Kitselas tree planting project restores habitat

It's part of the broader scheme that is the Tri-Nation environmental initiative, a pilot project between Haisla, Kitselas, and Kitsumkalum

Treeplanter hard at work at a Kitselas First Nation project east of Terrace.

In the end, it was the biology of trees that helped propel the Kitselas First Nation into action to reforest land along the Skeena River east of Terrace.

The Tsimdimaas Tri-Nation Reclamation Project, a move to reinvigorate areas affected by logging and other activity, is the Kitselas arm of the broader scheme that is the Tri-Nation environmental initiative, a pilot project between the Haisla, Kitselas, and Kitsumkalum.

It’s meant to see portions of Tsimshian land in the Tsimdimaas area (also called Chimdemash) reclaimed and restored in an attempt to remediate increasing industrial development and provide employment for members.

For more than a year, the Kitselas took part in community and partner discussions as to the work that should be done. The broad idea was to plant cedar for future cultural use and soapberries and salmon berries.

A 20-acre section, however, would not be replanted and instead be set aside while ideas were being developed for everything from a sod farm, field nursery, cattle grazing, cranberry farm, medicinal plants garden or an RV park.

But words turned into action when newly-hired Kitselas First Nation economic development officer Calvin Carlick got caught up with the project. He was told that if any replanting was to be done this year, he had two weeks to put the project into action.

“I had to catch up extremely fast because I was under a biological timeline to get these trees in the ground,” said Carlick.

Without too much trouble, Carlick hired five Kitselas members and the team spent about eight days in June in the field planting 16,000 saplings over five square kilometres roughly three-and-a-half metres apart.

“It’s a lot of trees when you think about it,” said Carlick.

The Chimdemash area, which was logged as far back as the late 1800s and as recently as 2010, is ripe for berries and other uses, with deep soil that is good for agriculture.

Fittingly, Carlick describes this portion of the tri-nation project as the “seed stage” where the group tests things out and sees if there’s potential to start a company using federal money set aside to ease the effects of industrial development projects.

Carlick said working with the Haisla and the Kitsumkalum is the most interesting part of the project.

“That’s really powerful – especially from a business perspective,” he said.

But don’t expect to see berries gathered at Tsimdimaas for sale at local markets or for wide distribution – the project won’t be that large. “It’s more of a showpiece – something you can talk about. Locals can come by and check out Tsimdimaas,” he said. “And based on community feedback they’ve said they’re going to plant some soapberries around the village so the elders can access the berries more easily.”