Babine River Foundation

ABOUT BABINE RIVER FOUNDATION

WHY?

Our Rationale

The rationale for forming the Babine River Foundation can best be expressed in the words of the Directors of the Foundation:
_“The Babine is much more than a fishing destination. The lodge and camp representatives of the Babine River Foundation, in cooperation with other interested parties, represent more than tourist values on a very special body of water –We represent sustainable economic hope for the future, on going will to preserve and defend the dwindling wilderness values left in this watershed. We will make a difference. We want to. We are investing our money, time and personal resources to help the government make it happen.”
“Twenty five years ago I planted my heart into the water of the Babine River. The decision to go into business up there was made not much later and on the basis that I believed then what I still know today. In the end all of our human enterprise, growth and development and security is chained to the earth, the natural environment. Only a fool believes otherwise.”
“Almost everything I have worked for is on the Babine; everything I own comes from the river and watershed. I can see the water and the wild steelhead running through it all.”
“There are ecological, political and environmental issues and problems to be solved- There are threats to the watershed as a whole, and its wildlife and fish etc…We want to harmonize relationships between interested parties and competing stakeholders.”
“We want to prove the economic and social contributions of eco tourism in the area and show how these activities have grown in hard dollar value as well as symbolical importance to the community, the province, and Canada as a whole. We want to protect and sustain this contribution”_

Specific Objectives

Specific objectives of the Babine River Foundation include:
Maintaining the wilderness values on the Babine River
Providing a single voice for all park use permit holders in the Babine River Corridor Provincial Park.
Liaising with other organizations and government ministries.
Identifying common concerns and forming position papers.
Sharing information and fully understanding positions.
Taking the lead in strategic planning and being pro-active in finding solutions to issues.

Our Basic Premise

a) The Babine Watershed has extremely high wilderness, wildlife and fisheries resource values.
b) The Babine River corridor and its major tributaries are the heart of the watershed.
c) The Babine River provides a wilderness experience that is unique globally and is irreplaceable.
d) The Babine resource values are vulnerable to deterioration and degradation and some impacts are essentially irreversible.
e) Management of the Babine watershed warrants a higher standard of sustainability and stewardship to protect and maintain all resource values.
Our Goal
Our goal is to maintain the natural functions and the ecological integrity of the whole Babine River watershed, with a focus on the Babine River Corridor and the adjacent managed forest.

VALUES AND PRINCIPLES

Summary of Values We embrace and believe in the following values and principles: ⎫ Clean water ⎫ Historic numbers of wild steelhead and salmon ⎫ Uncrowded wilderness ⎫ Grizzly Bears ⎫ Unique Reputation of The Babine ⎫ Harmony among interested parties ⎫ Environmental integrity of the entire watershed ⎫ Opportunity for future generations to enjoy the watershed and wilderness park. ⎫ Human involvement and economic enterprise as part of a system of “natural capital.” ⎫ Human responsibility and accountability for well being of the watershed. Explanation of Values 1. We support the concept of Clean Waters. This includes the Babine itself and tributaries of the Babine such as the Nilkitkwa, Nichyeskwa, Hannewald Creek, the Shelagyote River, and Boucher Creek etc. These provide food for young salmon and steelhead and spawning for adult salmon and steelhead. Without clean water in the Babine and its tributaries, there will be no habitat for young fish to live in. Their food supply of aquatic insects will disappear. Spawning habitat for adult fish will be lost. Without clean water the three lodges cannot operate on the river and the essential character of the wilderness park will disappear. Future plans must guarantee permanently clean water in the Babine watershed through appropriately sensitive and strategic logging and road building and a buffer around the Babine itself. 2. We embrace the preservation of historic numbers of returning fish We must maintain the historic numbers of returning wild steelhead and salmon because we see these wild fish as essential components of the Babine and it’s tributaries and its forests. Without historical numbers of returning salmon and steelhead the value of the watershed is diminished drastically. These numbers must be protected through policies which give them every possible chance to live as they have for tens of thousands of years. They are the lifeblood of the rivers, the forest, the economy and the spirit of northern British Columbia. Studies have shown that when returning migratory fish are lost, the forests lose irreplaceable nourishment and nutrition. Trees wither and die. When sufficient numbers of fish do not return, commercial fishing is at risk; sport fishing is at risk. The Babine Watershed needs a sufficient escapement of salmon and steelhead if it is going to continue to make its contribution to the economy of this area, to the image and reputation of British Columbia and in the end to the world as a whole. And our steelhead populations must be wild fish using historically intact watersheds as nursery habitat. Artificial spawning channels and artificial propagation have disastrous potential. Hatcheries produce weak and inferior stocks, which cannot sufficiently resist disease. Our wild runs are small in comparison to other rivers. The Bulkley River is estimated to have as many as 30,000 steelhead in it’s run. Other rivers in the area also have relatively high numbers. Government estimates of Babine steelhead number them between 4,000 to 11,000. These relatively small numbers cannot sustain the same level or kind of environmental pressure and fishing pressure that steelhead can in other rivers. As we understand it, the current situation does not guarantee sufficient insulation and protection of nursery habitat for young fish across the entire watershed, or for spawning adults in the tributaries or the main Babine, because road building and logging are permitted to penetrate and intersect spawning tributaries and because these same activities will also come to within one kilometer of the river. Government plans have not been fully implemented. We must have greater insulation and protection. 3. Relatively un-crowded wilderness The Babine represents an ever-diminishing kind of opportunity and value. As rivers in other parts of the world and the northern areas of British Columbia become lost to roads, excessive access, poor logging practices, dams and pollution the Babine retains its value and in fact becomes more so as time goes by. This uncrowded wilderness will only increase in value and continue to make a contribution way out of proportion to its relative size. For example, in 1978 visitors to the Babine spent $800 Canadian for a weeks fishing. Today that same week of fishing is worth from $3,000 to $5,500 US. This is not due entirely to inflation. The real hard dollar value continues to rise, because the kind of wilderness experience represented by the Babine wilderness is becoming more rare year by year. At present time there are at least seven northern BC Rivers in the Smithers-Terrace-Houston area which provide sport fishing opportunities for the public. Opportunities for true wilderness angling are becoming rare. The Babine is the finest example of wilderness angling left on the entire Skeena watershed. If the wilderness character of the Babine Park is lost the Smithers, Houston, Terrace and Hazleton areas will lose almost half of its wilderness steelhead fishing- one which is famous the world over, one which contributes 4.5 million to the area in Gross Domestic product and one which has come to be an essential component of the mystique found in Super Natural British Columbia. 4. Grizzly Bears Grizzly are one of the most important parts of the wilderness setting in the Babine Wilderness Park. Without them it cannot be called a wilderness park. Without them much of the attraction is lost and much of the value is lost. For example one study showed that each grizzly on the Babine is worth over $800 annual hard dollars to the community of Smithers. People come here to see them, to photograph them, and to enjoy them. There are approximately 75-100 grizzlies, which utilize the Babine River during salmon season. It is estimated that 150 grizzly occupy the watershed at any one time. These grizzlies are also critical because of their symbolic value; not everyone who comes here actually gets to see such a bear, but the potential for such a sighting continues to attract visitors from all over the world and inspire their continued return to the area. If the remaining Babine wilderness is penetrated by more roads and more logging the most conservative studies say the Park and watershed will lose one half of the grizzlies now in the area. Other studies say that it will be much more than this and the entire population will be at risk. Poaching will increase as bears are shot from the road. Len Vanderstar and others in a study done between 1998 and 2001 within the LRUP area reported that 18 grizzly have been reported killed with at least a third being females. The LRUP indicates that present populations of grizzly bears are to be maintained. A second professional opinion of the merits of the draft West Babine Plan was provided in October 2002 by long time bear biologist Wayne McCrory of McCrory Wildlife Services Ltd, New Denver, BC, who suggests even worse outcomes: “the current West Babine Sustainable Resource Management Plan should be rejected as a valid, credible document for protection and conservation of grizzly bears… the entire land use process and decisions in the Babine need to be revamped to meet minimum conservation biology standards of 40-50 percent of the landscape protected in corridors and habitats for grizzly and other carnivores. This improvement will require fully protected… stable core road-less security habitats, linkage corridors and generally larger protected key grizzly habitats. It will require reallocation of timberlands to protected grizzly bear habitats.” The Babine Watershed is said to contain the second largest sustained community populations of grizzly in the province. Every grizzly now in the Babine watershed area was born after the three lodges were built. We have co-existed with them peacefully. We consider them our neighbors. They are too important to lose and The Babine River Foundation refuses to abandon these essential inhabitants of the corridor and watershed. 5. Unique Reputation of the Babine The Skeena River system is the most significant and valuable steelhead fishery in the world because of number of rivers in the system, the numbers of wild, trophy steelhead in those rivers, and because of the variety of experiences the region offers. There is literally something here for everyone and it exists nowhere else. This one of a kind system is highly valued and is economically important for local communities; it also inspires international respect and has become one of the key elements in the worldwide image enjoyed by British Columbia as a “super-natural” place to live, to see and to visit. Wilderness steelhead fishing is the rarest and smallest component of the Skeena system matrix of opportunities. Within this context, the Babine River Wilderness Park itself is small, one of the smallest parks in British Columbia and yet it is one of the most highly prized sport fisheries in the region and in the world. As such the thin corridor produces economic, social and political benefits to the community and province which far exceed the contributions of much larger, non-wilderness Steelhead Rivers and areas. 6. Harmony among interested parties The Babine River Foundation is interested in ensuring that functional solutions are achieved on the Babine River Corridor. In order to address issues, we believe it is important to identify common concerns, share information and fully understand positions. We recognize that there are many public and private interests in the Babine and that any long-term solution will require harmony between interested parties. 7. Environmental integrity of the entire watershed Our scope of concern goes beyond the Babine River and beyond the Babine Wilderness Corridor Park boundaries, and encompasses the entire Babine River Watershed. In order to preserve the wilderness angling values of the river, we must protect the entire watershed from degradation. Concerns regarding the environmental integrity of the Babine watershed are shared by a wide variety of registered professionals, wilderness enthusiast and First Nations. The high quality wilderness values on the Babine River are vulnerable to cumulative impacts of adjacent logging and road access. 8. Opportunity for future generations to enjoy the watershed and wilderness park. We are stewards of the Babine River. As stewards we are interested in the long-term well-being of the watershed. We have both an obligation and an opportunity to create an enduring legacy by ensuring that the wilderness values of the river are preserved in perpetuity. Our concerns and our efforts go beyond the vested interests of our individual lodges and encompass the interests of the entire watershed, its health and well-being. 9. Human involvement and economic enterprise as part of a system of “natural capital.” We believe that all wealth flows from the natural environment. The natural environment cannot be separated from the economy. It is in fact the source of economic well-being. How we manage the precious natural resources of the Babine will be reflected in our long-term economic well-being. 10. Human responsibility and accountability for well being of the watershed. We are responsible for the well being of the entire watershed. We must be accountable for the changes that are occurring in the watershed. We must ensure that our changes to the environment are not above and beyond “natural disturbance regimes”. New strategic direction is needed to ensure the high quality wilderness fishery is not degraded and its economic potential maintained. A clear land use strategy supported by effective operations is needed in the Babine to sustain all values.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. Does the Babine River Foundation (BRF) want to exclude the public from accessing the Babine River corridor?
No. Our vision is to maintain the provincially significant quality wilderness angling values of the Babine River Corridor. We want to share the river with BC residents in a way that does not compromise the quality wilderness angling values. We respect the Resident/Guide agreement and believe that access is a shared user responsibility. We recognize the need for an Angling Management Plan. Angling access is a shared opportunity and is open to resident, non-resident and alien anglers. BC residents by law are given priority.
2. Is the BRF against logging in the Babine Watershed?
No. We want to ensure that logging practices do not harm the wilderness character of the river corridor. It is possible for logging and wilderness to co-exist, but more and better information is needed to identify causes and sources of threats to river based resource values. Technical fish and wildlife habitat vulnerability (i.e. hazard) assessment is needed to reveal the causes and sources of these risks.
3. Does the BRF want the West Babine Sustainable Resource Management Plan to be expanded to include the entire Babine River?
We are seeking the best way to protect the watershed. One option is to expand the West Babine Sustainable Resource Management Plan. Another might be to amend the Bulkley Land Resource Management Plan. We recognize the interdependence of resource values upstream and downstream in the river. We do not want to see the river corridor arbitrarily split into two planning jurisdictions.
4. Why amend the Bulkley LRMP, a community-based consensus decision?
The BRF respects the community-based decision-making process that lead to the Bulkley LRMP that covers approximately 1/3 of the upstream portion of the Babine River. Updates and amendments of the LRMP were anticipated in the original plans. Scheduled amendments were anticipated within 8 years of the plan adoption to accommodate new issues and significant amendments that are not adequately addressed in the original plans. Unscheduled amendments are significant changes to the plan that may be identified in the annual report or at the annual public meeting. The Bulkley LRMP indicates that when issues arise that require a major amendment (major revisions to objectives or management statements set out in the plan, or changes to Resource Management Zone boundaries of 500 hectares or more, not including SM1 zones or Protected areas) the Inter Agency Management Committee of government will establish a schedule and Terms of Reference for the amendment process.
5. Is the BRF willing to meet and listen to comments from other segments of the community and other stakeholders?
Yes. We have initiated meetings with government representatives, First Nations, the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board, and worked with the N.W. Institute on a community forum to discuss long-term sustainability on the Babine. We will continue to meet with local groups and organizations.
6. Is the BRF concerned with species of fish other than steelhead, and other forms of wildlife?
Yes. The high quality wilderness angling experience depends upon the health of the entire watershed. The experience depends upon clear water, historical number of returning wild fish, wildlife viewing (bear, moose, and deer) and relatively un-crowded fishing in a wilderness setting.
7. Why was the Babine Corridor Park created in the first place?
The Babine River watershed is fragile. The BC government created a wilderness Park corridor in which no roads could be built. This was seen as way to help protect the wilderness character of the river, the population of grizzly bears, and the relatively small numbers (compared to other Skeena rivers) of wild steelhead, and the endangered populations of wild bull trout, Coho, Chinook and sockeye salmon which still remain.
8. Doesn’t the Babine River Corridor Park already adequately protect wilderness values?
No. The Park corridor is long and narrow (approximately one kilometer wide) and follows the Babine River for 85 kilometers and covers 14, 543 hectares in the heart of the Babine Watershed. No vulnerability assessments were used to help decision makers anticipate the risks of esclalating logging and logging road access in the initial decision to establish the park width. The Park corridor establishes some protection but additional protection is required to ensure the sustainability of the wilderness values.

With the exception of tourism, all resource values are in decline, including forestry values. Trend lines are down for forestry, commercial fisheries and it is anticipated that grizzly bear populations on the Babine will decline by 30-50%. The Babine watershed is home to bull trout, fisher and grizzly bears: all blue listed and classified as vulnerable in Canada. According to the Ministry of Forests the historical rate of cut in the timber supply area and the special management zone is not sustainable and therefore a reduction of 54% will occur over time.
9. Is the forestry economics study biased?
No. The forestry economics study compares “like with like” in the analysis of the estimated net benefits from logging and commercial tourism for the years 2000 and 2001. The study also identifies the stumpage value that may be foregone if there were no logging within the existing Babine Special Management Zone ( SMZ) and its priority was to sustain the commercial tourism values in the Babine River Corridor.
Two values were identified for both the forestry and commercial tourism sectors – the direct revenues to the provincial government; and the total contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of these two sectors to the Provincial GDP, employment and provincial government revenues. To ensure an objective analysis:
(a) The stumpage data source was the Ministry of Forests Harvest Billing System – the public record of actual stumpage paid. Of this stumpage paid the sawlog component was about 60 percent, and the pulp log component ( at $0.25/cu.m.) was about 40 percent;
(b) Six nearby Forest Licenses were used as the initial stumpage data sources ( see (d) below);
© Both 2000 and 2001 were used to represent the long run stumpage values, because 2001 was historically low;
(d) FL A16831 was dropped from the analysis because of it’s high hemlock component and low value. The result was a higher and more accurate stumpage value because the analysis was more representative of the actual species grade distribution in the SMZ.
The average stumpage value for 2000 in the Babine was $17.40/cu.m.; and for 2001 was $6.50/cu.m.. The two year average value was $11.95/cu.m. or 78 percent of the $15.40/cu.m. average stumpage value for the same two years in the Prince Rupert Forest Region. This is reasonable because the Babine is relatively remote.
To take into account the costs of low impact logging practices in the SMZ in the definition of net benefits from logging, the costs of temporary access control were estimated at $1.00/cu.m., and partial cutting costs were estimated $2.50/cu.m. In addition a conservative 25 % ($2.92/cu.m.) of the Ministry of Forests actual overhead costs was also included.
This was the best available information for estimating the net benefits of logging in the SMZ. If and when better information becomes available to refine these estimates, it is welcome.
In 2002 (and early 2003) there is little active logging in the Babine. Skeena Cellulose Inc. has not been operating, and West Fraser is using much of their Bulkley AAC to log beetle killed timber in eastern TSA’s.
10. Where is the evidence that logging damages wilderness fisheries values in the Babine?
The consensus option in the 1991 Babine Options report was an agreement to maintain all resource values, not to expect and accept damage as it occurs. The angling community for many years has brought to the attention of forest managers what is necessary to protect and maintain wilderness fisheries values ( see Babine Options Report, pages 17 and 18). The issues have not changed, and they include:
Inside Babine River Corridor:
The issues include habituated bears, increasing unguided rod day usage, poor camping practices by unguided rafters, depleted salmon runs and siltation in creeks. In September 2002, sediment caused by road construction in the Upper Nichyeskwa had a major impact on the Babine. A complaint to the Forest Practices Board will be filed.
Outside Babine River Corridor:
The issues include violations of the Land and Resource Management Plan’s objectives to protect streams through proper buffering and sediment prevention during runoff; more and more easy access through the Corridor; slash burning, feller buncher, log hauling, blasting and related noise and smell factors from logging that are eroding the Class 1 River status and the Class A Park; and the grizzly bear movement and feeding patterns inside the corridor that are being altered by increased logging, thereby reducing bear viewing opportunities.
To help prevent further logging damage to the Class 1 River and the Class A wilderness Park in future decisions and plans in the Babine watershed, a technical hazard assessment method is necessary to identify the inherent threats and losses to the wilderness fishery. This new method will identify the limits crossed by an incompatible activity, and where predictable losses to a valuable resource would occur. Hazard assessments are now used to prevent losses to timber values from fire, insects and operations on unstable soil.
11. Are the sports fishing lodges on the Babine making huge profits?
No. GDP is a statistical measure that includes profits, wages and salaries, depreciation on buildings and equipment, and interest payments on borrowed money. In actual fact, the three fishing lodges on the Babine took an aggregate loss in the year 2001, including some $200,000 to upgrade equipment and buildings to improve the environmental standards they feel are necessary.
12. Do the lodge owners take all of the money out of the community?
No. Wilderness tourism operators on the Babine purchased almost $1.5 million in goods and services in Smithers, and clients themselves spent almost $475,000 on accommodation, food and other sundry items. This, on top of $1.2 million in salaries going to local residents clearly demonstrates that wilderness tourism is an important contributor to Smithers’ economy.
13. How can you access the Babine River? Most Skeena system steelhead rivers offer immediate and easy drive to access. The Babine offers drive to fishing on the upper river; access to the entire river by|floating and camping anglers, and fly in access to one of the lodges.
14. Are any of the three lodges on the Babine private clubs? No. All three lodges are open to the public through a system of reservations. Interested anglers may call at anytime for a reservation. These reservations are taken on a first come first served basis, and returning anglers who fished at the lodges one year have first choice at renewing their reservation for the next year.

15. Why are the lodges on the Babine so expensive? There are two basic reasons. In the first place costs of operations are high because supplies have to be either flown in, or transported downriver by boats. Secondly, wilderness activities such as fishing, hunting and skiing have always been highly valued because the activities and opportunities are unspoiled. They are also becoming rarer each year. These are highly valued, high quality fishing experiences. The desire for such kinds of experiences combined with their growing scarcity drives the price up.