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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen to field COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

The Gabriola Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express fleet will be able to move to a new depot facility after receiving more than $187,000 of community economic recovery infrastructure program money from the Province of B.C. (Submitted photo)
Gabriola bus system receives $188,000 from province for depot building

Old fire hall to be retrofitted and serve as new bus terminal thanks to COVID-19 recovery funding

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Nanaimo-raised singer records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

Submissions are open for Vancouver Island Regional Library’s new online arts and literature magazine, ‘Sea and Cedar.’ (Bulletin file photo)
Submissions sought for library’s new digital arts and literature publication

‘Sea and Cedar’ magazine an initiative of Nanaimo Harbourfront Library

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read