Province hailed as ‘biodiversity heroes’ in Sea to Sky 

LRMP recognizes cultural, wildland and parks value in 50 per cent of land

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Bell also recognizes just how critical the role for First Nations was to the entire land use process, particularly the roles of Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations.

"Initially it was a challenge for our people to want these protected as a conservancy," admitted Lucinda Phillips, director of land and resources for the Mount Currie Band Council.

She explained that there was a perception in the community that when the national parks were created years ago, the community lost the use of those areas for practising their traditional culture.

Phillips said that through education and communication, she hopes to have the community on board and take ownership of the opportunity.

"We want to encourage our community members to be the caretakers (of the conservancies)," said Phillips.

Chief Bill Williams of the Squamish Nation highlighted the importance of having areas that are protected. The Callaghan conservancy, for example, covers Squamish's Wild Spirit Place, Payakentsut.

"It's an area that we want to be able to showcase to our children's, children's children," he said. "An area where they can go in and know that the grizzly bear and other animals that inhabit the forest are still intact and they live their lives there without fear of being hunted. That we can walk through the forest and still be able to point out different herbs and other growth in the old growth forest that is still being able to be harvested."

Conservancies do not allow for industrial resource development activities - commercial logging, mining, hydroelectric development, new roads and commercial development are not allowed. The goal is to provide for the continuation of First Nations cultural activities and traditional renewable resource harvesting activities, such as gathering traditional foods and hunting, trapping and fishing.

"(We want them) treated the way that we expect the land to be treated," added Williams. "That the land is there, not to be developed for financial gain. That the land has to be fully respected and in doing so, the financial obligations that the province always seems to want to drag out of the land, or the area, is kept quiet."

Together Squamish and Lil'wat, along with the province, are developing management plans for the conservancies.

"I think it's a win for everybody," said Phillips. "It's not only for First Nations."

And there have been other spin-offs from the work done in the LRMP, said Minister Bell, namely this spirit of working in collaboration.

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