Ha-Shilth-Sa

‘No’ to industrial mining and logging, say Ahousaht Ha’wiih

Ahousaht members have spoken and Ahousaht leadership has listened. No industrial mining or logging in Ahousaht territory.

Photo by Denise Titian


Tofino — 

There will be no mining or industrial logging in Ahousaht traditional territory. That was the message the Ahousaht Ha’wiih (hereditary chiefs) delivered at a special event in Tofino on Jan. 25 as they revealed their Ahousaht First Nation Land Use Vision Plan.

“We will not allow mineral extraction from our Hahoulthlee. There will be no mining. That is clear direction (we received) from our people,” said Tyee Ha’wilth Maquinna Lewis George through his speaker.

The plan was developed under the leadership of Ahousaht Ha’wiih with extensive community input. According to Tyson Atleo, the work began in 2012 and since that time there were three rounds of community engagement meetings with Ahousahts living in Port Alberni, Victoria, Nanaimo and Maaqtusiis.

The end product was developed with technical assistance from the Nature Conservancy and Dovetail Consulting. It was recently presented to members living in Ahousaht where, according to Atleo, it received full endorsement.

“This vision was fully supported by both leadership and the community of Ahousaht,” said Atleo, adding that the enthusiastic audience in Ahousaht gave the Ha’wiih a standing ovation for their work.

Atleo gave highlights of the plan, which essentially divided Ahousaht territory up into seven land/marine use management designations. Each designation took into account natural resources historically enjoyed by Ahousaht people and sustainable use and/or protection of the area.

One of the designations is called Wiklakwiih, which means never to mistreat.

In the English language this area is known as Ahousaht Cultural and Natural Areas, and it represents 81.6 per cent of Ahousaht land territories.

This area, under the plan, is set aside to conserve biological diversity, natural landscapes and wilderness. In other words, it will be left in its natural state.

“The management intent for all Ahousaht land use designations is to promote the long-term stewardship of Ahousaht Ha-houlthlee, and to provide lasting social and economic benefits for the Ahousaht muschim and others,” said the Ha-wiih in a media release.

In order to protect the future of Ahousaht cultural and heritage resources, the Ha’wiih stated that industrial logging and mining are prohibited in their territory.

“We are prohibiting uses which may negatively impact Ahousaht community harvesting and that may include finfish aquaculture,” said Atleo, adding that may require further review.

The salmon farming industry has been operating in Ahousaht territory for about 40 years. Cermaq Canada has a protocol agreement with Ahousaht Ha’wiih and provides employment to Ahousaht people.

Maquinna told Ha-Shilth-Sa there will be community engagement about the future of salmon farming in Ahousaht Ha-houlthlee that will include members employed by the industry.

Ahousaht co-owns Iisaak Forest Resources Ltd. (IFR) along with four other Nuu-chah-nulth nations: Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Yuucluthaht and Toquaht. More than 80 per cent of IFR Tree Farm Licenses are located in Ahousaht traditional territory and, according to Maquinna, the business is not doing well.

Maquinna hopes the nations will soon come to an agreement on the future of their forestry company.

The announcement was followed by words of praise from environmental organisations.

“This is an incredible achievement by Ahousaht Ha’wiih and people; it is the basis of sustainable economic development and community wellness,” said Hadley Archer, executive director of the Nature Conservancy Canada.

Valerie Langer, Strategic Projects Director at STAND, said she arrived in Tofino in 1988 and was in awe of the natural beauty. It wasn’t long before she became involved in the logging protests of the day, eventually being arrested at a protest.

She recalled one particular protest that took place in Ahousaht territory 29 years ago. She stood with then Tyee Ha’wilth Earl Maquinna George, Lewis’s father.

“He told the logging company back then that this land was not just a TFL (tree farm license) to him; that it was his land,” she recalled.

Langer praised Ahousaht leaders saying they’ve stepped up to the 21st century requirements of leadership. She vowed to support Ahousaht if needed.

“Thank you, Ahousaht, for one of the best days of my life,” said Langer.

The land use plan represents Ahousaht First Nation’s first phase of their long-term sustainable economic development plan.

In the summer of 2016 BC Premier Christie Clark came to Ahousaht territory to sign a new relationship protocol. The agreement will bring $1.25 million in economic development funding to Ahousaht over five years.

BC and Ahousaht will work on a collaborative approach to resource management and permitting within Ahousaht traditional territory.

Commercial activities permitted where suitable in the land-use plan include low impact commercial and no-commercial recreation and tourism, run of the river hydroelectric development, intensive tourism (lodges, resorts, marinas), forestry (harvesting timber/non timber resources), restoration and silviculture.

Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) CEO Trevor Jones says Ahousaht will be working in partnership with BC Parks and will have a management role at Maquinna Provincial Park at Hot Springs Cove where they hope to deliver four full-time seasonal jobs at the campground made possible by a Canada 150 grant.

Ahousaht Ha’wiih will be in Ahousaht Feb. 22 for an update meeting with their people. They will be reporting on the activities of MHSS (Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society). They will start the day with the official opening of a new fuel station in Ahousaht’s inner harbour.

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