New federal money for Gwaii Haanas

  • Nov. 13, 2009 6:00 p.m.

By Alex Rawlings–Ottawa will spend $2.3 million on a new program in Gwaii Haanas, a federal politician announced in Skidegate Friday.Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan said the money will be used to resolve environmental issues and achieve mutual goals to restore stressed ecosystems and provide enhanced experiences for visitors to the park/heritage site. “(It should) provide an outstanding and safe experience…ensuring that we offer visitors an exceptional experience,” Mr. Duncan said. About $1.5 million will be used toeradicate rats that have devastated seabird populations including those of the endangered ancient murrelet.”The Ancient Murrelets and the concern with rats was identified before I left here, we knew it was an issue back then,” said Mr. Duncan, who lived on the islands in the 1980s and worked for MacMillan-Bloedel. Many of the identified nesting colonies were once prime food gathering areas for the Haida. “There are stories of thousands and thousands of birds breaking the wake of the water,” said CHN president Guujaaw, “we’ve got to do whatever we can do to correct these things…every action we take will ripple,” he said. The Laskeek Bay Conservation Society will also benefit from the funding as it’s to receive $40,000 to help students, visitors and Swan Bay Rediscovery participants monitor and band the birds. It’s hoped this will fulfill the mandate of Parks Canada by creating experiences and educational opportunities that connect Canadians with the environment. The remaining money, about $900,000, will be used to restore salmon habitat on Lyell Island, remembered as the site of the Haida protest against logging in the fall of 1985.”Just a few years ago we were on the radical fringe of society, and now here we are a part of it,” said Guujaaw. The project will see spawning areas restored so that salmon may be reintroduced. “The issue with salmon runs, I think, is an obligation for us to deal with, and we have seen some outstanding results in other areas where salmon and other species are coming back,” said Mr. Duncan. The restoration of Lyell Island will also highlight the interdependence of land and sea by making connections between Gwaii Haanas and the planned marine protected area surrounding it. “An elder told me once that salmon were creatures of the forest, that’s where they are born, that’s where they die,” said Guujaaw.MP Duncan was representing Environment Minister Jim Prentice. The money is coming from a new federal five year $90-million program called Action on the Ground.