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

Emma Nunn from Alberni Valley Rescue Squad waits at the summit of Mount Arrowsmith for the rest of the AVRS rope rescue team on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY DAVE POULSEN, AVRS)
UPDATE: Injured hikers among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’

Parksville Fire Department crews attended the scene of a house fire on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at the end of Foster Place in Parksville. No injuries were reported. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Fire crews called to battle house fire in Parksville

No injuries reported, kitty rescued

Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville and District and Qualicum Beach Chambers of Commerce. (PQB News photo)
PQBeat: Chamber of Commerce executive director Kim Burden looks ahead

Podcast: Talk includes 2021 business plans in Parksville, Qualicum Beach, events and more

The Village Way and Highway 19A roundabout is the Town of Qualicum Beach priority for a grant application. (Google Map)
Qualicum Beach council favours roundabout over turf field project

Mayor believes road project has better chance of landing grant

Curling season is over at the Parksville Curling Club and Qualicum Beach Curling Club. (PQB News file photo)
COVID-19: Parksville and Qualicum Beach curling clubs forced to end season

Restrictions impact financial sustainability of both operations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read