Fraser Watershed Initiative

Fraser Watershed Initiative

The Fraser Watershed Initiative (FWI) is a multi-year campaign focused on the Fraser River Watershed. The FWI is working with First Nations, NGO’s and local governments across BC to ‘Heal and Protect’ the mighty Fraser River Basin.

Currently a project of the Rivershed Society of BC, the FWI will evolve over the coming year to become an independent network that incorporates several non-profit organisations, First Nations communities and local leaders.

Introduction

The Fraser River Basin is a large geographical landscape representing one quarter of British Columbia’s landmass. With the enormous scale of the watershed, the scope and magnitude of the issues found in this region are equally substantial.

BC’s Fraser River Basin

The Fraser River Basin represents the greatest conservation opportunity to heal and protect a functioning, large scale watershed system on the west coast, on the scale of the Sacramento or the Columbia watersheds.

The issues facing the Fraser watershed range from macro to site specific and local problems. For example, the issue of climate change affects every square inch of the watershed whereas an issue such as Sturgeon habitat disturbances around Barnston Island are more site specific.

Over the course of the past several months, we have attempted to identify the macro level issues within the watershed. The following is a summary of both macro and local issues found throughout the Fraser Watershed:

A) First Nations
The Fraser Watershed has been home to British Columbia’s First Nations for well over 10,000 years. These Indigenous people have been guardians to this land and have maintained the health of the ecosystem for generations. Over the past 200 years, the Fraser Watershed First Nations people have been alienated from their traditional territories and their traditional role as guardians to the land. This is now changing dramatically as First Nations regain control of their traditional territories and management of their natural resources.

B) Parks & Protected Areas
Throughout the Fraser Watershed, new parks and protected area opportunities can be found in all 6 regions of the Fraser River Basin and have tremendous levels of support locally and provincially. There are current opportunities in which ‘areas in need’ can be protected. The first way to accomplish this is to use the soon to be announced Land Use Planning process.

The second way is for First Nations to exercise their rights to designate Tribal Parks in their traditional territories.

The third way, which is directly related to the first two, is through the federal government’s Aichi commitment towards increasing terrestrial protected areas across Canada from 10% to the new international goal of 17%.

C) Restoration
Throughout the Fraser Watershed there are thousands of restoration projects ready to be undertaken. The overarching restoration issue both facilitates the government’s mandate of creating jobs while protecting the natural environment, as well as dove-tailing with the ‘Heal and Protect’ theme of the Fraser Watershed Initiative.

Restoration Conference 2018 – We are planning a conference focused on forest fires and restoration, jobs and restoration, fish and wildlife restoration, and salmon habitat restoration. The conference will bring together political leaders from the provincial and federal governments, First Nations leaders, local community leaders and ENGO’s. The conference will be held in Kamloops, BC in June of 2018.

D) Water
Geographically, the Fraser Watershed, which is defined by its creeks, streams and rivers, covers one quarter of the province of British Columbia. Water issues can affect both the watershed as a whole and specific or localized area.

E) Fish & Wildlife
Fish and Wildlife issues through the Fraser Watershed are found in each of the six regions and range from endangered species issues to depleted salmon stocks. Due to the vast size of the Fraser Watershed and the 1375 km long Fraser River, any problems can quickly spread across large areas affecting many different species in a short period of time.

F) Climate Change
Climate change is the overall driver on ecosystem health in the Fraser Watershed. The dramatic impacts of climate change are being felt up and down the Fraser and have a significant impact on most of the core issues the Initiative is addressing. The effects are being seen in the forests, precipitated by the massive wildfires of 2017 and the pine beetle epidemic. Salmon are also being impacted by climate change as the temperature of the Fraser and its tributaries increase year to year. Endangered species and all wildlife are being negatively impacted by climate change in their reproductive cycles, food gathering ability and loss of critical habitat.

G) Industrial Development
The Fraser Watershed was the first region in BC that experienced colonial industrial development. For the past 150+ years the watershed has been home to industrial logging, small and large scale mining, dams on its tributaries, rampant urbanization and pollution. The cumulative impacts of industrial development have contributed to a watershed which is on the verge of ecological collapse. The resource development pressures into the remaining wild areas and ecological hotspots are greater now than ever before.

We are currently developing a long term, integrated campaign to “heal and protect” the Fraser River Watershed which will, among other things, include Regional Workshops and Mapping Project, and a Restoration Conference. Watch this area for campaign updates.