Choiyoji – Phase I

Protecting the Kitlope

In 1996 the Province of British Columbia and the Haisla agreed on a framework to establish the Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees/Kitlope Heritage Conservancy Protected Area ( The Kitlope Protected Area is the largest intact coastal temperate rain forest left standing in the world.

The Kawesas Protection Campaign

Regrettably the Conservancy boundaries did not include the Kawesas Watershed, an adjacent 100,000 acre, pristine watershed that the Haisla consider to be integral to the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. The Haisla continued the quest to have the Kawesas Watershed protected through the Na-na-kila Institute.

At the Na-na-kila Institute the team designed the Kawesas Protection Campaign along a multi-tiered approach that included engagement in the Kalum Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP), Cultural Resource Assessments, Haisla Capacity Building, and Multi-media.

Kawesas Watershed Assessment

As part of the Kawesas Protection Campaign the Na-na-kila Institute completed many assessments, either in partnership with other ENGOs, or on its own. One of the most advanced and leading edge assessments produced was the Kawesas Watershed Assessment ( The assessment built off of the Kawesas Technical Report and was completed by Interrain Pacific in partnership with the Haisla, the Na-na-kila Institute, and Eco-trust Canada. The proponents of the assessment, Na-na-kila Institute, Ecotrust Canada, and Ecotrust established a new level of conservation ethic.

The difference between the typical watershed assessment and the Kawesas Watershed Assessment is the fact that the Kawesas Watershed Assessment was used to create a baseline of information for a pristine area prior to any logging as a conservation strategy.

Although the assessment was leading edge and based on solid scientific methodology and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) both West Fraser and the BC Ministry of Forests declined to engage and utilize the report.

Another of many hurdles at the time was the 1993 BC government Protected Area Strategy which only allowed for the protection of 12% of the land base within a given forest district. The impact of the government legislation was that when the Kitlope was protected that protection took up 8 % of the Kalum Forest District allowance for protected areas. The Haisla/ENGO success worked against them!

Kalum Land Resource Management Plan

As our strategy took shape we turned our attention to the Kalum Land Resource Management Plan table,, where Na-na-kila engaged as part of the First Nation representation.

At the table the other 20 members, as well as 14 government representatives, preferred to allocate the remaining percentage of allowable protection measures for other areas of the Kalum Forest District.

The Na-na-kila Strategy

To overcome these challenges our strategy brought the scientific data and traditional ecological knowledge to life in a way that had an impact on people by filling in important gaps between science and TEK. A major part of our strategy was to reinforce the information with political, legal, and cultural capital to ensure that the environment had layers of protection. The bonus that we added into our strategy was the accredited building of Haisla environmental management capacity.

Step One

The first step was the completion of the Kawesas Lodge, which had been placed at the site where the proposed logging road was to be built. The lodge was an 1800 square foot post and beam structure that was built like a barn with very little structural nails used. The majority of wood used for construction was salvaged cedar and spruce milled with an Alaska Mill.

The amenities included a portable hydroelectric system, running water, a state of the art composting toilet, on demand hot water heater, propane fridge and stove.
Step Two

The second step was to formally introduce the Kawesas Watershed Assessment at the Kalum LRMP table, as the level of methodology to use. The table reached consensus on the report.

We began to educate the table members by showcasing Haisla interests that had been previously expressed through the Kitlope Campaign, traditional use studies, Aboriginal Rights and Title, and direct community consultation.

Step Three

The third step at the Kalum LRMP table we tabled the obvious interests being:

Salmon: Sockeye, Chinook, Coho, Chum, and Pink
Grizzly Bears
Ungulates: moose, deer, mountain goat
Cultural Resources: botanicals, roots, barks, berries, medicine, food, raw materials
Marbled Murrelets

Cultural Resource Assessments within the Kawesas

While the table negotiated consensus in respect to managing for Cultural Resources within the Kalum Forest District the Na-na-kila Institute completed field assessments for the cultural resources within the Kawesas Watershed. Over the course of three years we completed eulachon, grizzly, moose, botanical, marbled murrelets, and geomorphological assessments while using the Kawesas Lodge as the base operations.  The assessments established the presence of the species that the Haisla had articulated as being culturally important to retain the right to harvest.

We retained a number of project managers to undertake the field assessments. We reached out to people with similar values. People like Dr. Lance Craighead of the Craighead Institute ( Dr. Craighead completed the initial round of the Kawesas Grizzly Bear Assessment and established the grizzly bear population within the Kawesas Watershed.

Once the initial findings were complete we tabled the results to the Kalum LRMP thereby establishing that the requirement for any development to manage for eulachon and eulachon habitat, grizzly bear population and habitat, ungulate population and habitat, cultural botanicals, and marbled murrelets.

After the first year of assessments we negotiated a partnership with the North West Community College to deliver the Ecosystem Based Management Certificate program in Kitamaat Village. Twenty Haisla enrolled and completed courses that were designed to be practical and technical. In addition we introduced Prior Learning Assessments to our learners and accredited their previous work and education. Those that took part in the Kawesas field assessments did extremely well.

In addition to the technical reports we documented every stage of the assessment process with digital video and photographs. We chartered a fixed wing aircraft and took digital video of the entire watershed. We developed GIS maps and entered the data as well as digital media.

With the raw data obtained we used the opportunity to develop multi-media capacity. The Na-na-kila Institute retained a schoolteacher with a degree in computer science to teach our field staff how to use multi-media and programming to bring all of our information and data into a comprehensive visual platform. We produced a series of CD-ROMs to tell our conservation story through digital media in-house.

The Kawesas Watershed Designated a Special Management Zone

The result for the Kawesas Protection Campaign was the agreement between the Haisla, West Fraser, and the Province of BC to turn the Kawesas Watershed into a Special Management Zone. As part of those negotiations we used our assessments to eliminate sensitive habitat along the riparian zone, grizzly bear habitat, fish habitat, and cultural resources from any future logging.

Since April of 2000, when the Kalum LRMP table reached consensus, and the BC Cabinet and Inter-Agency Management Committee approved the plan, there has been no forestry activity in the Kawesas. Although it is not a protected area per se, the criteria for any development make it extremely difficult for economically feasible logging to occur. The final element is that any approval of logging or development must be by consensus, meaning the Haisla have to agree.

Given the difficult circumstance we achieved a lot of value from the work we completed because the Na-na-kila system became the foundation for the political environmental growth in respect to the environmental components to industrial relations, government relations, and capacity building.