Healing a Hurt Land: Gámdas Tlagee

Graham Richard —

A new era of restoration has begun at the mouth of Gámdas Gandlee Kamdis River. Once described as a ‘fish factory’, the wetland forest served as an abundant salmon nursery with the area’s streams running directly into a rich estuary ideal for juvenile salmon. The resulting natural wealth drew kuuniisii ancestors to Gámdas Tlagee the Gámdas area to hunt ducks and geese, collect eggs, and catch salmon. 

One hundred and fifty years ago fires swept vast swathes of forest on XaaydaGa Gwaay.yaay IinaGwaay Graham Island. These burned Gámdas Tlagee’s northern edge, leaving a fringe of fire-origin k’aang hemlock and ts’uu Western red cedar. The fires stopped short of the marshy woods below. In 2010, old-growth k’aang and ts’uu grew in these lower areas, with kayd Sitka spruce filling in for ts’uu towards the tideline. Trees up to 322 years old reached heights of 35 metres. 

The woods were interspersed with Culturally Modified Trees, showing kuusiisii used and occupied the area. Settlers living at the evanescent town of Graham Central also left numerous turn-of-the-century objects scattered underfoot, including a hand-made wooden rowboat. 

In 2010, three logging companies cut the area. The companies purchased District Lot 413 as ‘private’ land on June 25, 2010 for $124,000. They then cut 28,000 to 35,000 cubic metres of timber from 62.27 hectares. In 2015, a provincial court found each of the three parties guilty on 20 counts of environmentally destructive logging practices. 

On January 26, 2018, the Council of the Haida Nation and the Nature Conservancy of Canada partnered to start the centuries-long recovery process. They aim to care for and restore the area’s forests and wetlands. The NCC went to lengths to change their organization’s policies so it could work with CHN, and the two organization’s values largely overlap. NCC has already raised $1.2 million for restoration work. 

The area they will restore falls amongst several previously established protected areas, creating a patchwork of protection. In 1993, the Nature Trust established a 26.5-hectare protected area 400 metres northwest. In 1999, the Province of BC designated 26.91 hectares of Gámdas Kaahlii’s western shore as conservation lands. In 2009, the NCC established a 58-hectare protected area 500 metres southwest. 

In May 2017 the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development protected a further 240.75 hectares surrounding the recovering forest. FLNRORD designated the area a “Section 16 map reserve” to conserve it for fish and wildlife. 

Finally, the recovering forest drains directly into neighbouring Gámdas Kaahlii Kumdis Bay, which is protected as part of Gámdas Protected Area’s marine foreshore. Gámdas Protected Area’s terrestrial component covers a further 1,896 hectares 2.5 kilometres north. 

All together these variously designated protected areas leave a mere 130 metres of Gámdas Kaahlii’s shoreline unprotected. 

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  1. 1
    Harold White

    If the media has reported this carnage correctly, I understand that one party purchased the land and two parties were logging companies contracted to the landowner. All three were found guilty. I believe the logging companies filed for bankruptcy or dissolved their business which may have protected them from the Court’s findings.

  2. 4
    Kiku Dhanwant

    It is good to read about all the restoration work going on in this culturally and ecologically rich area. The Kumdis Bay estuary is some of the most ecologically rich salmon rearing and waterfowl habitat on on what used to be dense eelgrass beds on Haida Gwaii. This area was permitted for log storage decades ago but those permits have long since expired as far as I know (would be good to check the status of these permits) and the Husby Forest Products has been told to move their log booms to Ferguson Bay. Despite objections from CHN and many others, no one has enforced these directives. Husby and perhaps other logging companies continue to boom logs in this area in less than 1 m at the lowest of low tides, legal limit is 12 m) on what used to be rich eelgrass beds that have turned in a muddy mess. Just this weekend we saw a log boom of almost all cedar almost a km long. Perhaps moving this illegal log storage to Ferguson Bay could be a way of pressuring BC and Canadian government agencies to promote restoration of this carbon rich salmon rearing habitat.

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