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Indigenous Stewardship at Chun T’oh Whudujut

Chun T’oh Whudujut Ancient Forest is a unique ecosystem exclusive to inland British  Columbia, known as the Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR). Unlike other temperate rainforests,  the ITR is more than 800 kilometres inland at the base of the Rocky and Caribou Mountain  Ranges (about 115 kilometres east of Prince George). The forest includes cedar stands over 1000  years old that provide habitat for diverse species, from inland caribou to golden lichen. Declared  a provincial park in 2016, Chun T’oh Whudujut includes an accessible boardwalk, picnic area,  and over 2 kilometres of fortified walking trails offering pristine access to the distinctive  ecosystem. 

While visiting Chun T’oh Whudujut, individuals experience spectacular views of ancient  cedar and hemlock stands peppered with golden lichen and lush mosses. Hearing songbirds sing  next to the rushing waterfall is truly a transformative adventure. While walking along the  wooded path, the magnificence of the rainforest transports you back to a lost time of connection  and reverence with nature. Indeed, the territory surrounding Chun T’oh Whudujut has been  stewarded for thousands of years by local First Nations groups; their history and continued  accounts accompany the storytelling of the ancient natural beauty. 

In 2020, the non-profit Ancient Forest Alliance compiled a report to the provincial  government regarding the management practices at Chun T’oh Whudujut. The report concluded  with several recommendations for the provincial government on how to better manage the  ancient ecosystem; the number one recommendation was indigenous involvement. Currently, the  provincial government is working with local First Nations through a two-tiered approach. The  two-tiered approach involves 1.) direct government-to-government discussions with Nations on  old-growth forests and management within their territories, and 2.) an Indigenous-facilitated,  multi-Nation engagement forum to develop broad policy advice for old growth stewardship. 

Additionally, Chun T’oh Whudujut is the recipient of significant financial funding. The  investing in Canada Plan is a federally-funded initiative to create long-term economic growth,  support the resilience of communities, and build social inclusions for Canadians by investing in  infrastructure. Arising from the Investing in Canada Plan is the Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh  Whudujut Enhancement Project. The enhancement project involves the development of  recreation facilities and amenities in Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park,  including new wetland hiking trails, an interpretive centre, a sweat lodge, a pit house, a gazebo  and improved accessible amenities such as boardwalks, pathways, washrooms, access roads,  parking and signage. This project has received $6.5 million in federal funding and $1.3 million in  provincial funding, with the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation contributing $870,000. Progress on the  Chun T’oh Whudujut Enhancement project has been largely postponed due to the pandemic, but  some construction and cultural correspondence is beginning to start again. Through Indigenous  stewardship and governmental protection, the wonders of Chun T’oh Whudujut can be preserved  for generations.

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