Watersheds 2020 Forum – some lessons from the Lower Fraser River

Join Raincoast and partners at Watersheds 2020.

The Lower Fraser river as seen from the air with city in the background.

Photo by Yuri Choufour.

Since 2017, Raincoast has been collaborating with the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance (LFFA), West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) and the Martin Conservation Decisions Lab at the University of British Columbia (UBC) to address the systemic failure of governments and agencies to protect salmon habitat or incorporate Indigenous knowledge in their management of the Lower Fraser River and estuary. 

As of 2018 , more than one third of the unique populations of Fraser River salmon and steelhead are considered at risk of extinction. Additionally, there are more than 100 other species of conservation concern within the Fraser estuary alone. However, previous government decision-making authorities, such as the now-defunct Fraser River Estuary Management Plan, failed to engage Indigenous communities or provide sustainable funding mechanisms. Despite the precarious state of salmon and their habitat in the Lower Fraser and estuary, there is currently no overarching governance structure or watershed plan. 

The Lower Fraser Working Group has been exploring pathways for a First Nations and community-driven governance framework that fosters the resilience of the Lower Fraser River and the species and people that rely on it. On October 16th, 2020, the Working Group members Murray Ned and Ian Hamilton of the Indigenous-led LFFA, Rayanna-Seymour Hourie and Deborah Carlson of WCEL, and Raincoast’s Ross Dixon and Kristen Walters will present their work at the Watersheds 2020 online conference. 

Despite the precarious state of salmon and their habitat in the Lower Fraser and estuary, there is currently no overarching governance structure or watershed plan.  Tweet This!

This decade-long forum, led by the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, brings together the freshwater community to build collaboration and discuss tangible solutions to pressing watershed concerns. Watersheds 2020, ‘Stepping Stones to Watershed Governance’, runs from October 15-16.

Raincoast will be hosting a session titled, ‘Watershed governance in a complex geography: Lessons and updates from the Lower Fraser Working Group’. This session will occur on Friday, October 16th at 1pm PST.

Presentations

Murray Ned, Executive Director of LFFA, will provide a context for the Lower Fraser, describing the importance of the river to the Lower Fraser First Nations, and the need and importance of the Lower Fraser Working Group.

Deborah Carlson, Staff Lawyer at WCEL, will discuss how previous government decision-making bodies, including the Fraser River Estuary Management Plant, have failed to engage with First Nations.

Rayanna Seymour-Hourie, Staff Lawyer and RELAW Program Manager at WCEL, will present the Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water (RELAW) program, which draws on stories of elders to create a summary of legal principles pertinent to land , resources, governance and legal traditions. The RELAW program has been compiling stories and wisdom from Lower Fraser First Nations over the last several years, with the aim of developing a plan and mechanisms for enforcing their laws in regards to environmental disputes. 

Ian Hamilton, Fisheries Biologist of LFFA, will present the First Nations-led Fish Habitat Restoration Strategy, which will provide a framework for identifying and prioritizing freshwater habitat restoration projects in territories of Lower Fraser First Nations. LFFA has been supporting the Katzie First Nation with technical expertise to restore freshwater salmon habitat in the Upper Pitt River over the last several years. Hamilton will highlight this project as a tangible example of Indigenous-led decision-making and restoration of freshwater spawning habitat. 

Ross Dixon, Communications and Development Director at Raincoast, will discuss how we are collaboratively addressing systemic failures in salmon habitat protection, while highlighting our lessons learned in supporting Indigenous-led restoration and conservation initiatives in the Lower Fraser. 

Kristen Walters, Lower Fraser Salmon Conservation Program Coordinator at Raincoast, will present the Adapting for Ecological Resilience Network initiative, which aims to rapidly advance adaptation for ecological resilience of the Lower Fraser River.

To hear about these collaborative initiatives tune into the Watersheds 2020 Forum on October 15-16th. Registration is free.

Kristen Walters working with a net in the stream bed.

Kristen Walters

Kristen Walters is the Lower Fraser River Salmon Conservation Program Coordinator. She has an M.Sc. from Simon Fraser University. She’s here for the rain, salmon, eagles, and the Lower Fraser.