Sechelt sets standards for critical resources

First Nations

John Gleeson / Staff Writer
July 24, 2014 10:00 AM

The main administrative offices for the Sechelt Nation, the House of hewhiwus, at 5555 Sunshine Coast Highway.

The shíshálh (Sechelt) Nation has released new policies for managing aquaculture, fresh water and medicinal plants within its territory.

A sequel to last year’s shíshálh Land and Resources Decision-Making Policy, the new guidelines provide “specific factors for decision-making” and “particular standards” in the three areas. They also spell out best practices for proponents and the Crown to engage the Band.

“These policies reflect how we will approach protection and responsible development of our territory,” Chief Calvin Craigan said in an accompanying news release sent last month to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).

“The Crown, proponents and the general public all benefit from the open door and transparent window we are providing on how decisions will be made, and the critical standards and factors that inform those decisions,” Craigan said.

On finfish aquaculture management, the decision-making factors include maintaining biodiversity “through an ecosystem approach,” protecting indigenous species, preventing cumulative impacts on resources, and addressing past infringements.

“This includes looking at possible modes of compensation and mitigation, as well as opportunities to rehabilitate over time particular areas and species that have suffered damage,” the policy states.

Heading the list of standards for finfish aquaculture is the statement, “The shíshálh Nation does not support the culture of non-indigenous salmonid species within our territory” and will not support plans to continue raising non-indigenous species.

Other standards are:

• Proponents must provide “assurance in the form of a written guarantee after a study performed by a qualified professional that farmed fish will not impact native wild salmonid within our territory.”

• The Band will not support “an increase in intensive salmonid aquaculture, footprint size, or biomass within the territory unless studies support an increase and it is proven that there will not be a detrimental impact on local flora and fauna.”

• Proponents must make an effort to determine the influence of fish farms on migrating wild salmon juveniles, develop and implement an escape prevention and response plan, and develop a monitoring plan to address the impact on the seabed ecosystem, including mitigation and compensation.

• Proponents must complete environmental impact assessments at current and proposed farm sites and offer compensation for habitat losses.

For fresh water management, the document points out that the quality of water within shíshálh territory has been “consistently degraded through relatively unchecked exploitation,” and lists maintaining a high standard of water quality and quantity and access to sufficient potable drinking water as key factors in decision-making.

Standards for development include maintaining a distance of 500 metres from sacred springs and maintaining distances for the protection of water quality and quantity. These distances may be the same as the standards set under current government regulations or may be “specifically designed and tailored” by the Band.

As well, the policy calls for a qualified professional assessment to determine if a proposal meets “particular standards and regulations essential to maintaining biodiversity.”

Medicinal plant species listed in the shíshálh land-use plan include cascara bark, Oregon grape, Indian hellebore, balsam fir, bitter cherry, Sitka spruce, frog leaves, devil’s club, dandelion, vine maple, yarrow, rattlesnake plantain and stinging nettle.

Factors that will be considered for medicinal plants include conserving and preserving key areas and species, as well as access to them, and protecting medicinal plant resources from exploitation.

Standards for development include maintaining a distance of 500 metres from sacred cultivation and harvesting areas, demonstrating measures to maintain the sustainability of medicinal plant resources in the area, and signing access agreements in “many types of proposals” for shíshálh harvesters.

As well, any commercial gathering or cultivation of medicinal plants is strictly prohibited, the policy states.

In its news release, the Band said the three new policies “are only the beginning,” and that “additional policies are being developed on a number of other critical resources and matters and will be announced in the future.”

The SCRD’s planning and development committee received the new policies for information on July 17. A staff report said the SCRD would “direct applicants to these policies and will review them in land-use planning activities.”

The Band was expected to present the policies at a Community to Community Forum scheduled for this Friday, July 25, that will bring together leaders from Squamish, Sechelt and Sliammon First Nations and local government officials from the Sunshine Coast.

© Coast Reporter


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