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On Friday October 13th, 2017, elected officials, local government staff and non-government observers  filled Exploration Hall at YMCA Camp Elphinstone in West Howe Sound for the Alt’Kitsem/Howe Sound Community Forum, hosted by the Sunshine Coast Regional District.

SCRD Chair Garry Nohr and Director Ian Winn of Area F, West Howe Sound, welcomed everyone noting the Forum was taking place on the unceded traditional territory of the Squamish Nation, between the spiritual place of K’l’k’elxn (Port Mellon) to the north, the food gathering place of Ch’kw’elhp (Gibsons Landing) to the south, and Cha7elkwnech (Gambier Island) to the east.

The morning started with several presentations from staff of the Ministry of Forests, Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD). Two of the three District Managers within this region, Derek Lefler, Sunshine Coast and Dave Southam, Sea to Sky, gave a joint presentation on provincial forestry management in the Sound followed by Q&A. Jeff Juthans, Resource Specialist for the South Coast Region provided a brief update status  on the Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) Howe Sound and Scott Barrett, Manager of Resource Management for this region  demonstrated an interactive decision making tool being developed within the Provincial CEA framework, noting  that the Howe Sound CEA provided some of the impetus for its development.

Aleria Ladwig, Ecosystems Approach Officer with Fisheries and Oceans Canada,  provided background on the Glass Sponge Reef Conservation initiatives in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound.  Forum members responded positively to the suggestion that local governments send letters of support regarding protection of the sites identified in the letter sent to stakeholders earlier in the month.

At the May 5, 2017 forum, forum members agreed to create a Forum task force to help move forward action items resulting  from the OceanWatch Report – Howe Sound Edition .  At this meeting Task Force co-chair Trustee Kate Stamford, introduced a recommendation in support of developing a “Howe Sound Marine Resource Guide” as a decision-making tool for local governments.   Dr. Andrew Day presented an example of this type of tool that was developed for the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  The Task Force will provide further information on possible participant’s roles and costing for a similar tool for consideration by Forum members.

Director Winn shared his points of view on West Howe Sound as Area Director and resident overlooking the water where he views diverse activities including log booming, cruise ships,  recreation boating and Fisheries and Oceans Canada protection and rescue services.

Ruth Simons provided an update on the Howe Sound Biosphere Region Initiative.   The project was first introduced the Forum a year ago and written support in principle was subsequently provided by  three regional districts and member communities.

NDP MLA Nicholas Simons representing Powell/River Sunshine Coast, and Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy West Vancouver/Sea to Sky shared concerns related to key  regional issues such as planning  and transportation in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Community updates were provided for by representatives from each of the communities included Gibsons, Bowen Island, Squamish, Whistler, Islands Trust, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, the Metro Vancouver, the Gambier Island Local Trust area and Sunshine Coast and Squamish Lillooet Regional Districts.

Tim Turner of Sea to Sky Outdoor School, Pauline Le Bel, and author of the just published book Whale in the Door  and Kim Pederson of Howe Sound Pulp and Paper briefly outlined the relevant activities in the Sound.

After the close, 40 attendees participated in a tour of West Howe Sound led by Director Ian Winn.  Sites of interest included Terminal Forest Products, WestCoast Log Homes and Howe Sound Pulp and Paper.  Ian Ross Manager at Terminal Forest Products and meeting attendee followed up with this note:

“I am in awe of the altruism, passion, and level of diligence expressed by those presenting at today’s event.

Given a chance, the sweet spots for balancing the enormity of values under consideration in land, marine, and air usage will prevail for Howe Sound.”

The next forum will be in May 2018.

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