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A Fragile Truce in the Elaho Valley: Squamish Nation Stops Logging

Voice your support for the Sacred Lands plan to preserve the sacred lands of the Squamish Nation in the Elaho Valley of British Columbia--contact the BC sustainable resources minister and keep the pressure on! (Interfor is backing off)
* EYES & EARS in the ELAHO * December 2001
A Fragile Truce in the Elaho Valley: Squamish Nation Stops Logging
by Jane Doe< elaho@law.com

A fragile truce has silenced the chainsaws in the snowy ancient forests north of Squamish, BC. The Squamish Nation has demanded an end to the war between loggers and environmentalists on its territory. In May 2001, the nation released a draft land-use plan called Xay Temixw, or Sacred Lands. The 3000-member Squamish Nation reached a consensus in spring after years of discussion and public meetings about land use.

Five areas called Kwa kwayx welh-aynexw, or Wild Spirit Places, form the heart of the Sacred Lands plan. These areas encompass the remaining ancient forest on Squamish land. "Wild Spirit Places have always been important to Squamish people for spiritual reasons," explained Chief Bill Williams, the Squamish Nation Band Council chairman for the last eight years. He said the nation is asking people to leave stay away from areas like the upper Elaho Valley,
north of Lava Creek.

"We hope people will respect the request of the Squamish people, that these areas are set aside for the future. And future generations will only benefit if the Wild Spirit Places are left alone by everyone, Squamish and non-Squamish people alike," Chief Williams said. The nation is determined to protect these areas, and current activities in wilderness areas should have "little, if any impact."

In fact, last year's logging operations have left an enormous impact along the Elaho River north of Lava Creek. Despite mitigating factors like selective retention, wildlife tree patches and buffer zones, the Douglas Fir Loop grove has been stripped of its former lush, peaceful
welcome.

Loggers for International Forest Products (Interfor) chopped off a section of the Fir Loop Trail and selectively logged most of the red cedars, Douglas-firs and hemlocks between Lava Creek and Bear Bluffs. A handful of giant Millennium Firs still stand in the ravaged cutblock, some leaning at crazy angles, roots cut and trunks damaged by the logging. The Welcome Woman, a cedar statue placed on Bear Bluffs by the Squamish Nation last year, looks down on the devastation.

But since the draft Sacred Lands plan was released, it appears Interfor has backed off logging in the upper Elaho Valley. The company made only one foray into a Wild Spirit Place in 2001, using helicopters to clearcut part of an ancient forest on the west side of the Squamish River shortly after the draft plan was made public. Now,
company spokesman Keith Rush will only say that Interfor
is "studying" the Sacred Lands plan.

The Squamish people are determined to protect the remaining ancient forests on their land. "Ninety-two percent of our territory is 'open for business,'" Chief Bill Williams said. Only eight percent is still untouched forest ecosystem. The rest has been developed, roaded, and opened to resource extraction. "Nine companies hold licenses to log in our territory," Chief Williams said. "We're negotiating with them to limit and prohibit logging in the wild places."

The Sacred Lands plan summarizes the Squamish Nation's goals, maps its land-use vision and quotes from hundreds of interviews with community members. The document represents a comprehensive vision for a future in which the Squamish Nation will have a major voice in managing the resources on its land. According to Chief Williams, the Nation's biggest challenge now is publicizing the land-use plan and gaining public acceptance for it. "People need to write to the
Minister of Sustainable Resources, Stan Hagen, and urge the BC government to accept the Sacred Lands plan," he added.

The new vision for the Squamish people includes plans for restoring and rehabilitating forest and stream ecosystems, increasing employment in resource management, and selective logging on parts of the territory. The way the forests are managed now, ?three-quarters of our forest is between 2 weeks and 20 years old,? said Chief Williams. Read the draft Sacred Lands report on the web at www.squamish.net or call (604) 980-4553 for a copy and colour map. The Squamish Nation will release the final draft of the Sacred Lands
plan in 2002.

Contact Stan Hagen, Minister of Sustainable Resources for BC, to urge them to support the Sacred Lands plan.
? Phone: 250 356-9076
? Fax: 250 356-8273
? PO Box 9054 STN PROV GOVT Victoria BC V8W 9E2

Elaho Communications Office
(604) 682-3269 ext. 6144

homepage: homepage: http://www.squamish.net