever local government, or provincial government agency, if they’re in our area we will work with them.”
He also credited the Olympics for leading the Lil’wat to sign a protocol with the Squamish Nation, and for opening up economic opportunities for both First Nations, including forestry operations and land development.
“Now, with the LRMP agreement today, that will open up more doors for future dealings we’ll have with the Squamish Nation,” said Andrew.
The land use agreement encompasses almost 800,000 ha, from Garibaldi Provincial Park in the south, to Clendenning Provincial Park in the west, Ts’yl-Os Provincial Park in the north and the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park in the east.
The six new conservancies created by the plan total 39,000 ha and include areas in the Callaghan Valley, 100 Lakes Plateau, Upper Soo Valley, Upper Birkenhead, Twin Two and Cerise Creek areas. The size of the Duffey Lake Provincial Park will be doubled, from 2,095 ha to 4,048 ha.