The hope of Howe Sound: Part 3

In earlier columns, we looked at the remarkable recovery of our fjord inlet and how this is now being threatened by provincial ambitions for re-industrialization. These threats are bringing together many groups and individuals – Concerned Citizens of Bowen, Bowen Island Conservancy, The Future of Howe Sound, My Sea to Sky, Save Howe Sound/Again, Marine Life Sanctuary Society, Yacht Clubs, Boys and Girls Club, Sewell’s Marina, B.C. Spaces for Nature, to name a few. They differ widely in age and focus and share the desire to protect Howe Sound for future generations. I talked to a few of them to find out why they got involved.

Ruth Simons, Executive Director of The Future of Howe Sound, was a member of the Lions Bay municipal council when she heard about the proposed gravel mine at Mc Nab Creek. “I thought: they can’t do it. This is a watershed.” Ruth is committed to a holistic stewardship of the Sound. “Instead of looking at one part, one project, we need to look at the Howe Sound region as a whole. How we treat rivers and streams, how we do fishing, affects everything. Everything’s connected. We need a comprehensive land and marine use plan.”

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Ruth believes in the necessity of all those involved to come together and make their voices heard. This is what happens at the Future of Howe Sound Forums – engaging interested parties in dialogue around the values of the Howe Sound region, and finding common ground.

My Sea to Sky is a grassroots volunteer organization made up of Squamish citizens. They started over a year ago in response to growing concerns about the proposed Woodfibre LNG project. They held an event - Bloom or Bust – to inform people about LNG. “We ran out of chairs,” said Melyssa Hudson, the Executive Director. “We set up 400 and there were people standing.”

The purpose of the organization is to support the values of the community and allow for economic growth. She says there have been lots of changes over the past ten years in Squamish: the population is younger, incomes are higher, and a new generation of entrepreneurs is moving to Squamish. “They have strong values, they appreciate recreation, a quieter life, and they are globally-minded people, thinking outside of their own town. There is little evidence the government is concerned with the best interests of people.  Someone has to be the checks and balances and ask the right questions.”

Melyssa speaks highly of Eoin Finn, a chemist who lives on Boywer Island. Eoin has been asking all the right questions. “He’s been here so long,” said Melyssa, “he has such a breadth of understanding.” At the Gleneagles event on April 1st, Eoin’s presentation on the hazards of LNG in Howe Sound received a spontaneous standing ovation. “He showed us where Howe Sound has come from, how it has evolved and the intense pressure to industrialize.”

Joyce Williams of the Squamish Nation, and one of the organizers of Skwomesh Action, feels heartened by the response of hundreds of people who attended the action in Squamish on March 29th and the event at Gleneagles. “I’m feeling a lot more support,” she said, “hopeful that all these different people are coming together. They’re declaring that this LNG project isn’t just a Squamish issue. It affects all of Howe Sound.”

Joyce informed me that the Squamish Nation has been working with the David Suzuki Foundation to create a marine use plan. “We already have a land use plan,” she said. Her group is determined to continue to create awareness and keep the momentum going.

Cheryl Wozny represents Save Howe Sound/Again. The group operates loosely, ad hoc. Their purpose is to raise awareness. “We set up tables at events and communicate with people, one at a time.” They also give out snazzy bumper stickers. Cheryl originally became involved when she heard about the proposed Burnco Mine. “When I started to pay attention I found out there’s more going on…It’s a terrible state we’ve come to in our country when regular people are the only ones standing up. The regulatory process is like the fox watching over the hen house. It will take the concerted effort of everyone to overcome the current industrial objectives slated for our beautiful Howe Sound.”  
These volunteer groups want all citizens of our bioregion to have a say in the development and conservation of Howe Sound. They’re standing up to high-paid government and oil industry professionals. They could use your help. If you feel strongly about the health of our bioregion, choose a partner and help write a wholesome next chapter for the Howe Sound story.  

Pauline Le Bel is an Emmy-nominated screenwriter, an award-winning novelist, and the author of Becoming Intimate with the Earth, published by Collins Foundation Press.

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