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Restoring the Land and Honouring the History of Lyell Island

Two kilometres of stream in three logging-damaged creeks on Lyell Island have already been restored as part of unique initiative that aims to restore stream ecosystems so that salmon populations can re-establish in an area that was once heavily logged and to ensure local youth learn how to take care of the land and sea.

Tllga Kun Gwaayaay (Lyell Island) is the site of the 1985 standoff where Haida elders stood the line to protest unsustainable logging on their traditional lands.

Moving logs into place on Lyell Island Moving logs into place on Lyell Island
© Parks Canada

The 19,000 ha island was first logged in the 1920s, but intensive clearcutting carried out in the late 1970s and into the 1980s led to slope instability and landslides.

During that time, logs were skidded through streambeds resulting in the destruction of salmon-bearing stream habitat.

Gwaii Haanas staff and partners have built more than a dozen in-creek structures by dropping large woody debris into three streams: Sandy, Powrivco and Takelly Creeks.

The land around the creeks is also being restored and several hectares of forest have been thinned to emulate old growth characteristics and ensure that conifer growth provides a future source of woody debris for the streams.

Over the last three years, future stewards have learned about protecting the land and sea in Gwaii Haanas. In 2011, a group of students representing every school on the islands helped release fry into a Lyell Island creek and in 2012, a similar group helped move large woody debris to encourage the creation of salmon rearing habitat.

Yahguudang dlljuu: A Respectful Act

Students help move logs in 2012 Students help move logs in 2012
© Parks Canada

Chum (Oncorhynchus keta) broodstock are being collected from selected streams in the fall months and hatchery-raised to fry for release into restored streams in the spring.

In 1985, the Haida Nation designated Gwaii Haanas as a heritage site under the Haida Constitution.

In July 1987, logging on Lyell Island ended when Canada and British Columbia signed the South Moresby Memorandum of Understanding.

In 1993, the Gwaii Haanas Agreement was signed and for the last 20 years the Government of Canada and the Haida Nation have been working cooperatively to manage the land and sea.

By engaging community members and youth in direct participation in ecological restoration activities, and through engaging local schools in the salmon enhancement program, the project will foster an increased understanding of the importance of ecological integrity and the significance of Lyell Island to the people of Haida Gwaii and to all Canadians.

Working With Partners

Since 2004, Gwaii Haanas has been working with a range of partners including the Council of the Haida Nation’s Fisheries Program, the Hecate Strait Streamkeepers, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations as well as a range of community organizations.

This project is funded by the federal government as part of Parks Canada’s Action-on-the-Ground program, a nation-wide initiative that encourages Canadians to engage in activities that support conservation and promote the ecological integrity of Canada’s national parks and natural and cultural heritage.