Twelve years ago a group of Bella Cool residents, who shared an interest in the long-range protection of fisheries resources on the Central Coast, got together to form a registered society aimed at working toward that goal. The group was initially spawned after the federal and provincial governments launched a program called ‘Watershed-based Fish Sustainability Planning.’ At the outset, the new program promised to provide an insurgence of funding for watersheds that were able to achieve a designated level of sustainability.
As the Bella Coola Watershed is largely free of the development and heavy pollution that affects other river systems, it seemed logical that this watershed could meet the required criteria and achieve the designation of ‘sustainable.’ This would allow local fisheries operators to market their products as such, adding a premium to the pricing of Bella Coola seafood on the world market. While senior governments have all but abandoned the program, the BCWCS remains one of approximately three BC watersheds that have moved forward with the process of achieving this designation. And along the way, the society has undertaken to explore many different ways to achieve fish sustainability, and has several significant accomplishments to boast in this respect.
The Society’s Mission Statement states that the group is “a non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to the protection, restoration and enhancement of fish and fish habitat within the watersheds of the Central Coast.” Some of the local initiatives undertaken in the past 12 years include having the Atnarko River declared a ‘Motor-free’ river system, performing mapping and survey work on several key habitat areas within the watershed and most recently, purchasing and posting signs on many prominent tributaries that provide the name of the streams in both English and Nuxalk languages.
But perhaps the most significant contribution to the long-term health of the watershed is one that isn’t quite as noticeable. The Society has been dedicated to the collection and cataloguing of all relevant resources concerning past watershed activities and currently houses an impressive collection of maps, reports and research data from past organizations, including the recent flood response activities undertaken by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Membership to the Society is open to the public and the 2013 AGM will include a presentation of past activities as well as an informal strategic planning session. This is aimed at ensuring the goals of the organization reflect the projected needs of the watersheds and community, and that strategies are in place to address these needs in the future. Does the Society have a place in assisting with flood mitigation works? Perhaps it might have a voice in ensuring that habitat is maintained, and even enhanced, when flood protection works are undertaken. Your input is invited and it’s hoped that many more residents will take an active role in the organization and the future of the Bella Coola Watershed.
The Bella Coola Watershed Conservation Society 2013 AGM will be held at the School District Board Office in Hagensborg on April 3, at 7pm. The meeting will be preceded at 6pm with a presentation and followed by the open planning session, for an evening of education and exploration. We hope to see you there. For more information, please contact the BCWCS Coordinator, Russ Hilland, at 982-2306.