TSIMSHIAN NATIONS MOVE FORWARD TOGETHER TO ADDRESS MAJOR PROJECTS; ESTABLISH TSIMSHIAN ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP SOCIETY
The Tsimshian Nations of Metlakatla, Gitxaala, Kitselas and Kitsumkalum share the value that resource development can only take place when the environment is protected.
Our belief in bax laansk – working together – underpins our approach to environmental management, recognizing that we have a common interest in protecting the environment for future generations.Visit TESS Wesbite
Our Nations have agreed to create the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Society (TESS), bringing the partner Nations together in their role as environmental stewards for the Tsimshian territories.
There are many projects planned for our territories. Rather than each of our Nations assessing the impacts of each project on its own, we are pulling together to evaluate the cumulative impacts of all proposed projects. Our objective is to find a balance that protects our environment while ensuring our communities have lasting benefits from developments in our territories.
TESS is committed to:
- Working together to develop the conditions by which the Tsimshian Nations would provide consent for developments within our territories;
- Providing information to members of the Tsimshian Nations about the environmental impacts and mitigation measures for projects, such as LNG and Port infrastructure;
- Providing oversight to federal and provincial environmental assessment processes on behalf of our Nations; and
- Providing expert advice and acting as stewards of the environment in managing projects in our territories.
TESS provides the framework for coordinated efforts between First Nations in assessing cumulative environmental impacts. We look forward to working with Lax Kw’alaams, the Province of British Columbia, and the Government of Canada in advancing this initiative.
We will continue to listen to and work with proponents to find a path forward that protects the environmental legacy in which we are entrusted.
Chief Harold Leighton, Metlakatla First Nation, Chief Joe Bevan Kitselas First Nation, Chief Clarence Innis, Gitxaala First Nation, Chief Don Roberts Kitsumkalum First Nation
This document sets out a management approach for the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Society (TESS), a society created by the Tsimshian First Nations to manage the environmental impacts related to the increasing industrial development on the North Coast, including the development of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facilities.
The following sections propose guiding principles, objectives, a governance structure, and an operational framework for TESS, an overarching initiative to collaboratively manage cumulative effects on the north coast.
While this framework supports an overall strategic management approach to regional environmental concerns and activities, it is understood that all consultation and accommodation activities related to aboriginal rights and title will continue to be led by each partner First Nation within their respective territories. This includes negotiations of accommodations requirement related to environmental impacts and participation in the regulatory processes.
Approximately 19 LNG facilities are proposed for British Columbia, mostly in northwestern B.C. Of these, two to four developments are anticipated to move forward within the territories of First Nations on the north coast. These projects are proposed in addition to other existing and proposed industrial development, in sectors such as transportation, forestry and mining.
First Nations on the north coast have significant concerns regarding the potential adverse impacts of these LNG facilities and other industrial development and recognize the need to identify, monitor, and manage these impacts for the continued wellbeing of their territories, resources, and communities. They, along with other stakeholders, have called for increased regional cumulative effects management. While existing federal and provincial environmental assessment processes provide a means for identifying potential impacts of proposed projects, the assessments are conducted on a project-by-project basis and provide little opportunity to examine or monitor potential cumulative impacts of projects over time or regionally.
To help evaluate the cumulative impacts of industrial development on the north coast, a number of different initiatives have been established. These initiatives exist alongside several regional planning processes which have also identified cumulative effects management as a priority. Existing and recently established initiatives include the Provincial Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI), Environment Canada’s Cumulative Effects monitoring program, the Skeena Area Marine Research Collaboration, and the Marine Planning Partnership. A complete list and description of all initiatives is provided in Appendix A.
Supporting each of these initiatives requires a substantial investment of staff time and expertise from First Nations and government agencies with limited resources. They also represent a significant investment of funds from both public and private sources. Currently, a small group of stewardship staff from each First Nation and First Nations organizations on the north coast are attending multiple meetings weekly regarding cumulative effects management, none of which are formally coordinating with each other. Without better integration, all of these initiatives are at risk of being undermined by duplication, confused mandates, and competing priorities.
A strategy for effective coordination and streamlined governance is essential to make good use of available personnel and funding, and to deliver both meaningful short-term results and effective cumulative effects management for the long-term. Given that First Nations are involved in all the existing initiatives and have an
overarching responsibility to manage their territories and resources for future generations, they are also logical parties to guide TESS and provide an integrated cumulative effects management framework going forward.
TESS is intended to enable the partner First Nations to work together to address regional cumulative impacts – including environmental cultural, social, economic and health impacts – from developments in the north coast.
In order to be successful, TESS will adhere to the following guiding principles:
- Acknowledge and respect the rights and title of First Nations within their territories
- Be mandated by First Nations leadership and accountable to First Nations communities
- Recognize that any member First Nations retains the option to withdraw from any specific initiative undertaken by the Society
- Focus on managing values that will benefit from monitoring and management at a regional scale
- Build on past efforts as well as existing processes and structures
- Provide for effective stakeholder engagement, to increase the impact of efforts and to build durable long-term outcomes
- Use best practices in cumulative effects management
- Offer a one-window approach for government agencies, rather than require multiple parallel lines of communication
- Be structured, managed, and funded to be a long-term, ongoing initiative
- Establish a coordinated approach amongst Tsimshian First Nations to respond to the environmental impacts of LNG and other industrial developments in our territories
- Establish a coordinated approach and a mechanism for engaging with the Tsimshian First Nations and other levels of government, and proponents, to guide Environment Effects Management for common values of concern
- Work with federal and provincial governments and proponents to obtain the financial resources to support cumulative effects management and administer funds for the effective execution of the Regional Cumulative Effects Management Initiative
- Undertake baseline studies to provide updated information on the state of the marine environment in the region
- Coordinate the development of cumulative impact studies
- Develop and implement a comprehensive monitoring system related to preserving water, land and air quality in the region
- Participate in the environmental assessment processes for projects proposed for the north coast
- Develop and implement a comprehensive environment stewardship to enhance the environmental sustainability of the region