The forest and ocean ecosystems around Sandspit are showcased in a number of protected areas. The best known of these is certainly Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, which covers the southern portion of the islands. Recently, various Haida Conservancies (managed in cooperation with BC Parks) have been formed to protect other parts of the islands.
Gwaii Haanas includes the southern portion of Moresby Island, as well as hundreds of small islands, islets and rocks scattered along the east side of Moresby Island. The name (in the Haida language) means "islands of beauty" or "islands of wonder" and is a perfect description of this pristine wilderness area. Gwaii Haanas is known for remote wilderness, stunning scenery and incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. It is also home to Haida cultural sites such as the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site at SGang Gwaay, which is one of the few northwest coast First Nations villages where ancient totem poles can still be seen standing where they were erected a century and a half ago. Visitors also enjoy other his
torical sites, the natural pools and Hotsprings Island, and the colourful sea-life revealed at low tide.
The Gwaii Haanas area has been protected since 1988, when the South Moresby Agreement put an end to logging in the area. Since 1993, the area has been cooperatively managed by the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada (Parks Canada), through the Archipelago Management Board (AMB).
The Proposed Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve will soon extend Gwaii Haanas to include the waters nearby, making this the first area in Canada to be protected from mountain top to sea floor. However, the Marine Conservation Area designation will not preclude all resource extraction (such as fishing) the way land-based parks do. This means that there will still be opportunities for fishing and gathering in the less sensitive parts of the Marine Conservation Area.
Gwaii Haanas can only be accessed by water or air. Many visitors choose to take a guided tour to the area, but it is also possible to kayak, boat or sail to the area without a guide. Either way, it is important to make your plans well in advance, as some tours book up early, and independent travelers will require trip permits and reservations.
In recent years, a variety of Haida Conservancies have been put in place to protect features of natural, cultural and spiritual significance all over Haida Gwaii. These areas are co-managed by the Haida Nation and the Province of British Columbia (BC Parks). There are now eleven conservancies on the islands, covering a total land mass of 255,727 hectares, more than a quarter of the land area of Haida Gwaii.
Near Sandspit, the Kunxalas and Damaxyaa Conservancies showcase some of the natural features of Moresby Island, including old-growth forest, salmon streams, and rocky shorelines facing onto the wild Hecate Strait. Hiking the Dover Trail in Damaxyaa Conservancy, you can find culturally modified trees (CMTs) used by the Haida for bark harvesting, or tested for soundness by cutting holes in the bases. In Kunxalas Conservancy, you can camp at various rec sites and even take an adventurous hike to the ancient Haida village site at Cumshewa Head, known as Kunahalas.