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Increased education and patrols aim to protect Squamish Valley from abuse

Learn about the new initiative aiming to protect Squamish Nation territory and promote safe recreation practices.

Where the paved road turns into dirt along the Upper Squamish Valley Forest Service Road, a driver in a 4Runner pulls over and is greeted by a smiling Kimberly Kelly, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.

She asks him if he is camping and then briefly explains the importance of respecting the land in the valley, which is Squamish Nation territory, and fire safety in the region. 

Though properly contained campfires are still permitted, as of Friday, Category 2 and Category 3 open burning is banned across the Coastal Fire Centre, including in the valley. (Campfires are currently prohibited within the District of Squamish.)

The driver is receptive to the information—thanking her for it—and Kelly said, so far, that has been the feedback from folks who stop.

Kelly is one of several land steward representatives at a kiosk on Friday night, May 17, the first night of the Victoria Day long weekend. They had also been out on Thursday night. 

"We're just hoping to change some behaviours and educate, observe. [Have] people recognizing that we're here and monitoring," Kelly told The Squamish Chief.

On three more long weekends throughout this summer, the Wildfire Prevention Ambassador Program, Squamish Nation Land Guardians, and Natural Resource Officers will be at the information kiosk at the valley's entrance.

This is an example of how the BC Wildfire Service, in partnership with the Nation and Sea to Sky Natural Resource District, will be elevating its presence in the Upper Squamish Valley throughout the summer season. 

 The Upper Squamish Valley Public Education Initiative is a pilot project that could serve as a model for other areas in the Coastal Fire Centre.

"The intention is to use this pilot and learn from this weekend and actually take it out to the Fraser Valley as well. Some of the other areas that we're seeing are having similar things like high visitation rates and some unwanted recreational activity," Kelly said. 

In the Squamish Valley, the program is paired with increased patrols by the Nation's Land Guardians and BC Wildfire Service Fire Wardens, and further support from the Conservation Officer Service and Natural Resource Officers. 

It is no secret that the region has been seeing an increase in visitors, and with that comes some dangerous and disrespectful behaviour, including target shooting, poaching, illegal fires and trash dumping.

Kelly notes that in 2023, vehicle traffic on the Squamish River Forest Service Road was approximately double what it was in 2012, with more than 120,000 people visiting the area. 

On Thursday and Friday evenings this week, the representatives informed those driving into the area about fire safety, how to report suspected illegal activities, safe travel and respectful behaviour. 

"We do want to acknowledge that this is the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation, and they have been utilizing it for hunting, food, medicine and cultural practice since time immemorial," Kelly said. "The explosion of recreational use is impacting their ability to do their cultural practices in this valley. And we want to be able to sustain and maintain this for future use."