A salmon stream before and after a log jam was removed by Parks Canada and the Ditidaht First Nation in the Cheewaht watershed in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Photo supplied by Parks Canada)

A salmon stream before and after a log jam was removed by Parks Canada and the Ditidaht First Nation in the Cheewaht watershed in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Photo supplied by Parks Canada)

Salmon-bearing streams restored in B.C.’s Pacific Rim National Park

Recovered fishing grounds ends decades-long endeavor for Ditidaht First Nation

A Vancouver Island First Nation is celebrating the restoration of three salmon-bearing streams after decades of habitatdecline and destructive forest practices.

This summer workers from the Ditidaht First Nation joined with Parks Canada to clear more than 3,000 cubic metres of debris from the Cheewaht Lake watershed, part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, restoring one kilometre of cohoand sockeye habitat. Completion of the project gives the fish access to an additional 100 metres of spawning ground that’sbeen inaccessible for two decades.

Brian Tate, elected chief of the Ditidaht First Nation, said aside from a few elders who look forward to again harvest small amounts of salmon from the streams, the nation will largely allow the streams time to recover.

READ MORE: Permanent fishway approved for Big Bar landslide site

In the 1970s environmental concerns prompted the federal government to extend the park boundaries around the watershed, to serve as part of the West Coast Trail Unit, giving all spawning areas federal protection under the Canada National Park Act.

Meanwhile, legal logging along the park’s boundary caused stream blockages and flooding of forested areas in the watershed, leading to both lost salmon habitat and the death of old growth trees — the area is home to the largest in Canada, a western red cedar known as the “Cheewaht Giant”.

Through the 1990s, as studies tracked the steady decline of salmon in once-flourishing creeks, the Ditidaht community brought attention to the matter as a food-security issue, collaborating with private, public and non-profit sectors to find solutions.

A working group began developing an action plan in 2009, and this year Parks Canada kicked in with personnel and $1.1 million in funding through the Conservation and Restoration Program for the all-important last step of stream restoration.

Through the summer and fall, temporary corduroy roads were laid down for small machinery to transport equipment to the edge of Cheewaht Lake, where it was then barged to work sites.

Stream beds were reestablished along historic routs using natural materials to stabilize the banks, and the stream-bed elevation was lowered to pre-logging conditions. The tops of the stream banks were also re-vegetated with native plants to stabilize the areas during storms.

READ MORE: Discovery Islands salmon farms on their way out

In October, adult sockeye and coho began returning to the watershed, spawning successfully in all three of the streams. As many as 1,300 adult fish were spotted in one day.

“The Cheewaht Lake Watershed has been a very important system to the Ditidaht people, as they gathered their salmon needs – more importantly Sockeye – as this was a favorite salmon. Families owned rights to certain spots on the Cheewaht River and built fish weirs to harvest their Sockeye needs,” Tate said. “Young men would camp out on the Cheewaht River during the Sockeye run and harvest for families at Wyah, Clo-oose, and Cheewaht villages. These salmon harvest practices built family bonding and unity through helping and sharing with each other.”

In a background statement on the project, the federal government acknowledged the Ditidaht nation was not adequately engaged on the establishment of the national park reserve, and were unfairly restricted from their traditional territory decades ago. It aimed to correct that in the recovery of the Cheewaht salmon streams by forging a partnership that recognized the value of Indigenous knowledge in land management decisions.

“Wild Pacific salmon are vital to the culture and livelihoods of many on the West Coast, particularly Indigenous peoples,”Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of environment and climate change said. “This important partnership between Parks Canada and Ditidaht First Nation supports on-the-ground conservation work that will help local sockeye salmon populations recover, and in turn, support the health of the Ditidaht community and surrounding ecosystem for generations to come.”



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

EnvironmentSalmon

Just Posted

Conner Gilkin, 5, shows of some of his newfound loot to buddy Jax Dul, 7, during the Lake Cowichan treasure hunt on Saturday, June 5. (Kevin Rothbauer/Gazette)
Weekly hunt has Lake Cowichan digging for treasure

Gold? Silver? Candy? Andrew Braye has stashed away a range of prizes for eager treasure hunters

A new laundromat is opening in the Peters Centre in Lake Cowichan. (file photo)
Peters Centre getting all cleaned up

Laundromat being developed at the Neva Road site

Robert's column
Robert Barron column: Skyrocketing house prices a tragedy

North Cowichan councillor Rosalie Sawrie brought an interesting perspective to a discussion… Continue reading

Soaker hoses laid down over corn seedlings, soon to be covered with mulch, will see to the watering needs of the bed through any summer drought. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Investing in soaker hoses is money well-spent

No-till gardening has a distinct advantage during drought

Karl McPherson, left, and Mary Morrice are the new head coach and general manager, respectively, at the Duncan Dynamics Gymnastics Club. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Manager charts a new course for Duncan Dynamics

More recreational programs to join competitive teams

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read