First Nations push for massive conservation area in northern B.C.

Includes ancestral areas of three Kaska Dena First Nations, just shy of the B.C.-Yukon border

The Horse Ranch area of Kaska Dena traditional territories in northern B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Maureen Garrity)

First Nations in northern B.C. are calling on the provincial government to endorse an ambitious proposal for a 40,000-square-kilometre conservation area to protect major watersheds and sensitive species.

The proposal would cover the ancestral areas of three Kaska Dena First Nations and would be larger than Vancouver Island, taking up a massive section of north-central B.C.

Premier John Horgan’s government hasn’t said whether it supports or opposes the idea after seven months of phone calls, letters and meetings with officials from various ministries, say the project’s proponents.

“They’ve never said no, but they’ve never said yes, and they’ve never said they would sit down and negotiate what it would look like. That’s all we’re asking at this point,” said David Crampton of the Dena Kayeh Institute, which is spearheading the project.

“We’re not sure why. We have no idea really what’s going on in the background of all this.”

The First Nations have applied for $4 million in federal government funding for the project, known as the Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area, and now fear it won’t receive funding because B.C. hasn’t signed on.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has been supportive, said Crampton.

“But she’s drawing her reins in a little bit because of the complacency of the provincial government, at this point, to make any kind of move at all,” he said.

The provincial and federal governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The plan has been more than two decades in the making. Horgan was a cabinet minister in B.C.’s New Democrat government in the 1990s, which worked with the Kaska to create what was then one of the largest protected areas in the world, the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. The proposed new conservation area includes part of the Muskwa-Kechika.

READ MORE: Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and conservation officers collaborate on enforcement

The new area covers a vast, roadless area stretching to the Yukon border in the north, the slopes of the Rockies in the east, the Cassiar Mountains on the west, and to the Rocky Mountain Trench — between the Rockies and the Cassiar — in the south.

Crampton said the proposal was carefully designed to avoid forestry and other resource extraction areas. It lies between natural gas deposits and the Site C dam project in the east, and mining and other resource projects in the west.

In the most recent round of letters sent to various ministers, the Kaska Dena Council explained why the conservation area would not conflict with natural resource development, said Crampton.

The council wrote to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson on May 3, saying it had come to their attention that “there is a major concern within your ministry regarding possible tensions and conflict around forestry” in the proposed protected area.

“We believe this is based on misinformation and a serious lack of understanding of our proposal in spite of our best efforts to keep both you and your officials well-informed and well-briefed,” the letter says.

“We are worried that these concerns, never shared with us directly, are having a negative impact on your perception of our proposal.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Queen Charlotte name change will be a long process

Mayor says conversations still to be had with all residents

Haida Gwaii support workers strike deal with school district

New agreement will be in effect for the next three years

Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital to get secure room for psychiatric patients

Cost anticipated at close to $1 million for Masset hospital

B.C. oil tanker ban squeaks through final vote in Senate

Bill C-48 bars oil tankers from loading at ports on B.C’s north coast

Queen Charlotte explores banning single use plastics

Council seeking community input on options to reduce plastic waste

WATCH: Killer whale has the final catch in Prince Rupert waters

Fishing duel sees salmon stolen by eager orca

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Thieves steal two $40K chairs featuring gold serpents from B.C. furniture store

Chairs believed to be the only two of its kind in Canada, police said

Rising gas prices force B.C. residents to rethink summer road trips: poll

63 per cent of respondents reported gas prices are impacting their day-to-day finances

Most Read