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Squamish Nation land use plan meets first opposition

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Neither the Squamish council nor the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District will support a land use plan by the Squamish Nation that would, among other things, set aside several large areas, including the Upper Elaho Valley, as protected "wild spirit places."

After consulting with nation members for more than five months, the Squamish Nation released its land-use plan to the public in mid-June. Far from being complete, Chief Gibby (Gilbert) Jacobs said the plan was just a starting point for negotiations and that all interested stakeholders would have a chance to reply.

"It’s going to be a very useful document for us," said Chief Jacobs. For us, it’s a document that shows how our people see the land, resources and wildlife in our traditional territories being utilized."

Squamish councillors and Interfor representatives discussed the land use plan on July 24, and those present unanimously endorsed a motion that said they could not support the plan without studies on how it might affect the region economically.

Earlier that week, a similar motion was passed by SLRD district committee, although three representatives voted against it, including Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly.

According to Interfor, the land-use plan will affect 90 per cent of their operations within the forest district and the Wild Spirit Places will cut their timber supply in half.

The plan recognizes four different kinds of zones, Forest Stewardship Zones where it’s business as usual; Sensitive Areas within the working forest that are protected to preserve wildlife and cultural values; Restoration Areas that require effort to restore to their former glory; and Wild Spirit Places, where no industrial development is allowed.

Five Wild Spirit Places have been identified in the plan, the largest being the Upper Elaho which covers approximately 17,753 acres. The proposed Sims Valley Wild Spirit Place is almost as large, covering 17,280 hectares. The west side of the Squamish river, almost 16 square kilometres, is also included, as is the West Callaghan near Callaghan Lake, measuring over 10,000 hectares. The Upper Cheakamus area, which falls within the boundary of Garibaldi Provincial Park, is in the plan because the Squamish Nation feels that the park designation is too restrictive in terms of land uses, including traditional hunting and fishing.

Although he has not read either of the motions, Whistler Councillor Ken Melamed said he wasn’t surprised to hear that the SLRD rejected the plan.

"This is consistent with the SLRD’s attempts to derail the Lillooet Land and Resource Magement Plan," he says. "They seem to have one agenda and one agenda only, that they don’t have much time for First Nations or a balanced approach to land use issues."

A copy of the Squamish Nation land-use plan is available at the First Nation’s Web site at www.squamish.net.

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