Frustrated with the slow pace of treaty negogiations, and concerned that given enough time there would be nothing left to negotiate, on June 18 the Squamish Nation released the first draft of a Land Use Plan (LUP), a master document they hope to use in future dealings with government and stakeholders.
"For us, its a document that shows how our people see the land, resources and wildlife in our traditional territories being utilized," says Chief Gibby (Gilbert) Jacobs, political spokesman for the Squamish Nation and a member of council for the past 20 years.
"Weve been dealing with the many referrals that have been tossed our way by the provincial government ever since the Delgamuukw decision between (Squamish Nation environmental co-ordinator) Randall Lewis and myself, weve had to deal with everything, every proposed project or use of the land, as a one-off.
"This will give us a better fixed viewpoint and allow us to strategize in a whole new way."
Once the plan is finalized, taking into account the input gathered from Nation members and stakeholders, Jacobs feels that the Squamish Nation will be in a better position to judge proposed developments and changes within their traditional territories.
Rather than deal with every proposed cutblock, mining claim or recreation opportunity on a case-by-case basis, the LUP will spell out in broad terms what the Squamish Nations values are in any given area, past and future.
"Its going to be a very useful document for us," says Chief Jacobs. "The only think we want to emphasize is that this is a draft and we will be taking it to every group, member and stakeholder, and asking for their opinion. Hopefully we will only be answering questions whether its good enough for everyone or not, I dont know."
The draft LUP was prepared using the input of Squamish Nation members as a guide, and by taking traditional land uses into account. Both the Land Use Coordination Office (LUCO) and Forest Renewal B.C. contributed technical expertise and finances towards the development of the LUP.
There are four different zone designations on the LUP map:
Forest Stewardship Zone This is a general purpose area managed to accommodate a mix of cultural, forestry, hunting, tourism, recreation and outdoor education uses. Most of the traditional territory falls under this category.
Sensitive Areas These are areas within the Forest Stewardship Zone (FSZ) that require special care to protect wildlife and cultural values. Two areas have been identified as Sensitive Areas in the LUP draft: the Lower Elaho River Sensitive area and the Callaghan Lake/Upper Soo River Sensitive Area. The draft LUP states: "The development of innovative, alternative silviculture and harvesting techniques in these areas should be done with the guidance of the Squamish Nation community and provide job skills and employment for Squamish people as a priority."