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On Friday, October 17th, elected officials, government staff and NGO observers made the journey to the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola near Squamish  to join hosts Squamish Nation for the third 2014 Howe Sound Community Forum.    In total 63 people came together for a packed October 17th Agenda continuing on the theme of comprehensive land and marine planning for Howe Sound.

P1080780Chiefs Gibby Jacob and Bill Williams, Council members Chris Lewis, Josh Joseph and Richard Baker were warm hosts during an otherwise damp day in Howe Sound.  The morning’s traditional welcome was followed by a well received announcement from Squamish Nation stating they have decided to start the process of a Marine Use Plan, with the goal to identify areas in the marine environment they want to protect.  The Squamish Nation’s intention through the Howe Sound Community Forum is to forge a partnership, appeal to agencies and local governments for help.

Squamish Nation has in place the Xay Temixw – Sacred Land, Land Use Plan which describes the community’s vision for the future of the forests and wilderness of the traditional territory.  A Marine Use Plan for Howe Sound is the next phase of planning that seeks to find ways to sustain their livelihoods, and the livelihoods of neighbouring communities while still protect the ecosystem.

Following up from May 2nd Forum at which time communities had expressed their support to further explore the Cumulative Effects Assessment tool, staff from the Province’s Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) staff were prepared to present next steps.P1080786

In the presentation  Howe Sound CEA Proposal Presentation_Oct 17 2014 Final (HSCF) the offer to proceed with a  Cumulative Effects Assessment   to be undertaken within the Provincial CEA Framework, but tailored to local governments’ request for an area-wide approach was made. In order to focus on the Howe Sound area, the CEA will generally be based upon the Landscape Units around Howe Sound, with assessment work commencing in early 2015.

The assessment would begin with environmental values that would likely take 2 years to complete.  More values would be added as time, resources and data become available.  This Cumulative Effects Assessment is a decision tool that would assist all levels of government in planning for Howe Sound.

The Forum members were supportive of the offer and are returning to their communities with a CEA for Howe Sound Resolution – Oct. 172014 and it is also recommended that Councils continue its commitment to the Howe Sound Community Forum and its ongoing contributions towards achieving comprehensive land and marine planning for Howe Sound over 2014-2018.  The next steps will be to finalize the Howe Sound boundary study area, funding and partnerships.  This CEA assessment will complement and contribute the Squamish Nation’s marine use planning.

Michelle Molnar Ecosystems analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation presented the near final Natural Capital report for Howe Sound with a final report by the end of the year.  Adam Taylor Director with Marine Life Sanctuaries Society presented a film of the underwater Glass Sponge Reefs of Howe Sound which opened many people’s eyes to these unique forms worth protecting.

With the municipal elections taking place in November, the forum will comprise of new representatives that will continue the momentum with planning for Howe Sound.  For those resigning from their municipal positions we invite them continue as advocates for Howe Sound.

In closing the meeting at the Summit Lodge, Council member Chris Lewis aptly stated ““All good things start at the top of a mountain, and flow their way into the sea.”

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