ecotrust logo

The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem: A Wilderness Planning Framework

Kitlope Lake
Man who Turned into Stone overlooking Kitlope Lake

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

The Kitlope is Haisla territory. The Kitamaat Village Council has gone on record as being unanimously in favor of protecting the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. The management standard may be expressed as ecosystem integrity.

The exceptional wilderness values of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem identified both in this draft management plan and in an earlier reconnaissance report support the recommendation to protect the area as a Wilderness Preserve to be managed jointly by the Haisla Nation and the British Columbia and Canadian Governments. This designation would recognize the multiplicity of interests to be served in the Kitlope. Management authority would be delegated by the Provincial Government and the Haisla Nation to a board of directors which would be responsible for the management of the ecosystem.

Awareness of the need for comprehensive old-growth forest ecosystem research is rapidly increasing. Due to its large size and diverse, intact temperate rain forests, the Kitlope is an ideal location for conducting internationally significant, baseline research on old-growth forest ecology. A limited research program was conducted last year focusing upon documenting the natural and cultural history of the area. The Haisla Nation Women's Society will begin a program of Rediscovery camps on the Kitlope this summer.

In the expansive 405,000 hectare Greater Kitlope Ecosystem, prey-predator relationships still have room to function in a natural and complete way without significant interference from mankind. Because of (but also limited by) this, the Kitlope has a high potential for carefully managed, low-impact wildlife viewing and ecotourism. Opportunities include spring bear viewing on the estuary, observing spawning salmon, and participating in ecosystem research activities.

Careful development of a wilderness use program for the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem will serve the needs of the Haisla, the local communities, and the province. It is recommended that a Management Agreement be developed to specify uses that are consonant with the area's wilderness characteristics including:

  1. Traditional Haisla subsistence
  2. Rediscovery Youth Camp
  3. Ecosystem research (including forest dynamics, fisheries and other subjects)
  4. Limited guided ecological and cultural tourism
  5. Minimum impact public visitation

Uses prohibited in the Management Agreement would include:

  1. Commercial logging
  2. Mining
  3. Hydro-electric development
  4. Road construction

The Agreement and subordinate management policies established by the Board of Directors would be enforced by a NANA-KILA Watchmen Program that would operate from a base station located near the head of Kitlope Lake. The Watchmen would coordinate the Rediscovery Camp, research activities and ecotour operations.

This report outlines the conceptual development and approximate funding requirements of the proposed Rediscovery Camp, research program and appropriate ecotourism. Projected sustainable employment benefits are expected to create thirty-three full and part time jobs by the fourth year of operation, the equivalent of twelve to thirteen full time jobs. Indirect economic benefits to local communities have not been calculated, but with optimum development of eco and cultural tourism, they are potentially substantial.

Logging the Kitlope has been deemed uneconomic by the company holding cutting rights. Logging development of the area would require significant public subsidy and generate a net operating loss for the company. International support is rapidly growing for protection of the Kitlope for research purposes, and its preservation is a high priority in the conservation community. For all these reasons, the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem and the Brim River Watershed should be deleted from TFL 41, and the timber contained in these areas removed from the provincial annual allowable cut.

Other Steering Committee Recommendations

  1. The integrated guide/research technician training and field research program proposed for the 1992 summer season by Conservation International–Canada should be supported and implemented.
  2. A scientific workshop should be convened to begin development of a definitive long-term forest ecosystem research program for the Kitlope.
  3. The Haisla people must be actively involved in planning, conducting and regulating tours into the area. Size and number of these groups should be limited.
  4. Follow-up field research is recommended to further study wildlife viewing opportunities and refine recommendations to minimize people/bear conflicts.
  5. Field testing of the feasibility of a Kitlope Lake–Tezwa River–Kitlope River circle route ecotour is recommended along with reconnaissance of historic grease trails.
  6. A moratorium should be placed on guided trophy hunting in the Kitlope until a comprehensive wildlife management study has been completed and a plan adopted.
  7. A carrying capacity study for guided sport fishing should be undertaken within the larger context of the overall management plan.
  8. The use of aircraft, particularly in the vicinity of the lower Kitlope River, Kitlope Lake and the lower Tezwa River should be limited to emergency uses and research activities.
  9. Use of the cabin built by members of the Kemano Community Association should be allowed to continue.
  10. Use of the lodge and cabin on the upper Kitlope should be allowed to continue subject to appropriate regulation of helicopter use.
  11. Potential human-bear conflicts must be minimized by prudent management of human activities.


Forests of the world are being converted from natural ecosystems to plantations at an alarming rate. This includes 12,220 square kilometers of Canadian forests which are cleared each year. More than 10% of Canada's productive forestland has been so devastated that it can no longer produce any merchantable timber. Only 2.5% of Canada's forests are protected from logging, despite the fact that in 1991 the Canadian House of Commons unanimously endorsed the idea of increasing protected parks and wilderness areas to 12% of all bioregions.

In British Columbia, forests are being cut at a rate (78 million cubic meters per year in 1989-90) which substantially exceeds the long-run sustained yield of 59 million cubic meters per year calculated by the Ministry of Forests. In a recent survey, foresters question whether this rate of cutting can be sustained for long, particularly if other forest values are ignored. The B.C. Forest Resources Commission recently found that much more information is needed before the complex dynamics of our forest ecosystems can be adequately understood.

Public values and priorities about the use of our forests are rapidly changing. Polls have indicated that the Canadian public places more importance on the wilderness values of our forests than it does logging, and 80% disapprove of clearcutting as the dominant form of logging. Over half (46% in B.C.) would like to see an end to all logging of our remaining old growth forests. A similar reevaluation is under way regarding the public forests of the northwestern United States. A study by the U.S. Forest Service concluded that their remaining old growth forests would, over the next 50 years, be worth nine times as much for tourism and recreation as they would for timber. Clearly there is a better way to manage our public forests.

During the last five years, the Valhalla Society has been working on the development of a comprehensive proposal for completing B.C.'s system of protected park and wilderness areas. The Valhalla proposal calls for the preservation of approximately 14% of the province. The second edition of the Valhalla Society's Endangered Wilderness Map includes the Kitlope. The inclusion of representative old growth forest will require a reduction of 3.5% in the provincial annual allowable cut, an amount that can be more than offset by adding more value to forest products produced in B.C.

During 1990, an inventory of watersheds in the Coastal Temperate Forests of British Columbia revealed that the 275,000 hectare Kitlope watershed is the only remaining undeveloped watershed of over 100,000 hectares. The Kitlope is located within the traditional territory of the Henaaksiala people of the Haisla Nation on the north coast of British Columbia at the southern end of Gardner Canal. The Haisla people have seen most of their traditional territory severely impacted by logging, hydro-electric, pulp mill, smelting and other industrial activities. The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem is the only large area within their territory which today remains in pristine condition. The Haisla are thus extremely concerned about the future of the Kitlope and insist that they must have control over everything that takes place there. Although they oppose "any proposals or acts that threaten the lands, waters, and living creatures of the Kitlope," they have invited others to join them "in wonder and respect for the Kitlope."

In May of 1991, a group of ten scientists joined the Haisla people to conduct the first detailed cultural and scientific reconnaissance of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. In their report, the group identified 120 species of birds and mammals and pointed to the opportunity of utilizing the area as an ecological bench mark to be used in improving the management of temperate rain forest ecosystems elsewhere. For protection, study and management purposes, the group recommended that the adjacent undeveloped Tsaytis, Kowesas, Barrie Creek and Icy Creek areas be included.

During the summer of 1991, field research was continued by John Kelson, a member of the reconnaissance team, with the assistance of six Haisla youth.

This report is intended to serve as a companion document to the September 1991 cultural and scientific Reconnaissance Report.

Methodology and Planning Process

The idea of conducting this study originated with Chief Councillor Gerald Amos, who requested the assistance of Ecotrust in establishing a context for decision-making regarding current and future land uses in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. The study was designed and conducted by Grant Copeland and Associates under the guidance of a project Steering Committee.

The study process emphasized community involvement of the Haisla people, who know the area best, and who have the deepest interest in its protection and wise use. Thus the research phase included both a survey of written data and a set of extensive interviews with Henaaksiala members of the Haisla Nation, whose information comes from both oral history and contemporary use. The study team also interviewed several scientists who participated in the May 1991 reconnaissance of the Kitlope, as well as local hunting and fishing guides, experienced ecotour operators, government officials, forest researchers and others with special knowledge of the area.

In late August of 1991, members of the study team and Project Steering Committee joined a delegation from Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands and members of the Haisla Nation and Greenpeace on a visit to the Kitlope aboard the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior. The study team subsequently spent a total of twenty-four person days in field research, examining parts of the ecosystem by boat and foot.

Following the research and field work, and based upon the direction of the Steering Committee obtained at a day-long meeting in October, a draft management plan was prepared. The Steering Committee carefully reviewed the draft and offered corrections and suggestions for improvements during a second meeting held during January of 1992. The basic concepts of the report were then presented and discussed with invited government officials (provincial and federal) and industry representatives during a two-day workshop held on January 23 and 24.

The draft report has subsequently been modified to incorporate further direction of the Steering Committee and new information and ideas from the workshop. Although this report is published for broad distribution and consideration, neither the authors nor the Haisla consider the document final. It will be most effectively used if considered as part of an ongoing process of deepening understanding of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem, and increasing commitment to its protection and wise use.

Haisla Uses: Past, Present and Future

The Haisla People have lived in the Kitlope for centuries and perhaps for thousands of years. Their ancient title to their aboriginal territory has never been surrendered or extinguished.

The cultural history of the Kitlope is rich in stories which continue to be told today by the hereditary chiefs from this area, Alan Hall, Gordon Robertson, James Robertson, Henry Robertson and Cecil Paul.

The Haisla desire to continue to share the Kitlope and their stories with others who approach them in harmonious friendship, with wonder and respect for the Kitlope. But, after seeing much of the rest of their traditional territory logged, they have decided to oppose any proposals or acts that threaten the lands, waters and living creatures of the Kitlope.

Our cursory exploration of the Kitlope reveals that this area was intensively utilized. Countless cedar trees high up on the steep slopes above the lower Kitlope River have been partially peeled on their uphill sides for cedar bark which was used for rope, baskets, and clothing. Many spruce trees bear marks where pitch had been removed for use as medicine and for sealing carved cedar canoes.

As with many other coastal aboriginal peoples, survival for the Haisla has depended upon the salmon, eulachon and other native fish. All five species of salmon spawn in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem including large runs of Sockeye in the Tezwa River and Kitlope Lake area. The harvest of cranberries from the south end of Kitlope Lake, huckleberries from the high slopes above the river valley, and strawberries from the trail leading to Kimsquit Lake are other staples of their diet. They also hunt goat, black bear, beaver and, more recently, moose. Most of Kitlope Lake freezes in the winter and the upper part of the ecosystem is known for its wet climate and long winters. The Kitlope people have been able to survive the rigors of this place because of its bountiful sources of good food and the spiritual nourishment it offers.

Around the turn of the century, a smallpox epidemic decimated the Kitlope population. Most of those who survived left Miskusa, their main village on the estuary of the Tsaytis River, after it was wiped out by a large avalanche in the early part of this century, relocating in Kemano. Eventually, the Kitlope tribe amalgamated with their northern neighbors living in the Kitimaat area.

Many of today's elders spent their early lives in Kemano, although some remained in the Kitlope to live on the land and to trap for a living. Gordon Robertson spent most of his early life in the Kitlope working his trap lines and building cabins. Gordon Robertson's sons James and Henry, and his nephew Cecil Paul, spent time with him there as young boys, until they were taken away to attend distant residential schools. Robertson sometimes wintered in his cabin on the Tezwa until late March. Then he would pull his canoe on a sled with yellow cedar runners over the lake ice to join his people in fishing for eulachon on the lower river in late March and early April. People lived all along the east shore of the estuary from north of the Tsaytis River upstream and south to where Indian Reserve #15, the old eulachon camp, is now located.

Others, including Sampson Ross and Jonathon Morrison, recall hunting and trapping about forty or fifty years ago with Alan Hall along the upper reaches of the Kitlope River. Jonathon Morrison told us it required four long days to reach the upper part of Alan Hall's trapline on the upper Kitlope. After paddling and poling their carved cedar canoe up the lower Kitlope River during high tide, they camped above the confluence of Kitlope Lake and River at the old village site of OGU-WALLA. On the second day they poled and pulled their canoe up a stretch of very swift and difficult river, and spent the night in an old cabin near the confluence of DA-NE-KO or, as we know it, the Gamsby River. The third day they camped about five kilometers past the head of the grease trail leading to the Kimsquit. On the fourth day they travelled a final fifteen to twenty kilometers to the end of their canoe route. From here they would work their trap lines.

Gordon Robertson tells about several important camps on Kitlope Lake, including OGU-WALLA, which is owned by the Raven Clan. The largest camp or village, KLA-EYSS, located on the west shore, included smoke houses and is owned by the Black Fish Clan. A third camp, A KOO-U-WA, located near the sandy beach on the east shore, is owned by the Eagle and Beaver Clans.

Gordon Robertson's trapline, or food harvesting territory, extended along the Tezwa River, partway up KLA-SU-DEES (Kalitan Creek), and about half way up the valley which joins overland with the upper Kitlope. Before his time the Kitlope people traded eulachon grease with adjoining inland Gitk'san-Wet'suwet'un people and with the Bella Coola people of Kimsquit. Many stories relate to this history, and sections of the eulachon grease trail have been recently documented in the Kimsquit. The Kitlope eulachon is known for its very high quality. In recent years, the Haisla have been harvesting their eulachon at Kemano rather than the Kitlope, so little is known about the present size of this run. Nevertheless, it is considered a valuable resource by the Haisla. The annual harvesting and processing of eulachon remains one of the most important traditional cultural events for the Haisla.

During the past few decades the Haisla people have spent most of their time in the Haisla village near Kitamaat, where their children attend school. But, in recent years, they have begun to reconnect with the more remote parts of their territory. The Haisla people operate several commercial fishing boats including a few seiners. About a dozen herring skiffs are kept at the Kitamaat Village. Many others own smaller boats which they use for subsistence fishing, for hunting and for pleasure trips.

According to interviews conducted with Haisla elders and leaders, current subsistence hunting activities are limited to a few goats taken during the spring months along Gardner Canal and the occasional black bear or moose. The Haisla do not hunt grizzly. Although seals have been harvested in the past, there were no reports of recent seal hunting.

Generally, the Haisla have been able to adapt to the opportunities available from a relatively diverse employment base in their area. Sixty-eight work for Alcan, one for Ocelot, and ten for Eurocan. Two are loggers, twenty-one work for the Ministry of Forests, and three for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Others earn their living carving and providing fish chartering services. Forty-nine work for the Kitamaat Village Council, three for SBD #8 and two for CEIC. The overall employment rate for people living on the reserve is relatively high, with only twenty-six employable people currently unemployed and on social assistance. This prosperity is evident in the quality of housing and other buildings which exist and which are currently under construction in Kitamaat Village.

But the Haisla stress that money is not the most important consideration to them. They place a far greater value on maintaining their culture and its tradition of sharing. Today, many community members express a desire to spend more time out in nature, engaged in traditional cultural and subsistence activities.

Current and Future Uses

To maintain their sense of cultural continuity, and to strengthen their connection with nature, the Haisla Nation Women's Society is working on the establishment of a Rediscovery Camp in the Kitlope. Camps run by the Rediscovery International Foundation draw from the traditions of North American indigenous peoples, and have forged a new direction for youth camps. This international network of camps for native and non-native youth focuses on personal, cultural, and environmental awareness. Rediscovery Programs are usually offered to children in two age categories: ages ten to twelve and thirteen to fifteen. Graduates from these programs often serve as assistant guides. Camp guides are assisted by elders in the teaching of wilderness and survival skills, in the sharing of stories and songs, and in helping young people learn how to share and cooperate with one another. The program will serve as an introduction to becoming a NANAKILA watchman or wilderness tour guide. Most important, Rediscovery Camps offer excellent opportunities for younger people to get to know themselves. The programs are also applicable for ages sixteen to eighteen.

Thom Henley, executive director of Rediscovery International, has conducted workshops in Kitamaat Village during the past few months, and Rosemary Barrett of Ecotrust has provided assistance in the development of an administrative structure and budget for the first three years of operation. Ecotrust has provided a $ 10,000 start-up grant, and Rediscovery International has pledged another $15,000. Other donations have been provided by local communities.

Although remote, the Kitlope is an ideal location for a Rediscovery Camp. The study team has examined several possible sites for the location of a base camp within the context of other wilderness uses, safety considerations, and the needs of Rediscovery participants. Two of these sites are shown on the map "Kitlope Ecosites, Wildlife Viewing Zones and Cultural Interpretation Sites." Kitlope hereditary chiefs and elders were consulted regarding historical camp and village locations. The Steering Committee found that two sites should be examined in more detail during the coming spring: the vicinity of OGU-WALLA near the mouth of Kitlope Lake, and a site on the west side of the Lake south of KLA-EYSS between a large unnamed creek and a smaller one. It was felt that a lake site was preferable to the existing cabin site because it offers more opportunity for canoeing and because Kitlope Lake is a special spiritual place.

Rediscovery sites, usually rich in wildlife, are located far from the distractions of town, and are untouched by logging, mining or other development. Camp facilities in other areas vary, from the three Haida longhouses at the Haida Gwaii Rediscovery Camp to a log cabin, good cache and tipis at the Stein Rediscovery Camp.

Haisla elders report that longhouses were built in the Kitlope. Some of the buildings in the present day Kemano eulachon camp take this form.

One possibility is to reconstruct a traditional longhouse at the proposed Rediscovery site. This first building could be used for cooking and serving meals. A second longhouse could be added at a later date to house the elders and possibly the rest of the Rediscovery staff, and a third to serve as a bunkhouse for the youth participants. The carving and erection of a second NANA-KILA totem pole in the Kitlope, in addition to the existing one recently erected at Kemano, has also been suggested. Several Haisla carvers have indicated an interest in working on carving the totem and assisting in the design of the traditional longhouses.

For safety reasons, it is important that the camp facility be located at an appropriate distance from well-travelled bear trails, and that wise provisions be made for food storage, garbage disposal and outhouses. The camp should also not be sited within areas which have been known to flood during the high intensity run-offs which occur in spring and fall months, or below the extreme high tide. A spirit fire circle could be provided between the buildings and the waterfront. Other facilities could include nature trails and a simple gravity-fed water supply.


The total budget for the first year of operation of the proposed Rediscovery Camp is approximately $70,000. The annual operating deficit is expected to drop to approximately $30,000 in the fourth year of operation. Operating and development costs per participant will be high during the initial three years of operation. By the fourth year, when the Camp is fully developed, and proposed ecotourism activities pay rent for the use of the Rediscovery Camp before and after the summer season, the costs per participant are expected to drop to about $635 per person. The Rediscovery Camp will employ nine persons on a part-time basis.

Ecosystem and Forest Research

The historic model for forestry in British Columbia envisions the liquidation of our old-growth forests, and their replacement by even-age, single-species "tree farms." In the mid 1980s forest ecologists began to recognize the complex interactions in forests, and the importance of biological and physical diversity in maintaining healthy ecosystems. New information has revealed flaws in traditional forest practices such as clearcutting, slash burning, removing woody debris from streams and large-scale planting of single species. This questioning of forest practices, along with the public demand to increase protected park and wilderness areas, has led to prolonged public debate.

During the last decade a new approach to forest management has begun to develop, based on a growing understanding of the dynamics of natural systems. Several significant principles underlie the transition in forest management:

Meeting these principles requires protection of adequate benchmark areas of undisturbed old-growth forest ecosystems for research laboratories and for comparative research with managed forests. The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem offers a unique opportunity to establish the knowledge base for this new kind of land and resource stewardship, with its emphasis on maintenance and enhancement of the structural, functional and compositional qualities of the original forests that are the foundation of ecosystem health. Guiding principles for a research function in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem are:

Broad Context. Research activities should be undertaken within the broadest possible context: ecological, temporal and cultural. This means that while focus for specific research activities is necessary for accuracy and completeness, each activity should be undertaken in a gestalt, interdisciplinary and cooperative manner, recognizing that small tasks are part of the big picture. Primary research will generally focus upon coastal and coastal/interior old-growth ecosystems, biodiversity, watershed hydrology, fisheries, and relationships to the adjacent marine ecosystem.

Integration of Cultural and Ecological Research. Of special interest will be the study of the ethnohistory and ethnoecology of the Henaaksiala, with emphasis on their success in sustainable use and sharing of resources. It will require that study participants at all times recognize aboriginal rights to the Kitlope and involve Haisla people in research design and activities.

Results Available to Public. Far too much research conducted by government and industry has not been accessible to the public. All reports prepared by researchers in the Kitlope should be published and distributed, when requested, to researchers working elsewhere in the world. The potential international significance of the research conducted in the Kitlope is recognized from the start. As an ecosystem of global significance, the Kitlope should be made available as a laboratory, to university and government ecosystem researchers, scientists and naturalists from other countries, and to interested, dedicated students of nature, with the understanding that the information, knowledge, photographs and film generated be shared in common.

Compatibility and Integration with Other Kitlope Users. Research activities must be designed and carried out in ways that interrelate and achieve optimum compatibility with the Rediscovery Educational Program and ecotourism activities. For example, this means that the use of aircraft and noisy jet boat motors will be limited during particular times and places. Research activities should not impinge upon the wilderness experience of Rediscovery, ecotours, or the traditional subsistence activities of the Haisla people. A research element could be included in the Rediscovery program, wherein scientists and researchers would train advanced Rediscovery participants in research skills and natural history.

The Kitlope Research Environment

In total area, the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem encompasses over 400,000 hectares, and is the largest undisturbed temperate rainforest watershed complex in British Columbia and perhaps in the world. Primary watersheds are those which drain directly into salt water or into the lower tidal sections of larger rivers. Undeveloped watersheds are those in which less than two percent of the area (or, in the case of watersheds greater than 10,000 ha., less than 250 ha.) have been affected by industrial activity.

While valuable for analysis, the coastal watersheds inventory is somewhat limited in that it does not identify the more numerous watersheds less than 5,000 hectares in size. Other areas composed of many small watersheds may contain more contiguous rain forest area, e.g. areas such as South Moresby, Princess Royal Island or the great forests surrounding Clayoquot Sound. By comparison to these areas, the larger Kitlope ecosystem contains proportionately more alpine and subalpine area.

The temperate rainforest of the Kitlope lies within the Coastal Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone. The extent of the rain forest area constitutes approximately 43% of the total 400,000 hectares. Most of the commercially viable timber within this unit is found on steep slopes or in areas subject to flooding. Because only 2.7% of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem contains commercially viable timber stands, a high proportion of total geographic area can be protected per unit reduction in annual allowable cut of timber.

The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem is located at the south end of Gardner Canal stretching from Cornwall Point to the majestic ice fields and the striking glacial landscape at the headwaters of the Tezwa and Kitlope Rivers in the south. This wilderness ecosystem lies within the coast-interior region of north coastal British Columbia. Coastal western hemlock forests occur from low to middle elevations, mountain hemlock at subalpine levels and alpine tundra above 2,000 meters. From west to east there is a gradual transition to interior forests. The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem has a high diversity of fish and wildlife habitats, including estuaries, rich floodplains, steep side slopes and alpine areas.

The large and complex estuary of the Kitlope and Tsaytis Rivers remains intact. The estuarine ecosystem is representative of much of the central and north coast where most larger estuaries have been severely modified for use as ports, log sorting dumps, or urban development. In the expansive Kitlope, prey-predator relationships and other functions of an intact regional ecosystem still have room to function in a natural and complete way without significant interference from mankind.

Past Research

There has been no comprehensive regional scale research undertaken in B.C. on old-growth forest ecosystems, and very little has been done on the landscape level. Although old-growth forest plots have been established and monitored over time in neighboring Southeast Alaska and Washington State, none exist in B.C.'s temperate rain forest.

There is widespread ignorance about biodiversity's meaning, role, value and decline. Due to inadequate research, scientists have a profoundly limited understanding of the interdependencies and variability of natural ecosystems. Natural resource policies that do not address long-term conservation will result in loss of biodiversity. Due to this lack of knowledge, decision-makers have not yet fully understood the economic, social and ethical significance of the relationship of biodiversity to people.

Research to date in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem has included the reconnaissance trip conducted in May of 1991 by a team of ten scientists and a similar number of Haisla people. Prior to this field trip, only eight birds and nine mammals were known in the official records, primarily because of the area's remoteness from biologists and naturalists. During this reconnaissance, the list of 17 grew to 120. Records for the north coast indicate that with more detailed coverage over the seasons, as many as 284 vertebrate species are likely to be found in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. Very little is known about the plants and insects of the area.

John Kelson, a member of the reconnaissance team, stayed on during most of the summer of 1991, working with the assistance of three Haisla youth in recording the distribution of plants, small mammals, and amphibians, and making behavioral and presence records of a variety of wildlife. He produced a report describing the results of this work.

A Framework for an Ecological Research Program

Conservation of ecological values of forests across the landscape requires that patterns of forest structure be maintained. In the May 1991 reconnaissance, a framework for ecological research was proposed by asking three primary questions:

  1. What are the functional and spatial characteristics of ecosystems and landscapes needed to sustain viable populations?
  2. What are the consequences of species extinction, invasion and replacement at the ecosystem level?
  3. What are the principles that govern the recovery and restoration of highly disturbed ecosystems?

The primary ecological values at the center of the proposed Kitlope research program are:

Biodiversity. Maintenance of species richness, abundance with well distributed populations, and well functioning communities, on regional and landscape scales. Special attention must be directed to the maintenance of viable populations of rare species and their habitats.

Biological Productivity. Maintenance of the ability of the ecosystem to function and capture carbon and energy. Ecosystem Resilience. Maintenance of the ability of the ecosystem to continue functioning after stress and disturbance.

Watershed Values. Maintenance of the ability of the hydrological processes to function, including the protection of water quality, and the regulation of peak and minimum flows.

The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem is large enough to accommodate a comprehensive research program at a regional level. It is also an excellent location to focus more detailed research at the landscape and stand levels. The following research program was developed by Ray Travers to meet basic needs at all three levels.

1. Regional Level Research

For research purposes, a forest region is generally regarded as an area from 200,000 to a million hectares, with a fairly homogenous climate and vegetation. The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem has both a coastal and a coast-interior transition region. Proposed research projects include:

2. Landscape Level Research

Landscapes are usually defined by forest researchers as blocks as large as a hundred thousand hectares and as small as several tens of thousands of hectares. Proposed studies include:

Basic Inventories. Mountain Equipment Coop, together with the Bullit Foundation and others, have funded Conservation International Canada (C.I.) to continue the survey work John Kelson started in May, 1991. This comprehensive program is designed to combine intensive wilderness guide training, field biology technician training, and nature heritage training with ecotourism guide training and a hands-on Rediscovery guiding experience.

The research component of this program will identify grizzly bear habitat, attempt to locate nesting areas for the old-growth dependent Marbled Murrelet, Black Merlin, Peregrine and Gyrfalcon, locate mountain goat breeding ledges, study successional dynamics of a spruce flood zone and study the eulachon spawning run along with several populations of the temperature-sensitive tailed frog. Researchers will train the participants in data collection, analysis and conservation biology in return for the assistance the trainees will be providing.

In addition, the C.I. project will map and mark traditional grease trail routes, locate and map cultural sites including villages, berry picking areas, camps, cabins and forest areas containing culturally modified trees. Native heritage training in ethnobotany native history, Haisla language, land use practices, traditional ownership and occupancy, and traditional routes and methods of travel will be given by a select group of knowledgeable Haisla elders from the Kitlope area and an archaeologist.

John Kelson will be assisted by Haisla elders, an environmental educator, mountain guides and several scientists. Wages will be paid to six Haisla trainees. As basic research is conducted, outdoor skills will be taught including woodmanship, wilderness navigation, boatsmanship, camp-craft, first aid, wilderness photography, canoeing, kayaking basic climbing, minimum impact camping and trail design. The six trainees will be involved in the development and operation of the Rediscovery Camp and in assisting in the guiding of ecotourism participants. The intent is to initiate a continuous monitoring and management program that combines custodial, educational and scientific roles. Training and human development will thus be linked with the conservation of natural resources.

The Haisla Nation and Conservational International–Canada have also initiated a study of the reproductive behavior of eulachons in the Kitlope. This project is being supported by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) ($4,000), B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch ($ 1,000), Canadian Department of Indian Affairs ($ 1,000) and Canada Manpower ($2,000). Approximately a month's field work for the eulachon study was undertaken during March of 1992.

Ecosystem models are needed to predict patterns of natural disturbance on the landscape and ecological succession over time. The capability to predict effects of disturbances on wildlife populations, for example, needs to be incorporated into the model, by taking into account the habitat value of early and late successional forests. The models must also include the extent that structural characteristics tend to persist through natural disturbances such as snowslides, landslides or windstorms providing "biological legacies" for the subsequent stand. Some wildlife species have large home ranges and depend on the arrangement of a variety of habitat types to meet their needs for food, shelter and reproduction (e.g. grizzly). Other smaller animals have much smaller home ranges and meet all their needs in a specific habitat type (e.g. marten). Still others depend on specific structural features for habitat needs (e.g. snag roosts for eagles).

Hydrologic and geomorphic characteristics of various landscape patterns need to be examined. Major emphasis would be on the composition and structure of riparian forest communities and major interactions with aquatic enviromnents. This would include establishment of a baseline so that cumulative effects in other north coast areas can be studied for impacts such as rain-on-snow and other peak events on sediment yields. Research on the long-term dynamics of woody debris in entire river drainages, from headwaters to estuary, would be another component of this project.

Migration of animals in or out of adjacent managed lands should be studied. The value of the Kitlope as a population reservoir, especially for large mammals, should be evaluated.

3. Stand Level Research

A forest stand is usually defined by forest researchers as a patch or an area with vegetation that is relatively homogenous in species mix and development. Stand sizes usually vary from a few to a hundred hectares. A major focus of stand level research is on the role of stand structure in ecosystem function and composition.

Overall structure of the forest would be studied, including the patterns of mortality that give rise to gaps, gap size and geometry. Tree fall gap processes are crucial to the long term maintenance of late successional ecosystems. Gaps created in the forest canopy resulting from small scale natural disturbances involving the death of one to a few trees are critical to the population and community ecology of many forest types. In forests where large, stand-destroying disturbances are infrequent, small scale disturbances associated with the death and replacement of individual trees are a primary source in forest structure and composition. In this way gaps contribute to the maintenance of species diversity.

The dynamics of coarse woody debris and its relationship to providing a variety of ecosystem functions is given priority for immediate work. Coarse woody debris includes standing dead trees (snags), and large downed logs on the land in and around water courses. Information on the decay rates of snags and downed logs of different species and different conditions will provide yield tables and models for managers to use to predict levels of woody debris. Specific questions concern the role of late successional forests and the relationship between stand structure and habitat requirements for old-growth dependent species. Another activity would be a synopsis survey of the number of naturally disturbed areas and documentation of the growth, development, structure and habitat function of these forests over gradients of elevation and time.

Forest canopy studies should be initiated at the earliest possible time. Forest canopy processes are more important to forest health than previously believed. Critical canopy processes include hydrologic processes, interception of snow and other precipitation, cloud and fog condensation, photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration, and effects on nutrient, carbon and water cycling. Canopies also provide habitat for very large numbers of invertebrates and other animals and plants.

Soils are proposed for study because of their complexity and importance in sustaining ecosystem productivity. Soil microbes dominate the processes which control the productivity and stability of forest ecosystems.

These research activities are the beginning of an endeavor to improve forest management through development of a broad and meaningful knowledge base. The challenges are many. The ecologist Frank Egler said, "Not only is nature more complex that we think, it is and will remain more complex than we can think."

Intelligent decision making cannot occur unless the consequences of proposed actions can be reliably predicted. Within B.C., very little knowledge has been accumulated at the regional and landscape scale. The Kitlope research program will begin to fill this gap.

It is also important to integrate traditional Haisla knowledge of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. This includes traditional Haisla uses of plants for medicine. The following is one example of Haisla medicinal plant uses which are currently of great interest to the scientific world:

"On one trip to Miller Bay, my aunt and uncle came with us. They were told they had to take their son home as he had only two months to live and there was nothing they could do for him. On the way home my aunt picked up yew wood and boiled it. About a month after starting the treatment the boy was up and around."
—Councillor Ken Hall

Research Facilities and Activities

A base research station within the Kitlope will be necessary. Buildings could take the exterior form of traditional Haisla longhouses.

Research Team

As the program evolves, research activities will need direction from a steering committee or board of directors composed of representatives from appropriate government ministries, the academic community, environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs), the forest industry and the Haisla Nation. Responsibilities of this steering committee will be to formulate overall research objectives, determine research priorities, assist in fundraising and to hire a research director.

Research scientists will be drawn from universities, native Indian organizations, government agencies, industry and ENGOs. It is expected that the current concern for temperate rain forest ecosystems and related research needs will attract scientists of international stature. The Kitlope field research station would be staffed by a multi-disciplinary professional team composed of a forest ecologist, soils scientist or hydrologist, a wildlife biologist or zoologist, and other scientists with expertise in plant ecology, insects, lichens, fisheries biology, anthropology and marine ecology. One of these persons could serve as the full-time research director. The team would be supported by an equal number of research assistants and a cooking staff of one or two persons. On average, it is anticipated that ten persons would be based in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem May through September, plus occasional periods during the seven month winter season. The research activities are expected to generate one full-time position plus eleven part-time jobs.


An estimated budget for the level of research activities suggested indicates that at least $50,000 will be required during the current year which started October 1, 1991. Approximately $400,000 is required for the first full year of operation, and $230,000 per year thereafter. Potential funding sources available to finance the Kitlope research station include:

                 Forest Resources Development Agreement II
                 Sustainable Environment Fund
                 Federal Green Plan
                 Private foundations
                 Agency operating funds
                 National Sciences and Engineering Research Council
                 B.C. Science Council
                 Ministry of Advanced Education, Science and Technology
                 Natural resource industries
                 Supply and Services Canada
                 Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans
                 Canadian Department of Indian Affairs

Scientific Workshop

It is recommended that a scientific workshop be convened to develop a definitive long-term research program for the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. This group could serve as the precursor for a research steering committee.

Wilderness Tourism

Guided Hunting

At the present time, tourism activities in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem are limited to one licensed guide-outfitter, West Coast Mountain Safaris, operated by Harry McGowan. The company has been operating from a camp on the sandy beach area located on the east shore of Kitlope Lake. Alan Porter, a guide working for the company, reported that the main focus of their activity in the Kitlope has been goat hunting between the middle and the end of August. Their normal take has been three goats per year, plus one or two moose and the odd black bear, which have been taken during the months of September and/or October. Most of West Coast Mountain Safaris' clientele have been from Europe. Goats have usually been shot in the high country near several alpine lakes to which McGowan has flown in his float plane. One of these lakes is located in the headwaters of A-KOO-U-WA creek, which flows into Kitlope Lake near their camp.

Harry McGowan has been generous in allowing John Kelson to utilize his camp during the early part of the summer. Although his permit restricts him to temporary facilities, the camp is well fitted and comfortable, with three wall tents pitched on a large elevated platform above the flood level, a shower with hot and cold running water and other conveniences. When they are not hunting, West Coast Mountain Safaris' guests fish for spring salmon at OGU-WALLA near the mouth of the lake, and sometimes at the confluence of Kalitan Creek with the Tezwa River. The combination of the exceptional scenery, trophy-sized goats, excellent fishing and the wildness and seclusion of the Kitlope, makes for a world class experience.

McGowan recently sold his airplane and other equipment and has offered his guide-outfitting operation for sale.

Colin Shadrach, a licensed sport fishing guide, reported that grizzly bear hunting has been conducted from blinds set up by former guide outfitters and a hunter from Fort St. James on the Kitlope estuary.

The Steering Committee recommends a moratorium on guided trophy hunting until the management study is completed.

Guided Sport Fishing

During the 1990-91 season, eleven sport-fishing guides were licensed to operate in the Kitlope for a total of 475 angler days. Six of these guides reported 175 actual angler days of activity. The two largest users were Harry McGowan (133 days) and Darryl Hodson (21 days). This past season 1991-92, nine of these guides applied for and were granted licenses for 595 angler days. Harry McGowan's quota remained the same at 120. Darryl Hodson, who had applied for 100 days last season, operated on the upper Kitlope, Lower Gansby and Tsaytis Rivers from a base camp on the upper Kitlope River. John Blackwell, who operates from a camp on the west shore of Kitlope Lake south of McGowan's camp, requested and received the largest quota of 300 angler days. Blackwell uses a Beaver aircraft to fly his guests into Kitlope Lake.

To date, the Fish and Wildlife Branch has granted all license applications. The figures above indicate that the demand for fly-in angler days is rapidly increasing.

On November 19, 1991, representatives of the Haisla Nation met with Tom Chamberlin, Regional Manager of the Fish and Wildlife branch of the Ministry of Environment in Smithers. The Haisla requested that no more angling and guide outfitting licenses be issued within the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem until a management plan acceptable to both the Provincial Government and the Haisla Nation has been put in place. A study of the angling carrying capacity of the river was also requested by the Haisla at this meeting. It is important that this study be undertaken within the larger context of an overall management plan.

The Steering Committee recommends that the use of aircraft, particularly in the vicinity of the Kitlope/Tsaytis estuary, lower Kitlope River, Kitlope Lake and the lower Tezwa River be limited to emergency purposes and research activities. If the use of aircraft can be managed so that it does not impact the wilderness experience of Rediscovery and ecotour participants, and is proven not to be detrimental to wildlife, consideration could be given to their use in the upper reaches of the Kitlope River and remote locations such as Ear Lake. During the interim period, and until a management plan is in place, the Steering Committee recommends that the Hodson family be permitted to continue their operation, subject to not using helicopters in the estuary, lower Kitlope River, Kitlope Lake and lower Tezwa River areas.

Wilderness Tourism Opportunities

The Kitlope has a high potential for low-impact wilderness tourism, as well as very high values as a benchmark protected area for comprehensive ecosystem research including prey-predator relationships within expansive undisturbed habitats. However, the potential for bear-people conflicts and other disturbances with wildlife is also high. For these reasons, careful guidelines will be required for effective management of an increased human presence, including proposed wilderness tourism, Rediscovery and research. Careful planning will also be required to minimize existing and potential conflicts between non-consumptive (e.g. wildlife viewing) and consumptive uses of wildlife (e.g. hunting). Logging would limit and probably destroy the high potential for combined wildlife viewing and natural history tours, and old-growth forest and wildlife research.

Due to the high density of black and grizzly bears and the existence of major bear travel trails along both sides of the valley bottom, waterbased, rather than trail, access for research and wilderness tourism would be the most compatible. However, over-use by visitors and researchers using both aircraft and boat transportation, in combination with already existing fishing and hunting uses, could lead to degradation of the quality wilderness experience presently available in the Kitlope. Until carrying capacity can be determined through study and low impact experimentation, a controlled visitor level of ten persons per day in the lower Kitlope is recommended as an interim measure.

Wildlife Viewing Seasons and Opportunities

Based on our field research and experience with conducting wildlife viewing tours in the Khutzeymateen and other locations, some key wildlife viewing opportunities have been identified.


The most rapidly growing sector of the tourism industry, ecotourism is reported to be growing at 30% annually. Essentially, ecotourism is an integration of the enjoyment of visiting a place with learning about ecology and nature. The most appropriate form is similar to Rediscovery, which has as its primary focus learning about nature and human development. Typically, an ecotour is facilitated by naturalist guides who are themselves keen students of nature. Some of these tours offer a dual focus on cultural and nature appreciation and interpretation. Most currently operate in the most remote parts of the planet—from viewing the porcupine Caribou Herd in North Yukon National Park to helping on research projects in Antarctica. Ecotourism is rapidly growing in other areas (e.g. the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica). In British Columbia, ecotours with international appeal have been conducted by sailboat, kayak and inflatable boat into South Moresby National Park, by raft on the Tatshenshini and Stikine Rivers, and by sailboat and inflatable boat into the Khutzeymateen. Some ouffitters who have historically earned most of their revenue from trophy hunting are increasingly guiding clients armed with cameras instead of guns into remote wilderness areas.

Sailboat-Based Ecotours

Two ecotour development scenarios are recommended for initial consideration and experimentation in the Kitlope. The first would be based from large sailboats anchored outside the Kitlope estuary. This scenario offers the advantage of relatively simple logistics since guests would stay overnight and be fed on board ship. Day trips could be conducted from this boat by canoe or inflatable boat into the estuary during the Spring season to observe grizzly or moose. Ecotour groups can also observe and study smaller animals, birds, rodents, insects, and plant communities which are abundant in the estuary Another attraction is easy viewing of mountain goat on the ledges above the west shore near the end of Gardner Canal.

Small boats can navigate the side channels of the estuary during high tide, enabling guests to venture deep into the estuary from the relative safety of small boats. Several high quality ecosites have been located in the estuary where guests can observe, study and photograph old growth Sitka spruce, bear trails and rubbing trees, and nurse logs within the flood plain of the estuary. Some of these sites are exceptionally beautiful and interesting examples of the old-growth coastal temperate rain forest.

Other day trips can be made by outboard power boats up the lower Kitlope River to Kitlope Lake and the lower part of the Tezwa River. Navigation of these rivers is tricky and requires an experienced boat operator with good knowledge of the river. The Haisla consider Kitlope Lake to be a special spiritual place. Haisla people lived in camps and villages along this lake and fished and trapped several days travel by canoe up the Tezwa and Kitlope Rivers. Accompanied by Haisla guides, guests could visit the remains of old Haisla hunting and fishing camps and learn about the traditional subsistence life style and cultural sites of the Haisla people. Good fishing areas include the confluence with the upper Kitlope just below the mouth of the Lake and the confluence of Kalitan Creek with the Tezwa River. During good weather, these areas are extremely scenic and offer exceptional opportunities for wilderness photography.

Three ecotour operators have approached the Haisla Nation seeking permission to guide clients into the Kitlope. They operate from large sailboats equipped with canoes, kayaks and inflatable boats, and offer the services of naturalists as guides.

Ocean Visions. This tour company, operated by Tom Ellison and Dave Freeze, conducts tours based from their 65' sailboat, Ocean Light, into the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Khutzeymateen Valley, the B.C. Coast, Gulf Islands and Southeast Alaska. Their increasingly popular tour of the Khutzeymateen Valley, which is located at the end of the Khutzeymateen Inlet north of Prince Rupert, focuses on the viewing of grizzly bears and the ecology of the valley. They will be conducting an experimental tour into the Kitlope on April 29 through May 7, 1992. The tour will include side trips from their sailboat, which will anchor just outside the Kitlope estuary, through the channels of the estuary by canoe during high tide, and up the lower Kitlope River to Kitlope Lake and the lower Tezwa River by small outboard powered boat. The Ocean Light can accommodate up to eight guests, plus a crew of two persons and a guide.

The tour will focus on the study of estuary habitat for grizzly and moose, observation of mountain goats on the east facing slopes above the south end of Gardner Canal, and the old growth Sitka spruce forests which line the lower Kitlope and Tezwa Rivers. This study will be coordinated by Wayne McCrory. Guests will participate by assisting in the observation and recording of wildlife.

Ocean Visions plans to spend about four days in the Kitlope plus another four days sailing from Kitamaat village, and returning to Prince Rupert enroute to the Khutzeymateen. They propose to hire a Haisla person to serve as cultural interpreter, river guide and boatsman.

The second proposal of a tour into the Kitlope during the 1992 season came from Deva Charters, Ltd., which has been conducting sailing charters in the Queen Charlotte islands. The third was made by Bill Evans of San Diego, California, who proposed to organize two trips.

The Steering Committee has decided to proceed with the first of these three proposed ecotours on an experimental basis, subject to the provision that a Haisla guide be hired to work with the operator, and that a letter requesting permission to conduct the tour specify that it would be approved on a one-time experimental basis. The Steering Committee has decided to wait on entering into additional agreements with other operators until the results are known from the experimental tour. Permission for future tour boat operations will be granted by the proposed management committee. In any event, until the carrying capacity can be determined and a management plan is in place, it is recommended that no more than one tour boat should operate from the estuary at any one time. The proposed schedules for the two tours will not conflict with one another or with the operation of the Rediscovery Camp during August.

A Round Trip Ecotour in the Kitlope

A second ecotour development scenario would utilize a base camp near the head of Kitlope Lake from which to stage a 66 kilometer round trip by powerboat, foot and raft. This journey would begin by powerboat up Kitlope Lake 11 kilometers, and up the Tezwa River another 13 kilometers to the confluence of a creek flowing from the east. This creek joins another, which flows east to join with the upper Kitlope. It may be possible to construct a trail of about 12 kilometers to enhance this overland link between the two rivers. After hiking this trail, parties could float down 30 kilometers of the upper Kitlope River back to base camp. Rafts for the float trip could be transported by jet powered inflatable boat up to where the trail meets the upper Kitlope River.

This is a trip that could be truly world class. It would include opportunities to explore and visit an incredibly beautiful, diverse and wild place in nature, learn about traditional Haisla sustainable use and management of the area, and experience several different means of transportation within a vast wilderness. The option of participating in the research activities could also be integrated into the experience.

At this point, such a trip remains a concept that needs to be tested for feasibility. To safely conduct it, the bear hazard on the proposed trail route needs to be carefully assessed and the feasibility of providing reliable transportation on the fast flowing Kitlope River to be tested during periods of extreme high and low water. Radio communication from key points along the route would have to be established. Last summer, navigation on the upper Kitlope was blocked by a large logjam about seven kilometers above the confluence with the outlet of Kitlope Lake. Safe navigation of the upper Kitlope may require periodic removal or opening up of dangerous log jams.

One possibility might be to utilize the proposed Rediscovery Camp during May, June and September as a base for this round trip. For safety and logistical reasons, a base camp is essential for a tour of this type.

This ecotour should initially be limited to a maximum of ten guests plus a staff of three or four persons. The season of operation could start in May and run through September, a total of five months. The Rediscovery Base Camp could be available for the months of May, June and September.


A preliminary four year budget for the above outlined ecotourism activities indicates that by the third year of operation, approximately $120,000 in revenue could be generated. About eight persons would be employed by the proposed ecotourism activities. This does not include other persons employed on tour boats and guiding fishing trips into the remote backcountry of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem.

Other Ecotour Possibilities

Other forms of wilderness tourism may be appropriate for consideration. These include more extensive river rafting, and winter trips by boat, sled and/or ski. In addition, demand is expected to increase for unguided public uses such as sport-fishing, random hunting for moose and bear, and wilderness sight-seeing, wildlife viewing and hiking.

One possibility for accommodating public wildlife viewing in the future would be to construct one or more viewing towers on the forested slopes across the lower Kitlope River from the estuary, equipped with powerful telescopes or binoculars with which to view grizzly bear and other wildlife from a safe distance, and in a way that will not drive animals from their prime habitat.


The management approach recommended by the Steering Committee for the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem weaves together the concepts of preserving ecological benchmarks, integrating appropriate land uses, cooperating through co-management, and encouraging cultural continuity and revitalization.

The overall recommended management approach is by necessity comprehensive. It integrates the need to preserve the cultural continuity of the Haisla people with the need to preserve the ecological integrity of an exceptionally large undeveloped watershed. The recommended approach would involve natives and non-natives in the long term management of the Kitlope.

It is recommended that human use be limited and carefully controlled to minimize impacts, so that nature will be preserved intact for study, for future generations, and to provide crucial information necessary in restoring mismanaged forests. The size and intactness of the ecosystem make it especially valuable for large scale, long term scientific research that is not possible anywhere else in British Columbia, and in few other places in the world. Those same characteristics combined size and intactness make the Kitlope extremely valuable for the spiritual values which, though unquantifiable, are highly valued by society.

Clear guidelines will be necessary to minimize use conflicts and detrimental effects on sensitive wildlife. It will require considerable flexibility and genuine cooperative effort to achieve an acceptable balance, during both the short and the long run. It will ask the willingness of the Haisla to forego hunting in some key wildlife areas that are important to visitors and ecotourists; demand of everyone the absolute protection of forest research sites; limit the now unchecked use of aircraft and jetboats; insist on unequivocal respect of Haisla burial grounds, sacred sites and activities.

Underpinning the management prescriptions for each individual use would be a general agreement prohibiting commercial logging, large-scale commercial hydroelectric development, mining or road development. In general terms, the continuity of Haisla traditional subsistence uses, appropriate research, recreation, and educational uses would be specified in this agreement.

Greater Kitlope Ecosystem Wilderness Preserve

It is recommended that the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem be established and protected as a wilderness preserve to be co-managed by the Haisla Nation and the British Columbia and Canadian Governments.

At the present time, there are two types of wilderness preserves in the Province of British Columbia: the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and Ecological Reserves. In addition, parts of some of our provincial parks are managed to maintain their wilderness values. All of these are managed under statutory provisions of the B.C. Provincial Government. Unfortunately, none of these forms of management allow for significant participation of native Indian organizations. B.C. Parks is working with the Nisga'a on a system of co-management for the new Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park in the Nass River Valley. Although hunting and traditional subsistence uses are currently allowed in parts of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, these consumptive uses are not allowed within established ecological reserves. Most ecological reserves are relatively small in size with the exception of the Gladis Lake Ecological Reserve in the Spatsizi Provincial Park.

New forms of cooperative management are needed to incorporate full participation of native Indian organizations with provincial and federal resource management of protected wilderness areas. For the Kitlope it is recommended that management authority be delegated to a management team composed of representatives from the Haisla Nation and the British Columbia and Canadian Governments.

NANA-KILA Management Agreement

To protect and guide the management of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystems, a management agreement could be written to operate under the statutory laws of British Columbia. A good model for this is the Gwaii Hannas/South Moresby Agreement. The agreement would specify general permitted and prohibited uses as well as a mechanism to coordinate these uses to minimize conflicts among them. This agreement would delegate management authority to a board of directors and specify a broad-based consultative process to be employed in policy planning processes.

NANA-KILA Board of Directors

The composition of the governing body must reflect the Haisla's principal authority. However, in the interest of sharing with others, the Haisla people are willing to enter into a system of co-management as long as they have an equal say with the combined representatives of the provincial and federal governments in the management of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. The Steering Committee recommends that the board of directors be composed of representatives of the British Columbia Government, the Canadian Government and the Haisla Nation.

Guided by the management agreement, the managing board of directors would be responsible for all policy decisions which affect uses taking place in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. The directors of the research program, the Rediscovery program, ecotour operators and the NANA-KILA Watchmen could annually report to this board of directors.

NANA-KILA Watchman Program

A NANA-KILA Watchman Program is recommended to provide essential field monitoring, coordination, enforcement and safety protection services within the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. The model for a "Watchman" program has been successfully developed in other areas, including Gwaii Hannas (South Moresby) in the Queen Charlotte Islands by the Haida Nation," and in the Stein Tribal Park by the Lytton and Mt. Currie Indian Bands.

The Kitlope NANA-KILA Program would coordinate communications; between various users. A base station is proposed for the Kitlope which will provide essential services to all users of the area, possibly located in the vicinity of OGU-WALLA, the Raven/Eagle Clans traditional village site located near the head of Kitlope Lake.

The NANA-KILA Watchman operation would be staffed with one or two Haisla from May through September. A NANA-KILA staff of two or three seasonal employees plus a full time director would be paid for their services from a budget to be established for management of the proposed Greater Kitlope Ecosystem Wilderness.


It is important that adequate funds be provided from the start to finance an effective policy planning and management structure for the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. This would include a budget for regular meetings of the board of directors, and support staff as required. Although the government representatives would likely be salaried government personnel with expense budgets, other representatives may need an honorarium for time spent plus travel and out-of-pocket expense reimbursement. A secretariat or support staff of at least one full-time person would be required to handle correspondence, prepare minutes, draft position statements for the board members and handle logistics. Consulting services may be necessary during the first year to help prepare management policy, maps and other documents and to bring required expertise to board meetings.

The NANA-KILA Board of Directors will require a budget to cover the cost of meeting on a regular basis, a secretariat, and funds to cover the cost of preparing and implementing their policy plan for the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. After the initial year, funding needs are expected to be approximately $35,000 per year, and the activities of the board of directors will decline to one person working approximately half time.

Once the necessary equipment and facilities are in place, an annual budget for the proposed NANA-KILA Watchman Program of approximately $50,000 should be adequate. Employment opportunities would be created for one full-time watchman and two seasonal assistants.

Existing Tenures

Existing tenures in the Kitlope include Tree Farm License 41, eight quotas for licensed fishing guides, one outfitter who guides trophy hunts as well as fishing, and two licenses of occupation for the cabins located at the old eulachon camp site on the lower Kitlope River.

The Steering Committee is firmly against commercial logging, mining, hydro-electric or road development in the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. The Committee recommends that the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem, along with the Brim River watershed, be removed from TFL 41.

The Steering Committee also feels strongly that the use of motorized equipment (i.e. motorboats and aircraft) would be very detrimental to the operation of the proposed Rediscovery Camp and ecotours and to the wilderness values of the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem. For this reason, the use of aircraft and motorboats should generally be restricted in the Lower Kitlope River area and in the Kitlope Lake Valley to emergency and limited research and ecotour support. Regulations of the use of motorized equipment will be established by the board of directors and enforced by the NANA-KILA Watchmen.

Furthermore, the Steering Committee feels that guided trophy hunting is not compatible with management objectives described in this report. The steering committee therefore recommends that the existing license for guiding trophy hunting within the area be immediately terminated.

A comprehensive assessment of the carrying capacity of the area for all types of fishing must be conducted. This analysis should be undertaken within the context of evaluating impacts upon other users of the area and determining appropriate means of dispersing these activities in locations which will minimize impacts upon research, Rediscovery and ecotour activities. Quotas for guided sport fishing operators will be determined by the board of directors and enforced by the NANA-KILA Watchmen.

The two existing cabins at the Haisla eulachon camp on the lower Kitlope River can continue to be utilized by the parties who built them without interfering with management objectives. The older cabin was constructed by Glen Craig, Bruce Craig and Frank Schooner, employees of Alcan working at Kemano, during the summer of 1988. Officially, the license of occupation for this cabin is in the name of the Kemano Recreation Society. The builders of this cabin have generously allowed others to use it when they are not there and the condition of the cabin has been maintained in fairly good order. These people have used the area for purposes which are largely compatible with proposed management objectives. In the future however, hunting activities should be regulated by the board of directors and the NANA-KILA watchmen. The newer cabin was constructed by the Haisla Nation during the summer of 1990 and has served as the base of operations for field work conducted by John Kelson as well as by members of the Haisla Nation visiting, fishing and hunting in the area.


The economic value of utilizing the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem for Rediscovery old-growth ecosystem research, and an appropriate level of eco and cultural tourism, can best be measured in terms of the values these activities return to society over the long haul. While it is impossible to place a dollar value on these intangible benefits, mention should be made of a purely economic factor, that of sustainable employment. A conservative estimate of the employment that could be generated by the proposed activities is summarized below. In total, at least thirty-three jobs could be created. Most of these jobs would be part-time or seasonal. Based on the number of months employed, the full-time equivalency is between twelve and thirteen jobs. As programs develop, the ultimate number of jobs created could be considerably higher.

Values that are likely to be of significant importance to society over the long run include:

Logging Option

Logging the Kitlope would be a money-losing operation for the company holding cutting rights, and would likely require massive subsidy from the provincial account. The best timber is scattered along long river corridors within the expansive Kitlope area, which would require higher than normal road building costs. Transportation of logs from the water dump in the Kitlope up Gardner Canal and Douglas Channel, reloading onto trucks at Kitimat and then trucking to the mill in Terrace, would be costly.

For these economic reasons, in its Management and Working Plan #4, Eurocan Pulp and Paper Company proposed that the southern productive area of 101,000 hectares, with a contributing annual allowable cut (AAC) of 186,000 cubic meters, be recognized as an inoperable area during the term of this plan, 1986-1990. The company cited the relocation of its coastal sawmilling base from Kitimat to Terrace and the depressed lumber market as reasons why operating within the southern portion of TFL #41 would be uneconomic. The AAC for the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem is 104,551 cubic meters. If this amount of logging were economically viable, it would create approximately 100 direct jobs, applying the provincial average of one job created per 1,000 cubic meters of wood cut. More difficult to calculate is the Long Run Sustainable Yield (LRSY) which is considerably less than the AAC within areas which include old growth forests. Prorating from figures from the Company's current Total Chance Development Plan for the Kitlope, 82,000 cubic meters was calculated as the LRSY. Again, if logging the Kitlope were economically viable, the LRSY would translate to approximately 82 direct jobs.

However, in our research, we have been unable to find any evidence that indicates that the economic viability of logging the southern part of TFL 41 has improved. In fact, the overall economic viability of B.C.'s forest industry has decreased during the six or seven years since Working Plan #4 was prepared.

A key problem for the company centers on the fact that it has been logging at a rate that cannot be sustained without logging unprofitable sites like the Kitlope. Most of its logging has taken place in the rich forest stands in the Kitimat River Valley. Essentially, a disproportionate amount of the best timber has been creamed from TFL 41. For this reason, the Chief Forester has instructed the company that it must begin logging the Kitlope during the next Working Plan Period 1991-1995. In the fall of 1990, the company announced a delay of the start of logging in the Kitlope until 1992. The current logging deferral established by the Minister of Forests expires in August 1992.

There may be a solution to this dilemma. During the past year, Eurocan Pulp and Paper Company purchased T.M. Logging with 100,000 cubic meters of annual cut in the nearby Kalum area, and Wedeene Logging with 170,000 cubic meters within the North Coast TSA. Volumes from these areas could replace the timber supply that would have come, at unacceptable economic and environmental cost, from the Kitlope.

In December of 1991, the president of the two parent companies which own Eurocan Pulp and Paper Company expressed to Chief Councillor Gerald Amos that they did not want to log the Kitlope.

Clearly, a special opportunity exists for the government of British Columbia to remove the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem from TFL 41, and to protect it as a wilderness. One of the most significant tasks facing British Columbia today is the need to make a transition to an equitable, sustainable society. There is no better place to meet that challenge than the Greater Kitlope Ecosystem.

The Greater Kitlope Ecosystem: A Wilderness Planning Framework
8.5 x 11 inches, 46 pages
© 1992 Ecotrust


Copyright © 2013 Ecotrust