Advantage Lillooet: The Land, The Community, The Opportunities


Lillooet is a relatively small municipality with a population of around 2,324 but is the center regional government and provides service and retail. The town is located 235 km North of Vancouver and 135km north of Whistler. There is archeological evidence of Lillooet being one of the oldest inhabited regions of North America, going back to more than 8.000 years. The St’at’mic community is one of the oldest communities living off the land trading salmon from the Fraser River.

Gold mining has been a big part of the town’s history and is still influential nowadays with Lillooet remaining one of the world’s greatest sources of nephrite jade.

The recent economy of the town and region is based on logging, wood processing at Ainsworth Lumber’s veneer plant and Bridgeside Wood Products’ value-added plant, agriculture, tourism and public services. However, many changes are taking place in the area with external and internal influences, and creating many challenges for the region such as a decline of resource-based employment and withdrawal of government services. Moreover, the forest can be of influence when it comes to helping the economy, as well green, clean energies like run-of-the-river independent power projects and wind power.

The Lillooet region is a total of 27.18 square km land, geographically divided into four areas: central Lillooet, north Lillooet, south Lillooet and east Lillooet, all situated around the Fraser. Within the region several Northern St’at’mic communities are living there and have been for thousands of years, passing on their knowledge of the land from one generation to the other. The communities are Xwisten (Bridge River) to the north, Xaxli’p (Fountain) to the north east, T’it’quet (Lillooet) and Sekw’el’was (Cayoose Creek) to the south.

The Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP) was released in July 2004 by the province for the Lillooet Timber Supply Area (TSA) with an amount of 193,098 hectares set aside for protected areas and parks. This allowed protection of First Nation’s territory and the conservation of their cultural heritage of the land. Furthermore, the St’at’mic Chiefs made public their own land use plan on July 30th of the same year.


The water system in the Lillooet district is vast, there are four separate water systems serving Central Lillooet’s Upper and Lower Benches, north Lillooet and the Industrial Park in east Lillooet. The other parts of east Lillooet are not served by a municipal water structure and South Lillooet is supplied by private wells or private surface water system. Central Lillooet sewer system is supplied by a municipality system whereas north, east and south Lillooet are served by private septic tank systems. Additionally, power is supplied by BC Hydro and there is no natural gas in the area so propane gas is used.


Lillooet is accessible through three different highways: 99, 12 and road 40. A $40 million investment by the Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon was announced in March 2005 to upgrade a series for highway 99  south and north, with the construction of eight new bridges on Duffey Lake Road and between Lillooet and  Pemberton. After the Sea to Sky Highway improvement the travel time between Lillooet and downtown Vancouver will be estimated at around three hours.

Lillooet used to have a railway line between north Vancouver and Prince George but was discontinued by the government in 2002.


The executive director of  Wilderness Tourism Association of BC, Ric Careless, stated that Lillooet and its region has a world-class tourism potential. The quote includes a statement about how the weather in the region influences the industry: a warm dry climate with hot summers and mild winters, extending the tourism period stay and with a tourism industry working all year round. The beautiful scenery that the region has is a major plus and the Fraser River is one of the largest free-flowing rivers in the world. The Landscape varies from the rainforests on highway 99 to desert landscape and ponderosa pine and bush grass coniferous forests to alpine meadows and towering snow-capped peaks and glaciers. Additionally, the wildlife varies with a high amount of different species such as grizzly bears and California bighorn sheep as well as many various bird species.

Moreover, in the section of the LRMP draft dedicated to tourism and recreation, areas have been identified as new protected areas as well as special tourism zones that focus on commercial recreation and tourism values management. These areas will be closed to industrial logging, as a way to better manage the tourism experience, minimize land-based conflict, ensure resource management and secure commercial tenures as a global process to support and develop the tourism industry. The money that the tourism industry generates supports the local communities and industries.

Industries (forestry, agriculture and mining)

The forest industry use to be a major influence in the Lillooet region but it has been declining over the years. The reason of this decline is due to the price variations that have actually gone up for cyclical lumber and communities being hit by recession over time. Moreover, with industrialization and machines replacing a majority of jobs, employment has decreased. Furthermore, conservation understanding has reduced the range of areas to harvest such as protected cultural heritage area for First Nations. Additionally, access to the TSA area is becoming more difficult and there is high competition with other economic sectors for land resources. There is an increase of mountain pine beetle attack in various areas that limits harvesting due to the wood quality.

Moreover, the forestry company Ainsworth Lumber Co. Ltd, in respect of First Nations cultural heritage has signed an agreement with the Northern St’at’mic communities ( Xwisten, Tsal’alh, T’it’q’et, Skw’el’was, Xaxli’p and Ts’kw’aylaxw) called the Halaw Protocol in October 2007 in order to acknowledge working cooperation, as well as the social and economical interests of both sides. The agreements’ principles are the relationship, economic and sustainability processes.

As for the agricultural industry, the region has always promoted and supported agriculture, for example the Fountainview Farms located on highway 12 is the largest producer of organic carrots in the province, along with many other successful farming efforts.

The Lilliooet’s Official Community Plan states that communities in the region should work with the Ministry of Agriculture in order to advertise and research for new agricultural opportunities, as well as zoning regulations that allow the development of the agri-tourism concepts that work well with the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) regulations.

The mining industry is another influential industry in the area, presently increasing with opportunities from the region, likewise since 2001 provincial government policies and increased commodity prices have boosted the industry’s investor’s confidence and increased employment in that field area. Mines have been re-opening in the area thanks to the Bralorne Gold Mines company within three historical sites in Bridge River Valley, West of Lillooet: Bralorne, King and Pioneer Gold Mines. These re-openings are considered by the district as the largest historic gold producer in the Canadian Cordillera.

The company is on the third phase of their development with the exploration and expansion of new zones.

The Graymont Western Canada Ltd. Company has agreed on the long term, until 2045, on the mining and process operation with the Ts’kw’aylaxw, for operations on their land.

Finally the energy industry  is increasing its influence in the region, with the growth of developments for run-of-the-river independent power projects (IPPs) that would provide employment and investments, with open access to remote areas. There is a new need for green energy and B.C. Hydro is in tune with this mindset as it wants to acquire 50% of new energy from renewable and clean energy with the intent to support the Lower Mainland.

Earth First Energy of Victoria has received an investigation permit to examine the possibility to develop a wind power project in the Yalakom region on four mountain tops. This project would extend up to 5,000ha of land.


Many opportunities and strategies have been put in place by the district to bring investment and influence back to the region. In 2006 the municipality recruited an EDO to assist with economic planning and promotion. Therefore, drafts have been created like the Official Community Plan and the Economic Opportunities Plan and developed to be presented to Premier Gordon Campbell. The 2007-2017 Corporate Strategic Plan developed and established several policies and strategies to support and enhance the economic development for Lillooet. Those strategies and polices include the integrity of the working land base, direct investment to commercial centers, building on existing  assets and infrastructures, taxes shared more equally and certainty for developers.

Commercial strategies will include land use designation with the enhancement of Downton Square focus on being a center point for the community in every communal aspect. The development of tax incentives to create a specific area on Main Street from Station Hill to Phair as well as East Lillooet Industrial Park. There will also be a support from the district for areas already in place Development Permit with guidelines for renovations and conservation of new buildings.

As for the industrial strategies they include the opportunity to develop in the North Lillooet upper bench area with 20 hectares of industrial area and 50 hectares of residential area. The East Lillooet Airport lands will have 120 hectares of industrial area and a 380 hectares of residential, with the encouragement of agriculture processing facilities. The creation of downtown Lillooet as a focal point for commercial development by amending zoning from Commercial to Light Industrial in East Lillooet within the Highway 99 North and Nugget Road proximity area, and many more amendments in different areas for industrial influence and increase.

The tourism strategies incorporate the Gateway Project at Highway 99 junction and the highway signage program. Tourism is a major important focus to economic improvement for the region, especially on the long term with more specific and pro-active management strategies than the past. The major companies that are investing in the region are Gold Country Community Society, The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourist Associations and the Vancouver Coast Mountain Tourism Association.

Finally, the district is promoting and encouraging environmental and wildlife conservation, one of them being through education. As for recreational strategies, the municipality will support the partnership for the REC Center development, the addition of new facilities as well as the protection and enhancement of the existing ones and the development of road networks and if there is funding the development of a bicycle network.


In conclusion, Lillooet is an increasing region in every aspect from tourism to forestry or renewable energy. The municipality works hard on the development of the region, to bring in investors and tourism to build up the economy and popularity, as well as working in cooperation with the First Nations focusing on land protection.

  • Source Wendy Fraser. March 2008. Advantage Lillooet:The Land, The Community, The Opportunities. For District of Lillooet. Available at : [Accessed 03/2021].