Howe Sound Aquatic Forum Summary


Howe Sound Aquatic Forum ImageThe Howe Sound Community Forum brought together a diversity of voices including First Nations and representatives of ‘aquatic-focused’ community groups, businesses, institutions and individuals to share their planning visions for Howe Sound.  The purpose of the day was to explore planning options and identify priority actions related to the Howe Sound aquatic environment.  There were presentations in the morning, small focused working groups in the afternoon, and an activity at the end to coalesce key points and address next steps.  A witnessing ceremony was led by Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation, with four witnesses sharing their observations at the day’s conclusion.

The Aquatic Forum resulted in several important outcomes.  First, the Forum contributed to important relationship building, perspective sharing, and networking.  Second, the Forum produced a draft Howe Sound Vision and draft Goals to guide future planning efforts.  Third, participants were introduced to a variety of different planning approaches and discussions were facilitated to explore how these different approaches could help achieve overall goals in Howe Sound.  Finally, participants identified key aquatic-related issues in Howe Sound and worked in small groups to draft priority “Action Plans” to address these issues.  Summarizing this content provides an important foundation for future planning efforts in Howe Sound and provides some potential directions and initiatives to explore.  The draft Howe Sound Vision and Goals, and other Forum materials can be viewed in the Howe Sound Aquatic Forum Summary.

We would like to thank all of the Aquatic Forum participants, as well as those who expressed interest but were unable to attend.  Special thanks go to the David Suzuki Foundation for resourcing the event, with additional support from DFO’s local community advisor, Rob Bell-Irving.



Howe Sound Aquatic Forum Held


‘Wanaxws’ means ‘Respect’

On April 12, 2014 at Furry Creek, Howe Sound, we will meet to discuss the future of the aquatic environment of Howe Sound. Howe Sound is an incredible, unique ecosystem, home to a diversity of  aquatic species and habitat. It is also home to coastal communities and  the gateway to the Sea to Sky corridor. In addition to its rich cultural  and spiritual values, it has expanding economic development and is  internationally recognized for its recreation and tourism.  Local organizations, community leaders and members of the public  have been calling for a co-ordinated, comprehensive management  plan for Howe Sound.

These collective voices 1 have suggested that this  management plan should:

  • be stakeholder-driven, science-based,  sustainable and include all key players
  • partner with First Nations
  • involve industry, all levels of government and community groups, and
  • address both land and marine environments, cultural and social factors  and economic development

Local governments around Howe Sound are also discussing planning and  visions for the area. The Howe Sound Community Forum 2 held a meeting  in January and a webinar in March to discuss future planning directions,  including an opportunity to engage the B.C. provincial government in a  cumulative effects framework (CEF) for Howe Sound. This forum encourages a diversity of voices including First Nations and  representatives of aquatic-focused community groups, businesses,  institutions and individuals to share their planning visions for Howe  Sound. It is an opportunity to identify common values and set a direction  for marine planning and project activities in Howe Sound over the  coming year.

View the Howe Sound Aquatic Forum Brochure and Agenda – April 12, 2014

View support documents for the forum.

Howe Sound Aquatic Forum – background documents

"SIIYAMINTS" means 'stewardship"

“SIIYAMINTS” means ‘stewardship”

Below are links for documents related to the forum, its facilitator, the Cumulative Effects Framework, and comments from earlier related events.

Howe Sound Aquatic Forum

Howe Sound Aquatic Forum Brochure and Agenda – April 12, 2014
Pressing Issues in Howe Sound: Participant Responses
A Draft Vision for Howe Sound

Facilitator, Andrew Day

View a biography of Andrew Day

Background articles concerning Andrew’s work:
Regional Snapshots –
Who is Conservation For?

Cumulative Effects Framework

A quick introduction to the Cumulative Effects Framework for BC
Addressing Cumulative Effects in Natural Resource Decision-Making
Questions and Answers about the potential value of applying a Cumulative Effects Assessment for Howe Sound
Howe Sound Community Forum webinar questions – February 21, 2014

Future of Howe Sound Forum

The Future of Howe Sound Forum – April 13, 2013

Howe Sound Community Forum

Eleven parties including Bowen Island and First Nations have signed on.
Howe Sound Community Forum – Principles For Cooperation


Resolution for Howe Sound Plan Passes at UBCM

September 20. 2013
Future of Howe Sound Society

The Sunshine Coast Regional District put forward the following emergency resolution to delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre this week. The resolution passed quickly by the delegates Friday September 20th, 2013. In meetings with Minister Thomson, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Minister Thomson said a moratorium on existing projects would not be supported, but he will commit staff resources to start discussions about planning for Howe Sound. Minister Thomson did state to the 18 Municipal and Regional District representatives present in the room, that he personally did not want to see the recovery of the marine life in Howe Sound go backwards. MLA Jordan Sturdy, West Vancouver, Sea to Sky was present in the room.

This is excellent news for Howe Sound. Municipal leaders around Howe Sound are meeting next on Wednesday September 25th for the Howe Sound Community Forum. Planning for Howe Sound will take up most of the day’s agenda. Over 50 people will be attending the meeting being held at the Gleneagles Community Centre hosted by the District of West Vancouver.

Howe Sound Management Plan – Sunshine Coast Regional District

WHEREAS all local governments around Howe Sound are currently dealing with recent multiple referrals and applications for gravel, liquid natural gas, coal and bitumen;

AND WHEREAS Howe Sound is a sensitive, ecologically significant area of unparalleled scenic beauty, and provides important ecosystem services for various First Nations, senior and local governments, and is without a land and marine use plan to facilitate a coordinated approach to land and marine use planning;

AND WHEREAS there has been no discussion between the local governments and the Squamish First Nation regarding the cumulative potential impacts;

AND WHEREAS there is a growing concern regarding the future of Howe Sound as commercial, industrial and recreational uses expand without an approach for assessing the cumulative impacts of those increased uses, thereby putting recent progress of significant ecosystem recovery at risk:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that UBCM urge the provincial government to support the development of a Comprehensive Management Plan for Howe Sound that facilitates a coordinated land and marine use planning process between First Nations, senior and local governments, and other local bodies to ensure ongoing recovery and responsible land use planning within Howe Sound.

Socio-Economic Baseline Study of the Howe Sound Area

Prepared by Lions Gate Consulting for Stephen Foster and the David Suzuki Foundation.
July 22, 2013

Cover of reportThis socio-economic baseline report is prepared in support of a proposed Howe Sound Protected Area. Its purpose is to provide information about community and economic conditions within the project footprint and in adjacent communities. The results would be used to inform and guide discussions with local and senior government, communities and industry about the costs and benefits of designation.

The content of the baseline was scoped to include those values most likely to be affected by protected area status. At this point in time, a legal pathway to protected status that would establish the land and marine use regime has not been identified. It is assumed that, as a protected area, conservation objectives would curb or perhaps prohibit some forms of industrial or public activity and enhance others, but what exactly those changes would be are unknown.

The baseline is structured according to the authors’ understanding of socio-economic issues and values most likely to be affected by the establishment and operation of a protected area. The focus is on general community conditions and activities linked to the land and marine base. Key parameters are as follows:

  • Demographics
  • Labour force
  • Economic activity
  • General land use
  • Tourism and recreation
  • Commercial fishing
  • Marine transportation
  • Forestry
  • Utilities and Energy
  • Aggregates

As the protected area concept is advanced, an update or expansion of the baseline may be needed to inform public engagement and decision making.
Download a PDF of the full report.

The Significance of Howe Sound

Thanks to BC Spaces for Nature for the following summary

The most southerly fiord in the northern hemisphere, Howe Sound is backed by rugged mountains that rise directly from the sea to 2,740 meters (9,000 feet). It also features a cluster of picturesque islands. Terrestrial Howe Sound ecosystems (technically referred to in BC as ‘biogeoclimatic zones’) include: Coastal Western Hemlock, Mountain Hemlock, Sub Alpine, Alpine Tundra, and most significantly, the threatened Coastal Douglas Fir (CDF).

The Sound’s marine environment is similarly diverse, with habitats ranging from estuary, to fiord, to archipelago, to inland sea. Not surprisingly, it supports a range of animal species: transiting orcas, the occasional grey whale, white-sided dolphins, California sea lions, seals, salmon, and endangered rock cod. It is an important wintering area for migratory waterfowl: swans, geese, and ducks. As well, it supports a range of seabird species (including marbled murrelet) and is renowned for being home to the strongest bald eagle concentrations in British Columbia, with up to 2,500 eagles gathering at the head of the Sound near Squamish in winter.

Howe Sound has a rich human history that reaches back into ancient times. For thousands of years the Squamish peoples, a first nation within the Coast Salish linguistic grouping, traveled the waters here and lived along the coastline. Today, these people endure and know this place as their traditional homeland. In 1791 Europeans discovered Howe Sound when Captain George Vancouver first explored its  passages. However, the Sound remained a quiet place removed from the focus of colonial activity until the late 1880s when the Union Steamships opened Howe Sound to settlement, development, and eventually, tourism.

Today several small picturesque communities are perched on the steep shores and islands of the inlet. Here the way of life remains leisurely, even laid–‐back, and deeply connected to the natural surroundings. Early economic land use activities in Howe Sound were dominated by the resource sector: fishing, forestry and mining. While these activities endure, they are less dominant in today’s economy. They have been supplemented by a growing emphasis on knowledge and service sector jobs (there are many residents who commute to such jobs in Vancouver daily).  Recreation and tourism are playing an ever increasing and important role, which is not surprising.

Opportunities to enjoy life here are exceptional and diverse, including: sea kayaking, sailing, boating, diving, windsurfing, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, and skiing. Due to this, and given its beauty, the Sound attracts strong usage by locals as well as tourists from across Canada, the U.S., and beyond. Howe Sound is an extraordinary place that encompasses a broad range of exceptional conservation, ecological, recreational and scenic values, right on Vancouver’s doorstep. These values must be recognized and conserved for the benefits they provide.

In many ways while Howe Sound can seem to be a world away from the city… it is so close, and so very special.

Threats / Challenges

Being located adjacent to the Vancouver metropolitan area, and with increasing demands for multiple uses of land and water resources, puts immense pressure on the ecosystem services of Howe Sound (e.g. drinking water, air quality, biodiversity, natural areas, fisheries, etc.). Some of the major threats and challenges, include:

  • Howe Sound’s beauty renders it at risk from indiscriminate development of private lands, especially intensive subdivision of waterfront properties.
  • Marine environment/fisheries are vulnerable to pressures of development that compromise near–‐shore fish habitat.
  • Major landslide risks exist due to the steep slopes of the adjacent mountain and high winter rainfall, especially along the Sea to Sky Highway.
  • A major challenge relating to recreational use of Howe Sound is the shortage of shoreline lands with public access.
  • There is risk of an expansion of the Vancouver Port that would create industrial areas in Howe Sound. For example, a Liquid Natural Gas storage facility was proposed for the Port Mellon area and defeated in 2003.
  • •There is ongoing risk of clearcut logging of ecologically, visually, recreationally, and hydrologically sensitive areas, particularly on steep slopes and also in the rare low–‐ elevation of the Coastal Douglas Fir forest.
  • •Small and large scale mining remains a threat, as the rocks in Howe Sound can often contain arsenic and sulphides (Acid Mine Drainage) that are lethal to fish. The current proposal to operate a large, open pit gravel mine at the mouth of McNab Creek, will further scar wilderness on Howe Sound’s west side.

Vancouver is one of the very few cities on earth to have such an expanse of spectacular, biodiverse, and intact lands and ocean right on its threshold, as exist in Howe Sound. Despite its scenic splendour, ecological diversity, and recreational offerings, surprisingly until now conservationists have often overlooked Howe Sound. Perhaps the area has just been so close to Vancouver that it was taken for granted and never recognized as a distinct region. As a result, while there have been numerous campaigns to address specific issues within Howe Sound (e.g. pulp mill pollution, real estate development), up to now there has never been an overall campaign to secure the Sound’s exceptional natural integrity. This has to change. Unless actions are taken soon to protect the Sound, fast–‐developing urban pressures will result in irreversible losses of Howe Sound’s exceptional values.”

Irrepressible Howe Sound

An in-depth look at Howe Sound’s history and recovery by Dawn Green for Pique Magazine:

“It’s not lifeless,” he said later on, “I mean — things are coming back in that area, right? You think about how much was dumped in front of Woodfibre over the years. And that is the start of the food chain down there at that depth…”

Read the full story in Pique’s Digital Edition (PDF).