Summary of First Nations Environmental Programs Session

EMA of BC October Speaker Session Recap

On Thursday October 25th the EMA of BC hosted an informative session on First Nations Environmental Programs featuring presentations from representatives of three First Nations in BC’s lower mainland on topics such as Environmental management, stewardship initiatives, ecological restoration, and regional environmental issues.

Environmental Management Planning with First Nations

Stacey Goulding – Katzie First Nation

Caroline Wrobel – Dillon Consulting

Stacey and Caroline spoke on First Nations Community Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) in the context of EMP development for Katzie First Nation.

The Katzie First Nation has been operating under land code since December 2013 where land administration and governance were transferred from the Government of Canada. Key components of EMP development are the identification of important environmental issues and negative impact mitigation. The process is informed by the people, the Chief and Council, and consultants (through an RFP process). Key issues, priorities, and strategies are identified.

Stacey and Caroline concluded their presentation by discussing key challenges and opportunities which included filling the regulatory gap and setting the stage for community specific planning while utilizing external capacity and learning from other First Nation communities.

Tsleil-Waututh Nation Environmental Stewardship Initiatives in Burrard Inlet

Lindsay Ogston – Environmental Stewardship Coordinator, Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Lindsay presented on Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) proactive stewardship initiatives to restore the health of the Burrard inlet and re-establish traditional harvesting of wild marine foods. The TWN has biologists, environmental scientists, and field technicians working to monitor, protect, and restore traditional lands and waters. The TWN works in collaboration with other First Nations, and various government and non-government organizations to collect and compile data and implement measures for environmental protection.

Some of the initiatives presented on were:

  • The Burrard Inlet action plan: A science-based First Nation led initiative to improve the health of the inlet by 2025 through reducing contamination and protecting vital habitat.
  • Water Quality Roundtable: A technical collaborative working group with the objective of updating outdated water quality guidelines.
  • Biotoxin and fecal coliform monitoring of shellfish.
  • M,S,T Culmulative effects monitoring: A collaboration with the Musqueam and Squamish First Nations that includes value components such as environment and culture, history and data amalgamation.

Opportunities & challenges on the ground for First Nations working in the field of Restoration

Stephen McGlenn – Sema:th Lands and Resources Manager at Sumas First Nation

The Sumas First nation entered into a Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management with the Government of Canada in 2008 and they continue to implement land code governance. Key components of the Lands Governance Planning framework are fisheries, forestry, water, and cultural heritage mapping.

Stephen acknowledged the link between restoration and reconciliation. He focused on habitat restoration as a central theme of his presentation, detailing restoration of riparian areas South of Highway 1.  “Restore to what?” is an important question as Sumas Lake, abundant in traditional food resources was an important part of their territory but was drained in the 1920s with the construction of the Vedder Canal and redirection of the Sumas River. Restoration activities today focus on protecting back eddys for fish habitat and funding for flood mitigation for further fish habitat protection.

Summary Written by Andrea Rivers, EMA Board Member