Dehcho Land Use Plan revisions increase development
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 01, 2008
DEH GAH GOT'IE KOE/FORT PROVIDENCE - A revised Dehcho Land Use Plan could be completed as early as this fall, according to members of the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee.
The planning committee has been working steadily since last fall to resolve the differences over the plan between the Dehcho First Nations (DFN) and the territorial and federal governments, said Michael Nadli, the chair of the committee.
Members of DFN were informed of the revisions that have been made during a chief and elders forum that was held from April 22-23 in Fort Providence.
In June 2006 the plan was originally ratified by DFN at an assembly. The territorial and federal governments - raising concerns about the level of conservation and how the plan would interact with the current legislative and policy framework - rejected the plan, however.
"It kind of got log-jammed at the government level," said Nadli.
The committee has been working to revise the plan to make it acceptable to all three parties.
Using a combination of conservation and special management zones, the original plan prohibited oil and gas development on approximately 60 per cent of Deh Cho territory and mining on approximately 70 per cent. During negotiations the conservation zones were kept as intact as possible, said Petr Cizek, a representative for DFN on the committee.
"Only some very small adjustments were made," he said.
The real change was made in the special management zones, most of which were turned into special development zones. These zones allow development if it follows a series a terms and conditions that take into account wildlife, ecological and cultural values, said Cizek.
"The special development zones wouldn't be a free for all by any means," he said.
With the change, oil and gas development and mining would be allowed on 47 per cent of the territory and restricted on 53 per cent.
During the forum the participants were informed about all the changes and were able to made suggestions.
"Generally speaking the Deh Cho participants were quite happy," said Cizek. "The changes that were suggested were quite minor."
The planning committee will go back to the governments with some of the recommendations, said Cizek.
The committee is working to have as much of the revised plan completed as possible for the Kakisa assembly in June. The goal is to have the plan ready for approval by a special assembly in the fall, said Cizek. The plan would then move to the territorial and federal governments for their approval.
The forum on the plan was "really helpful" both for the planning committee and the Dehcho members who participated, said Chief Berna Landry of the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe First Nation.
The elders who were at the forum also appreciated hearing the information and the updates, she said.
Although there'll be room for change in the future the plan should be done right the first time, Landry said.
"The plan is so important for our future," she said. "It's like laying out a blueprint for what will happen to us as a nation."
One of the highlights of the forum was the discussion about the cultural and spirituality aspects of the plan, said Landry. Along with the more technical aspects of land use planning, the plan also lays out guidelines of a more spiritual nature such as holding a ceremony before using the land.
"I'm glad Canada and the GNWT have a section in there. If anyone's going to use the land there's some guidelines for them to follow," said Landry. "You're dealing with the land and environment and you should have more respect for that."