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Squamish Nation drafts own land use plan

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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, it’s 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.

"We’ve 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, we’ve 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 Nation’s values are in any given area, past and future.

"It’s 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 it’s good enough for everyone or not, I don’t 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."

• Restoration Areas – These are areas within the FSZ that require effort to restore natural values that have been compromised by logging and other forms of development. Two areas, the Mamquam River Restoration Area and the Ashlu River Restoration Area have already been listed as candidates. According to the LUP, "These watersheds will require special restoration efforts to restore a range of natural values that have been heavily compromised through past logging, mining and road building."

Other areas that have been identified for restoration include Brohm Ridge, the chemical plant site in downtown Squamish, The Cheakamus River, Cheekye and Brackendale, Jimmy Jimmy Slough, Evans Creek (and Evans Lake Camp), Little Stamis Creek, Stawish (base of the Chief), and various historic grave sites and villages.

• Kaw kwayx welh-aynexws (Wild Spirit Places) – The LUP identifies five main areas that should be managed to retain their wilderness values for cultural and spiritual use. These uses can include hunting and fishing, and any traditional Squamish Nation activities that would not be allowed in a provincial park.

No industrial development is allowed to take place in these areas, or in any of the smaller areas that are of importance to the Squamish Nation.

The five main Wild Spirit Place (WSP) candidates are:

Nsiiw x- nitem tl’a stuch (The Upper Elaho Valley), a proposed area covering 17,753 hectares and including all of the unprotected forests north of Lava Creek and the entire west side of the valley from the boundary of Clendenning Park. This area was chosen because of opportunities for traditional and cultural uses, high scenic and recreation potential, high backcountry and ecotourism potential, old-growth forests, moose and goat habitat, and threatened grizzly bear population.

Nexw-ayantsut (Sims Creek). While the lower part of this valley has been logged, Squamish Nation has proposed protecting the mid and upper portions of the valley, representing approximately 17, 280 hectares. This area was chosen for the same reasons as the Upper Elaho. One recreational use that they feel has a strong potential is a hiking trail from Sims Creek Valley to the Princess Louisa Inlet.

Este-tiwilh (West Side Squamish River). This is the area on the west side of the Squamish river between the Ashlu and Lower Elaho River. Over 16 square kilometres of low elevation old-growth and riparian forest remains intact, and the Nation feels there are high values for goats, grizzly bears and salmon.

Payakentsut (West Callaghan). The WSP is located near Callaghan Lake in the Cheakamus valley, adjacent to the existing Callaghan lake provincial park near Whistler. This area, measuring 10,244 hectares offers the same cultural, tourism and recreation values as the Upper Elaho, plus extensive old-growth forests and high quality wildlife habitat.

Kwayatut (Upper Cheakamus). This area, which is largely within the boundary of Garibaldi provincial park, is already protected but the Squamish Nation believes that the current park status interferes with some of their cultural land uses, such as hunting and fishing.

Another key component of the LUP is the development of economic opportunities for the Squamish Nation. "For too long, the Nation has been denied fair and equitable access to opportunities while others have profited from the Nation’s land," the LUP states.

The plan also emphasizes the need for more training and meaningful employment opportunities for Squamish Nation members, especially in the forestry and tourism industries.

None of the stakeholders have had an opportunity to comment on the LUP says Chief Jacobs, but he is concerned that the new Liberal government won’t be as receptive to the plan as the NDP was.

"When we started this process five months ago, the NDP was in power," he says. "Whether the treaty process even survives the next year with this new government, I don’t know. They say they support the treaty process, but they also want to hold referendums on the principles of the treaties.

"Collectively, First Nations have already spent $60 million on the process, having borrowed the majority of that money, and everything’s up in the air right now."

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