Xeni Gwet’in Chilko Roundtable Watershed Plan

This project built on the achievements of Roundtable meetings held annually since 2008 to develop a watershed management planning process that protects, monitors and enhances Pacific Salmon while addressing community goals and objectives to implement Xeni Gwet’in’s ecosystem based management plan. Salmon in the Xeni Gwet’in Caretaker area can easily be considered the primary component species and their sustainability is a key consideration for the health of many species as well as the health and well-being of the Xeni Gwet’in community who rely heavily on the wild salmon for sustenance. The Xeni Gwet’in Chilko River Watershed Roundtable brings citizens together with government agencies to discuss watershed issues that maintain, protect and enhance salmon stocks in the Xeni Gwet’in Caretaker area and to develop a management structure. The Tsilhqot’in People of Xeni and the community they represent have made it abundantly obvious that they are the stewards of the Xeni Gwet’in Caretaker area including the salmon that call the Chilko River watershed (including the Taseko River Watershed as part of the Fraser Basin Watershed) their home. The connection to their land is firmly supported by the late Justice J. Vickers in his Supreme Court of British Columbia 2007 decision relating to the Roger William rights and title case: The Xeni Gwet’in are viewed amongst Tsilhqot’in people as the caretakers of the lands in and about Xeni…are charged with the sacred duty to protect the nen (land… Salmon are the keystone species of the Taseko and Chilko River watersheds and their value to the broader human marketplace is indisputable however their local value to the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and the flora and fauna of the watershed rely on this truly sustainable resource is immeasurable. The Roundtable during this session, explored development of a hydroriparian planning guide to refine and inform Xeni Gwet’in’s community eco-system based plan. The challenges remain for the community to struggle with: lack of serious and sincere consultation by government; lack of scientific data for decision making; lack of community-based land management funding for the watershed and ecosystem; inappropriate fishing regulations and inadequate monitoring; logging uplift without proper watershed planning to guide industry; potential mining impactsanother CEAA process Fish Lake/Taseko area; overharvesting of some fish species; declining fish stocks and future of Fraser Salmon threatened; effects of mountain pine beetle on the local area, wild fires (we’ve had three major fires in the area since 2003); impacts of climate change; lack of funding to ensure proper planning and data is available to implement ecosystem-based plan to name the more prominent watershed issues facing our remote community. As the Chief Forester recently reported “there has been little watershed planning undertaken in the province and salvage logging could be impacting those important areas”.