Sandspit residents will soon get to meet with provincial staff about plans to protect bird habitat along Shingle Bay and Spit Point.
Mark Salzl, authorizations officer for the Haida Gwaii Natural Resource District, says they hope to join a public meeting in Sandspit, likely before the middle of April.
More than 50 people met at the Sandspit Community Hall on March 7 to discuss concerns about a proposed Section 16 map reserve under the B.C. Land Act that would cover most of the foreshore around Sandspit.
Many were concerned it could mean losing beach access for daily activities such as jogging, dog-walking, or seaweed gathering.
According to the Haida Gwaii Natural Resource District, all a Section 16 map reserve does is stop anyone from launching a Crown land application to build or have exclusive use there.
Since the 1970s, Shingle Bay and Spit Point have both been listed under a Notation of Interest because both areas provide critical migration habitat for Pacific brandt and other sea and shore birds.
Any restrictions on public use — rules that would likely take effect during key times of year, such as nesting season — would be publicly discussed and reviewed as part of a further step, creating a Wildlife Management Area.
“Any management plan, if it even gets to that stage, would take into account the comments and concerns as well as the needs of the species,” said Salzl, adding that there is no timeline yet to plan a wildlife management area there, and it depends on a Section 16 reserve even going ahead.
Salzl said the wildlife value of Shingle Bay and Spit Point has been recognized for a long time, recently in the 2015 Haida Gwaii Marine Plan that was co-developed by the province and Council of the Haida Nation.
“The thing is, the Haida Gwaii Marine Plan is not enforceable — it’s a guidance document,” said Salzl.
Other areas that are now being proposed for Section 16 map reserves and possible Wildlife Management Areas include Lina Narrows and the Cub Island salt marshes northwest of Kumdis Island.