The proposal would cover ancestral areas of 3 Kaska Dena First Nations.
First Nations in northern British Columbia are requesting the provincial government to endorse their proposal for a 40,000-square kilometer conservation area to protect major ecosystems and historical land.
The proposal would cover the ancestral areas of three Kaska Dena First Nations, and would be larger than Vancouver Island, making it the second-largest conservation area in Canada. That would be only approx. 4000 sq. km less than the Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta.
The Kaska Dena Council has applied for $4 million in federal government funding for the project they are calling the Kaska Indigenous Protected and Conservaition Area. While the project has the support of Federal Environment Minister, Catherine Mckenna, David Crampton of the Dena Kayeh Institute says the issue has been with the complacency of the provincial government.
Despite the massive size of the proposal, which would stretch from the Yukon border in the north and the Rocky Mountain Trench, the Kaska Dena Council assured that the conservation area would not interfere with resource development.
Crampton claimed the proposal was designed to avoid forestry and other resource extraction areas, as it lies between natural gas deposits and the Site C dam project, as well as mining sites.
The council suggested that the government complacency stemmed from concerns that the conservation area would conflict with forestry and mining. The council wrote to Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson in an attempt to ease the concerns. In their letter, they wrote that it had come to their attention that there were major concerns within the ministry regarding conflict around forestry. They believe it stems from misinformation and a lack of understanding of the proposal.
The council went on to say that the concerns worry them, as they were never shared it directly with the council and may also have a negative impact on the outcome of the proposal.
Crampton assured that there isn't any opportunity for forestry inside the conservation area, therefore it would not interfere.
In regards to mining, there is a small southeast corner of the proposed conservation area that Teck Resources holds a permit for, however Crampton claims Teck only operates outside the area.
Teck Resources responded in a statement that, though it had not been contacted by the Kaska Dena Council in regards to the conservation plans, they would be open to discussions on the subject.
The Dena Kayeh Institute wrote a 78-page conservation analysis, which highlighted why they felt the proposal was necessary. They explained that the conservation area will protect ten major watersheds, seven herds of woodland caribou, and thirteen ecosystems.
The council also suggested the area would create job opportunities for Kaska members, who could work as guides or Indigenous guardians who patrol the land.