How a Foodlands Corridor is Restoring the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm

Agricultural landholders and First Nations share a collaborative vision in the Fraser watershed

Published On: February 22nd, 2024

On February 16, POLIS intern Bridget McGlynn visited two pilot restoration sites of the Foodlands Corridor Restoration Program, an innovative new initiative that is restoring lands and waterways within the Fraser watershed.

Working in collaboration with First Nations, agricultural landholders, environmental specialists, and community members, Foodlands is creating a connected corridor of restored natural area in the shared territory of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Semiahmoo, and Matsqui Nations.

Off-channel habitat at the sće:łxwәýәm pilot site. February 16, 2024.

The program, led by Rivershed Society of B.C., aims to restore species-at-risk habitat and Indigenous food systems along the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm (Salmon River), a tributary of the stɑl̓əw̓ (Fraser River).

In all its work, Foodlands emphasizes cultural practices and ecological values. Rivershed works with Kwantlen and Katzie Knowledge Holders to integrate culturally significant plants in habitat restoration plans, and Foodlands features collaboration with First Nations through the co-design of corridor sites, the integration of Traditional Knowledge and language, and the creation of local jobs. The project’s website states: “A restored Foodlands Corridor supports a food system that is healthy, sustainable, just, and inclusive.”

The project has restored and created important marsh and off-channel habitat. Harmful invasive species are being removed, and native flora reintroduced along the riverbank. This work is already producing tangible outcomes, including restoring habitat for certain species in the ecosystem.

An initial priority for the program was restoring rearing habitat for overwintering Kwóxweth / kʷəxʷəθ (coho salmon). Lara Volgyesi, a Project Consultant with Foodlands, said it was exciting to find overwintering coho in the marsh and off-channel habitats during the very first year of monitoring after the start of site restoration.

Fish captured in monitoring traps at sće:łxwәýәm corridor site 2. February 16, 2024.

Work on the two established pilot sites was completed in collaboration with local private landholders, with whom the program has developed strong relationships.

Both pilot sites are prone to flooding, especially during atmospheric rivers. By establishing water channels, stabilizing riverbanks, and replacing invasive Reed canary grass with deep-rooting native plants, this restoration work seems to have improved outcomes after multiple flooding events.

Bank stabilization and riparian planning at sće:łxwәýәm corridor pilot site. February 16, 2024.

Foodlands is working towards building health in the entire system, extending beyond only ecological indicators to emphasize connections between people and place. It aims to reprioritize Indigenous food systems and land management, while respecting a multitude of values.

A vision for a completed Foodlands Corridor is one where “everyone and everything can thrive, achieve, and sustain the highest level of health and well-being.”

Rivershed is beginning to expand the scope of the work in other watersheds, and it will be exciting to witness how the program and its ripple effects support restoration along the stɑl̓əw̓ and beyond.

Throughout this article, uppercase words are Halq’eméylem and lowercase words are hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓. Traditional place and species names were provided by knowledge keepers and language learners from the Kwantlen and Katzie Nations.