The Phillips Watershed Recovery Initiative is a Kwiakah First Nation led information campaign to find public support for the protection of Phillips Arm.

Posted By PWR Initiative

“The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in. This principle has been codified in several international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. Domestic law makes reference to this principle but implementation remains limited.”

Kwiakah First Nation has provided the BC Liberal Government with ample evidence that the ecosystem of the Phillips Watershed is under enormous environmental pressure – and all the evidence is pointing at forestry as the main local culprit. The small First Nation has commissioned research for Phillips Arm starting in the year 2006. Of course, in scientific terms one decade of research cannot provide all the answers and one has to stay committed to continue research work for years to come to close knowledge gaps or prove a clear correlation between cause and effect. Many times it is not one specific cause but a conglomerate of a number of factors that have a negative impact on a ecosystem.

Kwiakah’s research results and all the professional reports clearly show a very negative trend and point at forest activities as the main cause for the negative impacts on key indicator species in Phillips Arm like grizzly bears, Roosevelt Elk or salmon (the Phillips River is one of the few remaining watersheds that is still home to all five Pacific salmon runs on the South Central Coast; however, the individual salmon populations of the watershed show very low numbers for returning fish – a run could go extinct at any given time because the low numbers of returning fish can hardly sustain a population).

The BC Liberal Government has signalled that they are interested in joint research projects with Kwiakah First Nation. They are hoping that “duelling science” (this is their newest term – they switched from competing to duelling) can be prevented by working jointly on research. The BC Liberal Government is still adamant in their position not to trust any research or scientific results that have not been produced by government scientists.

Kwiakah First Nation is very open to working together with government scientists - we are convinced our research can withstand scientific scrutiny. However, we are demanding that the BC Liberal Government follow the “Precautionary Principle” and not allow timber harvest activities until they prove to Kwiakah without a doubt that a decade of research conducted by professionals on behalf of Kwiakah is wrong and the ecosystem of the Phillips watershed is not in danger of collapse.

At the time of writing of this blog entry government officials have informed us that compliance with the precautionary principle is not their top priority and that they would prefer to fulfill their contractual obligations with licensees instead.

Of course, Kwiakah First Nation won’t stand for this and will use any means necessary to convince the BC Liberal government to respect the precautionary principle.

Posted By PWR Initiative

On our website we have mentioned that Kwiakah First Nation has invested substantially in scientific research to find answers about the health of the Phillips Arm grizzly bear and the Phillips River salmon populations. In addition, professionals worked on an aquatic assessment for the Phillips watershed and an Eelgrass and Clam survey was completed.

We will talk about the detailed results of each research phase later in this information campaign. For now, it is suffice it to say that things are not well in Phillips Arm and the environmental conditions and circumstances are dire.

We started with the grizzly bear research as early as 2006 and have successfully completed 5 consecutive bear research projects since. In 2012 we started with the aquatic assessment, followed by the survey for Eelgrass and Clams, and multi-level projects for a Phillips River salmon data analysis. At the time of writing of this blog entry we have almost completed phase 3 of the salmon data analysis.

We have consistently provided the BC Liberal government under Premier Christie Clark with our scientific evidence. It was our hope the government would see the urgency to take drastic steps to protect the badly damaged environment of Phillips Arm.
Unfortunately, our efforts were not the least appreciated and the BC Chief Forester in particular took it upon herself to attempt to dispute the research results we had provided. The provincial large carnivore expert and a government fish biologist provided her with statements that were supposed to weaken the evidence so that BC could move forward with their faulty decision-making - in this instance with an Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) determination for TFL 39 Block 5 (the area of the Phillips River watershed) that does hardly allow for real protective measures in Phillips Arm.  The experts working for Kwiakah responded to the government criticism and made their case why government staff were wrong in their judgement. Afterwards, Kwiakah did not hear back from the Chief Forester’s office.

Of course, the BC government is hiding behind the provincial Forest Act and the new Great Bear Rainforest Land Use Order (GBRLUO). Provincial government staff even went so far as requesting from Kwiakah First Nation to stop conducting research. The BC Liberal government seems to be afraid of scientific evidence that has been developed independently. It is their opinion that our efforts are creating “Competing Science” (yes, that is exactly the term used by government staff) – research that is contradicting the overly optimistic positions of the BC government - and they are afraid that a judge –should Kwiakah First Nation take legal action against the BC Liberal government – might get confused and annoyed by research that is saying different things.

Kwiakah First Nation will not be deterred by the BC Liberal government’s refusal to take the evidence we have provided into account. Our small First Nation will continue to prove to government that they have to stop believing things are well in our forests and watersheds – we will continue to do research in hope that one day this government will agree to listen to scientific evidence. Our research will get stronger and every additional phase of new research will confirm and strengthen our position, which is….

……..that drastic measures must be taken to help the environment of the Phillips watershed to recover from many decades of abuse by faulty government decision-making that only nurtured the industrial and commercial exploitation of First Nation lands.




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