Legislation boosts conservancies

Four conservancies in the traditional territories of the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw First Nations could see a substantial increase soon.

VICTORIA—Four conservancies in the traditional territories of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations could see a substantial increase through the addition of protected marine waters, through provincial legislation introduced last Thursday

If passed, Bill 11 – the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2014, will add more than 55,000 hectares to B.C.’s protected areas system, Environment Minister Mary Polak announced.

The proposed legislation would add land to two existing conservancies and two parks, and marine waters to four existing conservancies. It would also modifies the boundaries of six parks, one conservancy and one ecological reserve.

“Since 2004, the system of Class A parks, conservancies, ecological reserves and protected areas has increased by more than 3.2 million hectares,” said Polak. “Through this legislation we are helping to further protect our environment, including habitat for caribou and bighorn sheep, kelp beds and corals, grey whale feeding grounds and other areas with high ecological values.”

A combined total of over 22,700 hectares of marine waters are being added to four conservancies on the Central Coast (Mahpahkum-Ahkwuna/Deserters Walker Conservancy, Qwiquallaaq/Boat Bay Conservancy, Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution Conservancy and Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution – Blunden Bay Conservancy).

All four of the marine waters additions are the result of recommendations in the collaborative management plan developed by BC Parks and the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation, first formulated in 2006.

They include:

• Mahpahkum-Ahkuna/Deserters Walker Conservancy addition (6,438 hectares): The addition of marine waters to this conservancy protects kelp beds, corals, tidal lagoons, marine mammal habitat and Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation’s cultural heritage features. The conservancy is located in the Queen Charlotte Strait, one of the richest marine environments on the west coast of North America, about 32 kilometres northwest of Alert Bay. Under the legislation, the total area of Mahpahkum-Ahkwuna/Deserters Walker Conservancy will jump to 7,369 hectares.

• Qwiquallaaq/Boat Bay Conservancy addition (736 hectares): The addition of marine waters to this conservancy protects kelp and seagrass beds and important marine mammal habitat, as well as First Nations traditional use areas and marine-oriented recreational values. The conservancy is situated in a dynamic and highly productive marine environment at the junction of Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait and Knight Inlet, about 72 kilometres southeast of Port Hardy. The total area of Qwiquallaaq/Boat Bay Conservancy will be 1,375 hectares.

• Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution-Blunden Bay Conservancy (94 hectares): The addition of marine waters to this conservancy contributes to the protection of intertidal and marine areas with high ecological values, including kelp beds, grey whale feeding grounds and foraging areas of the marbled murrelet. The conservancy is located on British Columbia’s southern central coast, about 60 kilometres north of Port Hardy. The total area of Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution – Blunden Bay Conservancy will be 331 hectares.

• Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution Conservancy (15,444 hectares): The addition of marine waters to this conservancy protects intertidal and marine areas with high ecological values, including kelp beds, a number of intertidal flats, high tide lagoons, globally significant tidal rapids, marine mammal habitat and seabird colonies. The conservancy is located on British Columbia’s southern central coast, about 56 kilometres north of Port Hardy. The total area of Ugwiwa’/Cape Caution Conservancy will be 25,685 hectares.

Additional expansion of land to parks and conservatories in B.C. will include nearly 23 hectares of land to Syringa Park in the Kootenays; almost four hectares of land of an existing recreation area to Paul Lake Park near Kamloops; and more than 33,000 hectares of land to Indian Lake-Hitchcock/At Ch’ini Shà Creek Conservancy and Upper Gladys River/Watsíx Deiyi Conservancy, following the recommendations of the Atlin Taku Land Use Plan.