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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Terrace RCMP respond to firearms call on South Side

One person arrested without incident

The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine office in Terrace is now open to the public

The office has been closed since March 17 due to COVID-19

New technology is helping battle avalanches near Stewart

The automated avalanche detection system just finished a successful first season

BC Hydro studying new power connection in northwest B.C.

Would supply hydro-electric power to planned LNG plant at Kitimat

City increasing maximum business license fine

Maximum unlikely to ever be used, according to City

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

B.C. NDP says Andrew Wilkinson is wrong about federal link

Parent, superintendent, trustee report smooth return to classrooms in B.C.

The biggest challenge is convincing families that it’s safe, some say

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach urges feds to compensate airline passengers

Letter to transport minister touches on Northwest B.C. tourism operators impacted by COVID-19

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Most Read