There are now 1,220 more hectares of jointly protected land on Haida Gwaii. The Honourable George Heyman, British Columbia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, announced this week that Bill 19 Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2018 passed Third Reading in the provincial legislature on May 15th and received Royal Assent two days later.
The amendment, which is now in force, includes several additions to existing protected areas. The largest addition was made on Haida Gwaii, where the K’aas Gandlaay Pitch Creek area was added to the Duu Guusd Haida Heritage Site and Conservancy. Duu Guusd is Haida Gwaii’s second-largest protected area, encompassing a sizeable swath of the west coast of the Islands.
In 2008, when the boundaries for Duu Guusd were officially established, K’aas Gandlaay was left out. K’aas Gandlaay has long been considered an area of high cultural value by the Haida Nation. Situated east of T’aat’uu GawGaay Tartu Inlet near the mouth of Chaahluu Kaahlii Renell Sound, the K’aas Gandlaay area is rich in archeological sites, some of which were recorded by the Council of the Haida Nation between 1998 and 2003. The most unique of these findings were dozens of culturally modified kayd Spruce trees scattered along the creekside. The trees, some still living, bear scars that show where Haida ancestors extracted k’aas Spruce pitch many generations ago.
In 1981, as concerns were growing about the scale of logging on Haida Gwaii, the Haida Nation designated Duu Guusd Tribal Park and petitioned the provincial government to defer all development plans within the area. Duu Guusd was the subject of conflict for three decades while the Haida Nation protected the area from logging. In 2008, Duu Guusd became formally protected both by the Haida Nation as a Haida Heritage Site and by the Province of British Columbia as a Conservancy.
At the time, however, Husby Forest Products was active in the K’aas Gandlaay area and had already made an investment towards road development. Through negotiation, the Haida Nation reached an agreement with Husby to cease activity around K’aas Gandlaay, but by that time the protected areas boundary had been established and K’aas Gandlaay remained outside of Duu Guusd.
Since then, the Haida Gwaii Management Council, the Council of the Haida Nation, and the Province have worked to add K’aas Gandlaay to Duu Guusd. In 2015, the HGMC wrote a letter to British Columbia’s Deputy Minister of the Environment, officially requesting that K’aas Gandlaay be added to Duu Guusd. In the interim, the area was designated as part of a Forest Reserve in order to afford it some level of protection under Provincial law. This Spring, K’aas Gandlaay was included in Bill 19 Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2018 which amends the legal description of Duu Guusd protected area to include K’aas Gandlaay.
With the protection of K’aas Gandlaay now formalized in both Haida and provincial law, the updated Duu Guusd Haida Heritage Site and Conservancy now covers approximately 144,934 hectares of upland and 84,173 hectares of foreshore.
Protected areas on Haida Gwaii, which include the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, Gantla Gadaas Pure Lake and Nee Kun Naikoon Provincial Parks, five Ecological Reserves, and 11 Haida Heritage Sites/Conservancies, cover more than 52% of the archipelago.