JANUARY 1997

 

JANUARY 1997 FULL ISSUE

Drawing the Line: How the Haisla Nation is Saving British Columbia's
Largest Intact Coastal Rainforest

By KEN MARGOLIS

Last May, HaiSla elders held a feast celebrating a joyous conclusion co one campaign in a long battle for better stewardship over their ancestral lands. They signed a joint management agreement for the million­ acre Greater Kitlope Ecosystem, by far the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest watershed remaining in B.C., and  probably the largest of its type in the world. That battle, however, is far from over.

This story begins in 1994 at the ultra-funky Mc. Layton Hot Springs Resort between Kirarnaat and Terrace in the province's far northwestern corner.  There, representatives of local, provincial and federal governments, the timber  industry, local interest groups and a strong contingent from the Haisla Nation convened to resolve major differences of opinion about the future of the  Kitlope. The Haisla call the Kitlope home. The timber industry yearned to cut it.

The gathering had all the earmark of a government-run meeting - albeit a low-budget one. The unusual thing was this hearing had been organized not by government, but by parties outside the usual decision-making process: the Haisla Nation, represented by the Kitamaat Village Council, and Ecotrust a Portland-based non-profit group. The hearing was the third annual such event on the Kitlope - part of a Haisla-led effort to cake responsibility for its home­ land and its destiny.

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Paul Koberstein