Celebrating 25 years of environmental action

Below is the news coverage and here is the link to the 14 minute video:

The SEAS Story – A 25 Year Retrospective
A group of conservationists surround a 3.65 metre diameter ‘Seymour giant’ which was slated for logging. A framed copy of the 1993 photo was given to the Minister of Forests’ regional manager, who issued a moratorium that allowed the company to only log half the blocks. After six years of intense advocacy and negotiations, the Upper Seymour River Valley became a provincial park.

Celebrating 25 years of environmental action

by  Barb Brouwer – Salmon Arm Observer

posted May 14, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Not just talk, but action.

That has been the driving force behind the Shuswap Environmental Action Society (SEAS) that is celebrating 25 years of advocating for the environment.

“I feel like it’s been an amazing amount of effort and time and achievements,” says SEAS president and founding member Jim Cooperman. “It’s basically we worked hard to make conservation an issue here in the Shuswap, and all of our work resulted in achieving the goals that we set.”

SEAS began modestly in 1989, when Cooperman realized there was no organization in the Shuswap dealing with environmental issues.

Cooperman, who had a background in forestry and owned a sawmill, says there was fierce resistance throughout the province to a government plan that would basically privatize the forest industry.

“My knowledge of forestry issues combined with a passion for the environment was one of the catalysts for starting the organization,” he says, noting forest practices were terrible in the ’80s and early ’90s prior to the Forest Practices Code “I got involved in the fight by writing a long brief and presenting it to the minister in Kamloops. And shortly after that we formed SEAS.”

The first big event SEAS hosted was an Earth Day fundraiser at the Salmon Arm Rec Centre in April 1989.

A huge success, it raised enough money to produce the first of three issues of Shuswap Eco-watch, educational newsletters that were distributed in the Observer and Shuswap Market News.

Cooperman estimates 20 to 30 active members formed SEAS, some of whom had been involved in environmental issues in the past – mostly fighting against the uranium exploration that had been planned for Silver Creek.

“The first main issue we tackled was the dumps, because they were burning plastic,” he says, noting the issue also formed the first of many presentations he has made to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District over the years.

The organization also became actively involved with conservation, at a time when parks were scarce.

“SEAS created more than 25,000 hectares of new parks but it took years and years of hard work to get there,” he says. “We cleared routes into the wilderness, produced map brochures to help get people out there to experience wilderness, did a 15-minute video, hired airplanes to take aerial photos and made countless trips into the wilderness, taking various people with us – provincial experts, dignitaries.”

SEAS also campaigned hard for a land-use planning process for the Shuswap.

“Kamloops had the first LRMP (Land and Resource Management Plan) but it only dealt with a small part of the Shuswap,” he says, noting that SEAS undertook a new collaborative role in the subsequent Okanagan-Shuswap LRMP, a long process that included mapping, studies and presentations.

“Then finally, in the last year of the process, it evolves into negotiation and we were successful in that we protected Anstey-Hunakwa and the Upper Seymour River where there is actually an antique forest.”

Cooperman says the antique forest, the rarest in the area and quite likely all of North America, once existed along the full length of the river.

“Most of it had been logged out by the time we got going and we had to get the regional forestry manager to issue a moratorium.”

Through the efforts of SEAS, thousands of hectares of old-growth trees were protected, including an area of Larch Hills.

The organization also fought to halt private sewage effluent outfalls into Shuswap Lake, logging in viewscape areas and development at the mouth of the Adams River. At the same time, SEAS campaigned for the establishment of parks.

“One of our grandest accomplishments is the mapping work we did,” says Cooperman, of the detailed and colourful map of the entire Shuswap watershed and online educational handbook.

“Over the years, we’ve had so many people involved with SEAS; virtually hundreds who have put in their time and effort to support the cause.”


The Shuswap Environmental Action Society (SEAS) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a party that included some great local live music. I helped form SEAS with local activists who had been involved with other local advocacy groups, including the Shuswap Nuclear Action Group, the Shuswap-Thompson River Research and Development Association, and the Shuswap Recycling Society.

 25 years of environmental activism

A Shuswap Passion column for the Shuswap Market News, by Jim Cooperman

At the inaugural meeting in February, 1989, I gave a short speech that included these thoughts, “We are all sick of hearing how we live in a throw-away society, how our forests are being clear-cut at double the rate that they are growing back, how our lakes and rivers are dying from pollution, how our food is full of chemicals that cause cancer and how our governments respond only when the problems reach epidemic proportions. We want to find out how these global problems relate to us here. We hear on the news how poorly the B.C. forests are being managed, but what we need to find out is what forestry problems exist here at the Shuswap.  We need answers, we need to spread the word, we need to take action and we have to fight from the grassroots level up. “

It did not take long after incorporation for the fledgling society to begin taking action. In just its first year, SEAS sponsored a well-attended forestry workshop that included a field trip to recent Larch Hills clearcuts with forest service staff and a local sawmill forester. A very successful Earth Day event at the community centre with speakers, displays and a dance band raised significant funds to publish an educational newspaper, the Shuswap Eco-Watch, with articles on waste dumps, forestry, pesticides, radon gas, recycling, and water quality, an issue that continues to be a major concern.

For the next few years, SEAS focused on developing a sustainable stewardship plan that further evolved into advocacy efforts to improve forestry practices, promote wilderness conservation and push for land use planning. Two more Eco-Watch newspapers were published with colour satellite photos showing where logging was proposed, followed by a series of newspaper columns promoting park creation. Map brochures were published to encourage the public to visit the endangered wilderness areas that needed protection and a video was made called Shuswap Wild with spectacular photography including aerial scenes.

Land use planning began in Kamloops in 1992, which, after three years, resulted in new parks in the Adams Lake area in addition to many others in that region. Finally in 1995, land use planning began in the Okanagan Shuswap, and SEAS conservation efforts evolved from advocacy to process and finally negotiations. The result was 25,000 hectares of new parks, including the Upper Seymour River rainforest and the magnificent Anstey-Arm Hunakwa Lake wilderness area. Additionally, thousands of hectares of old growth forest were set aside and there was direction for vastly improved forest management to better protect non-timber forest values.

In an effort to advocate for lowering the rate of logging, SEAS produced a spatial timber supply analysis in 1994 that clearly showed how there would be little intact forest left after 17 years. The rate of cut was never decreased, which likely contributed to the loss of this region’s major sawmill in Canoe a few years ago.

In 2008, the successful effort to halt the proposed marina and condo development near the mouth of the Adams River resulted in national media coverage. And while we were unable to see the property purchased by the provincial government to be added to Roderick Haig-Brown Park, the current plan for the Cottonwoods Campground includes public access to the beach, restoration of significant fish habitat, removal of the buoys, and a continuation of RV camping.

After SEAS helped change the map of the Shuswap through the creation of new parks, in 2010 it worked with many diverse partners including all levels of government to produce the first map of the Shuswap watershed in a poster format.

Over the 25 years, SEAS has sponsored countless forums on many issues, including lake water quality, pesticides, climate change, watershed management and the tar sands and pipelines. It helped initiate the Regional District parks system and has investigated the impacts of poor logging practices that resulted in numerous debris torrents that have devastated local infrastructure.  After 25 years, SEAS has left an impressive legacy of new parks and improved environmental protection measures.