Eli Enns

Canada Has Three Years to Increase Protected Areas by 60% And, Um, It’s Not Going to Be Easy

Hart River Valley Peel Watershed. Photo by Juri Peepre

In less than three years, Canada has to increase the amount of land and inland waters it protects by 60 per cent to meet a commitment under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

The commitment requires signatories to legally designate 17 per cent as “protected areas.” Those can include national, provincial and territorial parks, as well as Indigenous protected areas, tribal parks and privately protected spaces. But to qualify, the areas must be closed to industrial activity.

It’s not going to be easy.

This First Nation Just Banned Industrial Logging and Mining from Vancouver Island Territory

Connection to the land and ocean has guided the Ahousaht people throughout their history and that bond is now at the root of a new sustainable economic development plan for the First Nation whose territory spans the heart of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Under the first phase of the plan, announced Thursday, there will be no mining or industrial logging in Ahousaht traditional territory and about Tweet: 80% of 171,000 hectares of #Ahousaht traditional territory will be set aside as cultural & natural areas http://bit.ly/2kvGsTu #bcpoli80 per cent of almost 171,000 hectares will be set aside as cultural and natural areas “to conserve biological diversity, natural landscapes and wilderness and to provide to Ahousaht continued spiritual, cultural and sustenance use.”

During recent years there has been controversy in Ahousaht territory over a proposed open pit copper mine on Catface Mountain on Flores Island and over old-growth logging, which was halted after Ahousaht hereditary chiefs declared a moratorium in 2015.

WATCH: Halalt First Nation’s Fight Against Vancouver Island Pulp Mill Pollution

Tweet: When a pulp mill was renovated in 1980s, ancestral remains of Halalt #FirstNation were found under a cement heli pad http://bit.ly/2ab7oHLWhen the Catalyst Paper Company’s pulp mill was renovated in the 1980s, ancestral remains of the Halalt First Nation were found underneath a cement helicopter pad. The discovery was yet another piece of evidence that the mill, located in Crofton, B.C. about 45 kilometres north of Victoria, was built on culturally sensitive First Nation’s territory.

But according to the Halalt First Nation, cultural damage is only a part of the harm caused by the industrial facility, operating since 1957, that is responsible for the release of endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing dioxins and furans into the local environment.

According to Eli Enns, director of operations for the Halaht, the ongoing pollution in the region is wreaking havoc on the local environment.

You have the Crofton mill itself which has unfortunately cemented right over sacred burial sites of the Halalt Coast Salish peoples,” Enns says in a new film, premiered by the nation here on DeSmog Canada (see below).

It has totally destroyed the estuary and traditional food systems for the Halalt. It has inundated the airshed with all kinds of toxic pollutants which will probably have long lasting and unpredictable effects on the health of the Halalt people and other local communities.”

Dioxins and furans, the byproduct of a chlorine bleaching process, bioaccumulate in the food chain and are stored in the fatty tissues of animals. The presence of dioxins in animals has been linked to birth defects, spontaneous abortions and tumors.

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