The people of the Haida Nation have occupied and collected food and materials from Ḵ’uuna Gwaay since time immemorial. The Haida maintained villages and seasonal camps at Skedans, Hlgaedlin, Xa’lanjt and Si’ngi. Skedans Reserve is surrounded by the heritage site/conservancy. It is a historical trade and potlatching site where the Haida exchanged dried halibut, dried seaweed, herring roe, and canoes for eulachon grease, dried berries, goat wool, and horns. It is now the site of a Haida Watchmen camp.
Environment Canada, The Laskeek Bay Conservation Society (LBCS) and the Research Group on Introduced Species (RGIS) have monitored seabirds, shorebirds, marine mammals, and cavity nesting birds as well as conducted plant inventories on Limestone Island and surrounding areas. These studies have documented important ecological baselines, quantified impacts on native species from introduced species, and continues to inform land management through respected academic and civilian science.
The remote location of Ḵ’uuna Gwaay Heritage Site/Conservancy provides an excellent opportunity to maintain biological diversity and natural environment values. Of ongoing concern is the presence of introduced mammals. For example, Black-tailed deer, squirrels, Norway rats and raccoons pose a threat to local ecosystems and species. In addition, several non-native invasive plants have been recorded on Limestone Island including burdock, bull thistle, sowthistle, and common crupina.
The marine foreshore area and marine environment is highly biologically diverse, providing high value habitat for important marine species and includes six harbour seal haulouts and three Stellar sea lion haulouts. Limestone Island is a deposit of pure limestone that consists of massive grey crystalline limestone. South Low Island also has a limestone outcrop. The limestone outcrops on Limestone and South Low islands create unique habitats for rare and endemic plants. The deer-free status of Low and South Low islands allows for vegetation growth that is rarely found elsewhere on Haida Gwaii.
Ḵ’uuna Gwaay Heritage Site/Conservancy is located on the northeast coast of Louise Island, about 35 km southeast of the community of Sandspit (Figure 1). It is part of an archipelago-wide system of protected areas that includes Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, several provincial parks and ecological reserves, and ten other heritage site/conservancies. In total half of the land base of Haida Gwaii is now in protected status.
It includes numerous small unnamed islands and a portion of Heming Head on Talunkwan Island. The terrestrial component of the heritage site/conservancy covers 2,104 hectares. The elevation range is from sea level to 993 metres.
A marine component/foreshore area covers an additional area of 13,155 hectares and the adjacent islands of Reef, Skedans, Limestone, Low, and South Low, and is recommended for protection as part of the heritage site/conservancy. If and when this addition is completed, this management plan will provide direction to the marine areas as well.
Several rare ecological communities are found on the heritage site/conservancy. For example, Jimmy Wilson Creek empties into Skedans Bay where it forms a locally rare Sitka spruce – Pacific reedgrass (Picea sitchensis – Calamagrostis nutkaensis) estuarine association (blue listed) that is unique to the east coast of the archipelago.
Ḵ’uuna Gwaay Heritage Site/Conservancy contains fish-bearing streams that are known to host sockeye salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, pink salmon, steelhead, Dolly Varden and cutthroat trout. The heritage site/conservancy’s recommended marine area is highly biologically diverse, and supplied 5% of the Haida Gwaii Rockfish Fishery between 1995 and 2004 as well as 2% of Haida Gwaii’s Geoduck Fishery. The foreshore and marine environments also provide high value habitat for important marine species and include six seal haulouts and three Stellar sea lion haulouts.
Bird Studies Canada has identified the area as an important bird area. The area hosts numerous listed species including 18 known Peregrine falcon (blue-listed) nesting sites, and important foraging habitat for Pelagic cormorants (red-listed), Ancient murrelets (blue-listed), tufted puffins (blue-listed), and marbled murrelets (red-listed). Within this heritage site/conservancy, Northern goshawks (laingi subspecies – red listed) and marbled murrelets (red listed) may inhabit areas of old-growth forest (> 250 years old).
Several archaeological sites contain a number of recorded cultural values. These include at least 12 known culturally modified trees, subsurface shell middens, a habitation cave, a petroform, lithics, human remains and fire broken rock. Many of these areas have not been inventoried thoroughly which indicates that the conservancy likely contains many other unrecorded cultural heritage and archaeological sites.
The cultural heritage values in the heritage site/conservancy include opportunities for the ongoing continuance of Haida culture through traditional use of the area. Some examples of traditional use within Ḵ’uuna Gwaay Heritage Site/Conservancy may include monumental cedar and cedar bark harvesting, seaweed harvesting, medicinal plant harvesting, hunting, fishing, trapping and food gathering. The heritage site/conservancy also provides a place for the physical expression of culture through monumental art such as totems or establishment of traditional style infrastructure such as longhouses.
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.