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

PHOTOS: Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors goes to the circus

Bard on the Bandstand 2019 kicks off July 18

Family practice opens doors for youth wellness services during Foundry renovations

Youth Wellness Centre services being offered at Golden Ears Family Practice

PHOTOS: Bees and Blueberries Festival in Pitt Meadows

More fun on Sunday at free family event

Large police presence near Maple Ridge tent city

Reports of shot fired on Friday night, police find no evidence

Tyler O’Neill gets unique bobblehead

Maple Ridge slugger in second season of Major League Baseball

VIDEO: Using scrap materials, man build workout equipment at B.C. tent city

Made of reused wood, ropes and metal, the machine could be Shane Knight’s ticket to competitions

Canadian officials flagged 900 food items from China with ‘problems’ over 2 years

The scrutiny of agricultural goods has been central to a diplomatic dispute between Canada and China

VIDEO: Elderly woman with severe dementia missing in Chilliwack

Woman now missing more than 24 hours and missing her daily medications

Gasoline companies to speak at public inquiry into B.C. pump prices

Premier John Horgan ordered the inquiry in May when prices at the pump reached $1.70 a litre

When the hospital becomes home: B.C. girl, 7, has spent a third of her life in pediatric unit

Mother grateful for the care her daughter received at VGH Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

B.C. woman jailed for child pornography after sharing photos of grandchildren online

Grandma sentenced to 14 months behind bars for concerning and explicit online chats with stranger

Loved ones of Somali-Canadian journalist Hodan Nalayeh mourn after terrorist attack

She moved back to Somalia last year in an effort to tell positive stories of her home country

Marathon votes, high stress work is going to kill someone, say some MPs

Some resort to wearing diapers to help get them through all-night votes

Concerns mount over ‘criminalization’ of detained migrants in Canada

The agency decided all officers working in these centres must be outfitted in protective and defensive equipment

Most Read