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WCWC gives thumbs up to Squamish Nation, Lillooet land-use plans



A Vancouver-based environmental group is applauding two recently announced land-use plans in the Whistler area.

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee has thrown its full support behind the Squamish Nation’s Xay Temixw traditional territory, forest and wilderness land-use plan.

"It’s the most comprehensive plan we’ve seen for the mountains and forests of this region," said WCWC director Joe Foy. "It is a workable compromise between forestry and wilderness preservation."

The Squamish Nation’s plan includes a Kaw kwayx welh-aynexws, or "wild spirit place," designation for almost 18,000 hectares of the highly contentious Upper Elaho Valley.

Other wild spirit places include Sims Creek and portions of the Squamish River and Callaghan Valley.

WCWC, which calls this region the Stoltmann Wilderness and has proposed a national park reserve in the same area, has been campaigning to stop the logging of thousand-year-old trees in the Elaho area since the mid-1990s.

Other plan designations include a forest stewardship zone, which covers the bulk of the land base, along with sensitive and restoration areas.

"If the Squamish Nation’s vision for the future of their lands becomes a reality, then I think it is safe to say that the ‘war in the woods’ in this area would be over," said Foy. "We’ve given it our full support."

The B.C. government is preparing its own land-use plan for much of the same area. The Sea-to-Sky Land and Resource Management Plan is currently in the early stages of its development.

Meanwhile, WCWC has also given its stamp of approval to the provincial government’s recent decision on Phase 1 of the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan.

WCWC has been campaigning to stop logging and mining in parts of this area since 1998.

Fourteen new protected areas, including the newly created Southern Chilcotin Mountains provincial park, are part of the plan to save almost 100,000 hectares in this region.

Conservation groups have been lobbying for a park in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains since 1937.

"We’ve been working pretty tirelessly on this issue," Foy told Pique Newsmagazine in a telephone interview from his Vancouver office. "We’re pretty happy – although we didn’t get everything we wanted."

One of those areas not protected is the Melvin Creek area in the Cayoosh Range, site of a proposed ski resort development.

Melvin Creek, located off the Duffey Lake Road between Pemberton and Lillooet, has been the site of native roadblocks. The St’at’imc First Nation claims the area as part of its traditional territory and says it is home to Sutikah, the winter spirit.

However, an area totalling 3,500 hectares in the same mountain range was protected.

Foy said the region, which the WCWC calls the Lillooet Rainshadow Wilderness, is home to some of the healthiest populations of grizzly bears, highest concentrations of mountain goats, biggest runs of salmon and greatest scenic landscapes in all of B.C.

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