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

Wear a mask to protect others, says Vanderhoof’s top doctor

“I think wearing a mask is a small inconvenience when weighed against the possibility of giving vulnerable members of our community an infection that could kill them,” the doctor said.

Here is what school will look like for FLESS students

Students are going back to school on June 1 on a voluntary, part-time basis.

7 projects in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Burns Lake receive NKDF funding

Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund Society announced $139,702 in funding on May 29.

School buses for SD91 to start running from June 1

Parents urged to drop off and pick kids up whenever possible.

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

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

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Most Read