Gwaii Haanas Gina 'Waadluxan KilGulhGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan


The Islands of Beauty

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site are located 130 kilometres off the northwest coast of British Columbia and cover the southern third of Haida Gwaii. Gwaii Haanas means “Islands of Beauty” and is part of Haida territory.

For the last 25 years, Gwaii Haanas has been co-operatively managed by the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada through the Archipelago Management Board (AMB). The AMB is responsible for all aspects of planning, management, operation and use of Gwaii Haanas. It is made up of three Haida Nation and three Government of Canada representatives (two from Parks Canada, one from Fisheries and Oceans Canada). Consistent with the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement (2010) and Gwaii Haanas Agreement (1993), the AMB makes decisions by consensus.

Gwaii Haanas is a 5,000 km² protected area of land and sea that encompasses more than 160 islands. Almost 6,800 species have been documented in the area, including 42 species-at-risk and over 20 marine mammals. The archaeological record of human occupation dates back at least 14,000 years. Today, Gwaii Haanas is an important area for Haida traditional use, commercial and recreational fishing, education and tourism. On average 2,500-3,000 people visit Gwaii Haanas each year.

A National First

The Gwaii Haanas Gina 'Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan is the first of its kind, setting direction on how the protected area will be managed from mountain top to sea floor. The plan was co-operatively developed by the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada.

In 1985, the Haida Nation designated Gwaii Haanas as a Haida Heritage Site. Soon after, the Government of Canada designated the Gwaii Haanas terrestrial area as a National Park Reserve and, in 1993, the landmark Gwaii Haanas Agreement was signed by the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada. In this ground breaking agreement, often referred to as ‘an agreement before its time’, the two parties agreed on the need to protect the area’s natural, cultural and marine treasures, but also recognized their differing views on title to the area. In 2010, the Government of Canada designated the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, hence the three-part name where land, sea and people are integral to a management plan.

Until now, management direction for Gwaii Haanas was laid out in two separate plans for the terrestrial and marine areas – the Management Plan for the Terrestrial Area (2003) and the Interim Management Plan and Zoning Plan for the Marine Area (2010). The Land-Sea-People plan fulfills the management planning requirements of both the Gwaii Haanas Agreement and the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement, as well as Canadian and Haida legislation.

The Land-Sea-People plan includes seven goals and six guiding principles. Together, they provide the foundation for all decisions made by the AMB. Objectives and targets described in the plan reflect AMB priorities for the next 10 years.

Zoning to Protect Ecological and Cultural Features

Zoning for the land and sea is also included in the Management Plan and aims to protect important ecological and cultural features while minimizing impacts on people’s livelihoods.

The Land-Sea-People Management Plan introduces four terrestrial zones:

  • Restricted access

  • Conditional access

  • Backcountry  

  • Infrastructure

Restricted and conditional access zones protect sensitive cultural and ecological sites. In restricted access areas, visitor access is not allowed. Conditional access areas protect sensitive sites while allowing visitor access under certain conditions. The backcountry zone protects the cultural and ecological resources in Gwaii Haanas while allowing visitor access. This zone comprises over 99% of the Gwaii Haanas terrestrial area. The infrastructure zone is used for sites where existing and/or new infrastructure is, or could be, located. For example: the Haida Gwaii Watchmen cabins.

The Land-Sea-People management plan includes three marine zones:

  • Restricted access

  • Strict protection

  • Multiple use

    The restricted access zone protects highly sensitive marine sites and does not allow access. The strict protection zone protects important ecological and cultural areas by prohibiting extractive activities, including commercial and recreational fishing and harvesting. The approved Land-Sea-People Management Plan strengthens marine protection by increasing areas of strict protection from 3 percent to 40 percent, contributing to marine protection on the British Columbia’s coast and Canada’s marine conservation targets. The multiple use zone allows for many different marine activities. Boat access and anchoring are allowed in strict protection and multiple use areas.

Haida traditional use continues in all terrestrial and marine zones, consistent with the Constitution of the Haida Nation and section 35 of the Constitution Act.

Consultation and Engagement

The Plan incorporates advice from the Gwaii Haanas Advisory Committee, Band Councils, Hereditary Chiefs Council, municipalities, and stakeholders from the tourism, fishing, conservation and shipping sectors. The Gwaii Haanas Advisory Committee is comprised of 13 individuals with a wide range of experience and knowledge, from fishermen to academics to youth. Haida citizens were updated and engaged in the planning process through quarterly sessions and community events.

The Land-Sea-People Management Plan took over four years to develop and involved many people and groups. The management planning process was led by the AMB and supported by a team of technical staff from Council of the Haida Nation, Parks Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Haida culture at the centre

Gwaii Haanas is part of the Haida homeland. Translated from Haida, Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa means ‘Talking about Everything’. The AMB worked with the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program in order to name the plan.

There are six guiding principles in the Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Management Plan. These guiding principles are based on ethics and values that were developed to support planning on Haida Gwaii and have been modified for the Gwaii Haanas context. The guiding principles are:

    • Yahguudang – Respect

    • ‘Laa guu ga kanhllns – Responsibility

    • Gina ‘waadluxan gud ad kwaagid – Interconnectedness

    • Giid tlljuus – Balance

    • Gina k’aadang.nga gii uu tll k’anguudang Seeking Wise Counsel

    • Isda ad dii gii isda – Giving and Receiving

Throughout implementation of the Land-Sea-People Management Plan, Haida people traditional use continued in Gwaii Haanas consistent with the Constitution of the Haida Nation and section 35 of the Constitution Act.

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