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

The RCMP are reminding drivers to find alternative ways home if they have consumed anything that impairs their ability to drive. (Black Press file photo)
Impaired Ladysmith driver flees road check twice on the same night

The officer issued the driver numerous violation tickets, and a four-month driving suspension

Duck Paterson. (File photo)
Paterson’s Perspective: Maybe we’re not so different from the Americans

Columnist Duck Paterson shares his views on civil discourse in Canada and America

Rod Alsop and the LSS band had a great day holding class outdoors at Transfer Beach. (Cole Schisler photo)
Ladysmith Secondary School band takes class outside to mark the end of academic quarter

The band took advantage of a sunny January day to play outside

Jessica Lowry created a series of videos to engage Ladysmith Intermediate School students in mindfulness. (Submitted photo)
Ladysmith Intermediate teams up with local artist to introduce students to mindfulness

Ladysmith artist Jessica Lowry created a series of 36 videos to help students practice mindfulness

Luke Marston works on the seawolf mask for Canucks goalie Braden Holtby. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
Stz’uminus artist Luke Marston designs new mask for Canucks goalie

The mask features artwork inspired by the Coast Salish legend of the sea wolf

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Most Read