Indigenous guardians on the Central Coast will now have the same legal authority as park rangers in parks and protected areas of ancestral territories.
Under a new first-of-its-kind pilot program in B.C. six Kitasoo Xai’xais and five Nuxalk guardians recently received park ranger appointments during ceremonies held in Klemtu and Bella Coola to mark the official launch of the Shared Compliance and Enforcement Pilot Program.
Chief Councillor Doug Neasloss of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation said the program represents a paradign shift in working together.
“This will set a new path for our guardians and we’re able to come together today because of the people in the background on all levels helping to make it possible, making big moves to get to where we are today. If there’s an example of reconciliation, this is it.”
The Nuxalk and Kitasoo Xai’xais Nations have had long-standing guardian watchmen programs and collaboratively manage, with BC Parks, all provincial parks and protected areas in their territories.
Guardians monitor more than 40 protected areas, such as Tweedsmuir Park, the Fiordland Conservancy, Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy and Dean River Conservancy.
The new pilot program supports the Nations’ stewardship responsibilities by designating guardians with legislative authorities so they can conduct compliance and enforcement activities within their territories.
“As Nuxalk, we hold an unrelinquishable su7ulm (title right) over our territories, which we have successfully stewarded for thousands of years,” said Chief Samuel Schooner of the Nuxalk Nation.
“Our guardians represent the modern link to our ancestral responsibilities, and we are proud to see them take on the additional authority that comes with a BC Parks ranger designation. We feel confident that this new agreement will enhance the protection of our parks and protected areas and is a testament to the strong working relationship we have built with BC Parks.”
In June 2022, the Kitasoo Xai’xais and Nuxalk First Nations, along with BC Parks, signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the pilot program.
Since then, a technical working group formed between the partners, with support from the Coastal Stewardship Network, and has been collaboratively developing the components required to support the successful implementation of the pilot.
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, said the new pilot program strengthens collaboration between the Kitasoo Xai’xais and Nuxalk Nations and the Province, and builds on a long-term, shared approach to enhance protection of the rich ecological and cultural values found in the central coast.
“The inclusion of these Nations’ culture, values, knowledge and laws offers great benefit to our evolving approaches to provincial land and water stewardship.”
Expected to be in place until 2025, the Shared Compliance and Enforcement Pilot Program will then be evaluated by each party involved to determine its future.