The Rain Forest Atlas - page 6
Page 6: Sustaining the Rain Forests of Home
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Sustaining the Rainforests of Home
Summary of Findings
The maps in this report make abundantly clear the south-to-north advance of development and indigenous cultural loss in the North American coastal temperate rain forest. Neither Native communities able to sustain traditional languages nor self-sustaining natural forested landscapes persist in the southern extent of the bioregion — the states of California, Oregon, and Washington and parts of southern British Columbia. Biological and indigenous cultural integrity have been diminished in these areas — at a price reckoned not in dollars but in human communities, living species, natural processes, and knowledge of the ecosystem.
The substantial intact forested areas in the northern part of the bioregion, though important both regionally and globally, do not compensate for these losses in the south. The principal challenges for the bioregion as a whole are stewardship of its remaining intact areas and restoration of the landscapes that have sacrificed both ecological and cultural integrity to the process of regional development.
Forest stewardship in the coastal temperate rain forest need not mean exclusively the strict protection of pristine areas. The prodigious productivity of parts of the bioregion invites the coexistence of managed and wild forest. But the conversion of natural forest to industrial tree farm is virtually complete in the south If this pattern is allowed to continue to completion in the still-undeveloped north, the region will have no ecological benchmarks against which to assess the vitality of the regional landscape in the future.
The greatest — in fact, the only — opportunities to protect existing large functioning areas of coastal temperate rain forest lie in British Columbia and Alaska. Much has already been accomplished: seven eighths of the protected portion of the bioregion is in these areas. Only one-eighth of the protected rain forest is found in California, Oregon, and Washington combined. Candidate areas for additional protection include the eastern end of the Kodiak Archipelago, Nuka Bay, Aialik Bay and Port Chatham on the Kenai Peninsula, the ribbon of coastal temperate rain forest along Alaska's Prince William Sound, and areas in the Tongass National Forest. On the north and mid-coast of British Columbia — the Taku, Whiting, Iskut, and Cranberry watersheds in the northernmost reaches of the region, the area including the Gilttoyees, Foch, Ecstall and other contiguous watersheds further south, parts of Princess Royal Island, the Ellerslie, Ingram-Mutu, Green, and Khutze watersheds adjacent to Fiordlands Recreation Area, and the Skowquiltz, Nascall, and Koeye watersheds — are also good candidates. In southwestern British Columbia, the Clendenning, Upper Elaho, Upper Lillooet, and Mehatl offer opportunities to protect intact watersheds. The three unprotected, pristine watersheds in Clayoquot Sound (the Sydney, Ursus, and Clayoquot) provide another opportunity on Vancouver Island. Each of these areas offers a crucial opportunity to enhance major biological corridors and expand the boundaries of protection of key core areas.
Opportunities to protect fragments of intact coastal temperate rain forest areas in Washington, Oregon, and California can be found just outside Olympic National Park in Washington, in the Coast Range and Siskiyou Mountains in Oregon, and on Cape Mendocino and Big Sur in California.
The challenge of equal magnitude — and perhaps greater long-term importance — is restoration of the natural and cultural vitality of a large part of the coastal temperate rain forest bioregion. The region's affluence and comparative political stability afford a unique opportunity for innovative efforts to combine ecological and economic restoration under the guidance of local communities. What is needed is a bioregional blueprint for watershed restoration and sustainable "use" based on maintaining and enhancing biological and cultural diversity. A full complement of plants, animals, and human communities and cultures will keep our options open and maintain systems in the face of the inevitable environmental, economic, and social changes.
Communities — empowered with information and the perspective this kind of bioregional analysis provides — must take the initiative for stewardship and restoration. It cannot be imposed from outside. But, as First Nations seeking to recover traditional languages or cultural practices are finding, restoration (whether cultural or ecological, for ultimately the two are linked) cannot be accomplished without the pattern and example of intact natural or cultural systems.
Protection of natural areas and cultural traditions is not a luxury. It is the foundation of a future in which the people of North America's coastal temperate rain forest recover what Oregon writer Kim Stafford (1986) calls "the nourishing ways": the local knowledge that quietly affirms "this is how to live in this place. In this way, it becomes our home."
A Regional Context for Conservation-based Development
The regional analysis of natural forests and Native languages presented here illustrates the value of ecological and cultural information placed in a broader geographic context. That context invites further exploration of the social and economic trends that relate to ecosystem patterns, regional data that can also be entered into geographic information systems. Ultimately, a richer understanding of regional patterns and opportunities to influence them becomes possible.
Boundaries determine how knowledge is applied. While scientists may never come to final agreement about ecosystem boundaries or the shifts in vegetation structure and composition that separate biomes, this report demonstrates that watersheds offer an unambiguous and meaningful way to organize and present information about coastal temperate rain forests.
Watershed boundaries afford a different view of the bioregion than the administrative or jurisdictional boundaries that have guided past land and resource management decisions. The implications of that different view cannot always be anticipated, yet they can sometimes be momentous.
Four years ago, for example, Keith Moore laid a cornerstone of this analysis of forest cover by conducting an inventory of the status of coastal temperate rain forest watersheds of British Columbia. One result of his pioneering effort: on the entire British Columbia coast, only one of twenty-five forested coastal watersheds larger than 100,O0O hectares — the Kitlope — remained largely undeveloped. Today, the Kitlope is protected by an historic agreement between the Haisla First Nation and the provincial government of British Columbia, supported by the voluntary relinquishment of tree farm license cutting rights held by the West Fraser Timber Company.
Though regional information is valuable in itself, value is added to knowledge applied in regional conservation or stewardship strategies. Understanding the broad pattern of forest conditions found across the coastal zone, rather than just the variation encountered within the administrative boundaries of interest to a particular agency or ministry, may promote cooperation and meaningful coordination among agencies better than any top-down policy directive. Through its science and conservation planning program, for example, Conservation International has cooperated with government agencies and other organizations to develop regional GIS databases for establishing biodiversity conservation priorities in the Amazon, the Atlantic forest of Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and Madagascar.
Saving the Kitlope: A Successful Partnership
Since influenza hit Henaaksiala communities along the lower reaches of the Kitlope River decades ago and led survivors to relocate to the village of Kitamaat, the valley named in the Tsimshian language for its people (Kitlope: "People of the rock") has been home to fewer of them than at possibly any time in several thousand years. A day-long journey down Douglas Channel and Gardner Canal separated the surviving Henaaksiala (who amalgamated with the Haisla people of the Kitimat River estuary form the Haisla Nation in 1947) from the Kitlope.
As part of government-designated Tree Farm License 41 (TFL 41), the timber of the Kitlope Valley appeared eventually destined for global markets via mills in Kitimat and Terrace, not far from the Haisla village of Kitamaat.
The few Haisla lucky enough to spend their younger years in the valley, fishing or running traplines, sustained the connection their people had shared with the land for millennia. Tribal elders knew the large-scale logging in the Kitlope — the last intact part of Haisla territory — would destroy the spiritual foundation of the Haisla Nation. But heavy logging in B.C.'s more accessible valleys brought the day of reckoning for the Kitlope's stands ever closer. In 1990, Haisla elders found a road flagged in to the valley.
That year, Ecotrust and Conservation International began a global survey of the status of coastal temperate rain forests. Even a preliminary review of satellite photographs of coastal British Columbia revealed the scarcity of large, forested coastal watersheds. Ecotrust and Conservation International subsequently supported a more detailed survey of B.C. watersheds by forestry consultant Keith Moore, who was familiar with the timberlands of TFL 41. Of the North Coast of B.C., Moore (1991) concluded:
The largest contiguous area of undeveloped primary watersheds in the coastal temperate forest of B.C. appears to be in the Gardner Canal area south of Kemano. This area encompasses the Kitlope (275,100 hectares) and four others that are pristine, including the Kowesas (33,250 hectares) and the Tsaytis (42,600 hectares).
His words described the heart of traditional Henaaksiala territory.
Moore's report enhanced the partnership then developing between the Haisla Nation and Ecotrust, aimed ultimately at protecting the Kitlope. Ecotrust helped bring the Kitlope to the attention of the global community, emphasizing its central importance as the Haisla Nation's homeland. A reconnaissance of the cultural and the scientific attributes of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem led to preparation of a wilderness planning framework that strengthened the Haisla's hand in dealing with the provincial government and logging companies. Discussions with the government and with West Fraser Timber Company (the company with rights to TFL 41) continued through 1992, the year during which the first "Rediscovery" camp brought Haisla youth to the Kitlope in the context of the traditions of their ancestors. These sparks of cultural recovery continued to fuel community commitment to the Kitlope among Kitamaat residents.
In 1993, responding to growing Haisla pressure for protection of the Kitlope, West Fraser proposed to protect 100,000 hectares of the Kitlope Valley in exchange for guaranteed logging rights elsewhere in the ecosystem. They sweetened the deal, guaranteeing fifty jobs to the Haisla and offering to put the logging operation under Haisla control. By this time, resolve on behalf of the Kitlope had become unshakable. The Haisla turned West Fraser down. Then-chief Gerald Amos recalls, "To a person, there was no hesitancy it was the right decision."
The following June, West Fraser CEO Hank Ketcham gave up the company's claim to log in the Kitlope, voluntarily relinquishing TFL rights on 317,000 hectares, without condition and without compensation. On August 16, 1994, B.C. Premier Michael Harcourt and Haisla leaders announced that the Kitlope Valley would be preserved and jointly managed by the Haisla people and the provincial government. The Kitlope agreement does more than protect an extraordinary ecosystem. It protects Haisla culture and connection to place. The determination of the Haisla, supported by the regional analysis per-formed by Ecotrust, Conservation Inter-national, and others, saved the Kitlope from the fate of uncounted other valleys in the coastal temperate rain forest.