British Columbia Dedicates New WMA

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Members of the Squamish Nation, local politicians and other guests joined Environment Minister Barry Penner to officially dedicate the Squamish Estuary Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

Penner formally recognized those who were instrumental in establishing the wildlife and cultural area. The event included a presentation of traditional song and dance and the unveiling of a traditional pole carving by eminent Squamish nation artist Aaron Nelson. The house pole will be erected later in the estuary in honour of the significance of the Skwelwil'em Squamish Estuary WMA.

"It took a lot of effort and goodwill, but it was worth it," said Penner. "I'm optimistic the dedication of this special area today will herald a fruit ful era of co-operation between the various parties: the provincial government, the Squarmish First Nation, the District of Squamish and all the other stake holders. The Squamish Estuary Management Plan will undoubtedly serve as an example of what can be accomplished when people of goodwill get together for a common purpose."

The Squamish estuary is representative of one of the most rare and biologically productive ecosystem types on the B.C. coast. Wildlife species include shorebirds, swans, ducks, raptors, songbirds, various small mammals, deer, coyote and black bear. The Squamish River system supports chum, chinook, coho and pink salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden char. The area is widely used for commercial, sport, and Aboriginal food fisheries, wildlife viewing, hunting, boating, windsurfing, and hiking.

"Since time immemorial, the Skwelwil'em Squamish Estuary has been a village site and a place of gathering for the Squamish people," said Chief Gibby Jacob. "The great spiritual and our ancestors and elders to the generations of today and it is wonderful to see everyone working together as a community to hold sacred the wonder and beauty of this very special place."

The proposal to designate the squamish Estuary WMA emerged from almost 20 years of planning under the Squamish Estuary Management Plan (SEMP). The SEMP was co-ordinated by a multi-agency committee that included representative from federal, provincial and local governments and BC Rail. The planning process included consultation with First Nations, stakeholders and the public.

The SEMP identified key areas for industrial development, conservation, or further assessment. One of the primary recommendations was to designate a portion of the Squamish estuary as a WMA under the Wildlife Act.

Since 2005, the government of B.C> has been building a new relationship with First Nations based on respect, recognition and reconciliation. Through treaties and other agreements with First Nations, the government is committed to closing the socio-economic gap that separates Aboriginal people from the British Columbians.