Lands

Taking care of the lands, forests, plants, wildlife, food sources and freshwater systems using a holistic watershed level, ecosystem-based management approach that reinforces and enhances the Nanwakolas member First Nations’ governance, economy, cultural well-being, and health.

The Nanwakolas Council Lands Team works with the Nanwakolas member First Nations and the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network to support their goals and priorities in all these areas. Here are some of the current projects and activities that are underway.

Land, Forests, and Watershed Stewardship: An Interconnected Approach

Stewardship of Aweenak’ola requires understanding that natural resources are all interconnected. It requires information and knowledge about the state of the lands and the forests, the wildlife and plants that inhabit them, and understanding what is changing in the watersheds they are in and why. To keep Aweenak’ola healthy requires planning, keeping a watchful eye on what is happening in the Nanwakolas member First Nations’ traditional areas, and upholding and protecting Aboriginal rights related to Aweenak’ola. We do this through on-the-ground monitoring and research projects, and policy and planning initiatives.

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On the ground monitoring projects

We undertake research and monitoring projects to understand the state of important sites and resources within the territories over time. Bringing together cutting-edge scientific methods with longstanding local First Nations’ experience and Indigenous knowledge and science, we look at what is out there, how things are changing, and why they are changing. What we learn helps support the member Nations in their decision making.

Wildlife stewardship

Understanding habitat requirements and the impacts of human activity, including forest management practices, are central themes driving our wildlife stewardship efforts. We focus on species with cultural, ecological and economic importance, and with specific relevance to policy and planning.

Monitoring Grizzly Bears

In 2018, Nanwakolas and the member First Nations’ Guardians began working with behavioural ecologist Dr. Melanie Clapham, whose research has focused on grizzly bear behaviour, to monitor the movements of these animals in their territories. This study has now expanded to a multi-year research project. Using motion sensor-activated cameras set up across the territories, the teams monitor the presence and movement of individual grizzly bears, collecting information that will help identify important habitat and movement corridors. This project also contributes towards the development of automated AI models for species and individual identification with the BearID Project. Melanie has since joined the Nanwakolas team as our in-house conservation biologist. READ MORE about the bears and what we are learning

Understanding and conserving important wildlife habitat

Working with member First Nations’ Guardians, in 2023 the Lands team began crucial efforts to safeguard vital wildlife habitats and features, and better understand impacts of human disturbance. With an initial focus on Roosevelt elk and black bear winter dens, we aim to inform policy decisions through a holistic approach. This approach integrates active community engagement, applied scientific research, and on-the-ground monitoring, supported by collaborative partnerships with the provincial government and academia. We are dedicated to supporting member First Nations’ stewardship of important wildlife habitat and developing knowledge that can assist conservation planning. 

 

Cultural heritage work

The Lands Team have been working with the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network to carry out surveys around cultural sites where recent logging has taken place. We are assessing how well companies are complying with provincial and First Nation regulations for protecting cultural sites, and if they are effective at protecting sites. This information supported updates to the Great Bear Rainforest Land Use Order and the First Nations in decision-making on future referrals, as well as in Nanwakolas Council’s collective advocacy work to protect Indigenous rights.

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Large Cultural Cedar Project

Western red cedar, the “Tree of Life,” has come under increasing threat in the last few decades from logging and climate change. It’s becoming harder to find large cultural cedar trees big enough to carve canoes and totem poles and build big houses.

The Nanwakolas member First Nations are parties to the Large Cultural Cedar Declaration, an operational protocol that creates new rules for safeguarding large cultural cedars (LCC) during forestry activity. These rules are designed to ensure that a sufficient quantity and quality of LCC trees are protected to meet Nanwakolas member First Nation needs over the long term, while still allowing some LCC to be harvested to meet current cultural needs and to provide the forest industry with cedar timber.

The Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network Guardians are carefully monitoring the state of LCC and the forests that support these trees. In addition, the Nanwakolas Lands Team is working with the Guardians to carry out LCC surveys in the territories, in order to understand how many of the big old trees are still out there. We are also:

  • Working with the member First Nations’ cedar carvers to create new methods for identifying LCC in the territories, and to develop training materials and programs to help Nanwakolas surveyors examine and classify LCC trees according to Indigenous knowledge and western scientific study findings. 
  • Developing a cultural wood access program to facilitate access to LCC trees for carvers and communities in a timely manner, and support cultural revitalization initiatives, such as a carving apprenticeship program.  

READ MORE about the Large Cultural Cedar Project.

 

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Policy and planning

Working with the member First Nations, the Nanwakolas Lands Team develops rules and plans to ensure that forest stewardship in the territories aligns with the member First Nations’ views and interests. In some parts of the territories, forest stewardship is implemented using an ecosystem-based management, or EBM, approach. The elements of EBM being implemented in the Great Bear Rainforest were developed during the Central Coast Land and Resource Management Plan process, from 1996 to 2003, and since then in government-to-government processes. 

EBM is different from the standard way in which the provincial government has managed forests previously because it considers interconnections between people and ecosystems. The Nanwakolas Council works with the provincial government on the implementation of EBM in the territories, including portions that overlap areas within the Great Bear Rainforest, consistent with the First Nations’ goals and plans.

We also work with the provincial government, on behalf of the member First Nations, to develop new regulations and policies through a shared decision-making process.

Our work includes:

  • Design and implementation of landscape reserves within the territories to be set aside for conservation, including as “Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas,” or IPCAs.
  • Collecting and interpreting information to support the member First Nations in making decisions about competing for land use objectives. Read more about IPCAs and landscape reserve design.
  • Working with the member First Nations and the provincial government to calculate sustainable harvest rates for forestry (that is, the “allowable annual cut,” or the maximum volume or number of trees that may be logged each year). READ MORE about timber supply reviews and the allowable annual cut.
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Community Well-Being

Nanwakolas supports the member First Nations as they undertake various economic development initiatives to improve the quality of life and wellbeing in their communities. For example, Nanwakolas assisted Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and K’ómoks First Nations in concluding an agreement with Western Forest Products Inc. to acquire a 34% interest from Western in a forestry tenure in the traditional territories of the Nations. You can read more about this initiative and the positive difference it will make for the Nations here.

Nanwakolas has also worked with the member First Nations to support their participation in the carbon credits and offsets market as another means to contribute to environmental wellbeing and economic self-sufficiency.

Read More about Carbon Credits and Offsets