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NEWS RELEASE · 19th July 2011
Office of Premier
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations


Premier Christy Clark and Taku River Tlingit First Nation spokesperson John Ward signed an agreement today that creates 13 new protected areas and provides resource development opportunities and investment certainty in more than three million hectares (approximately 11,500 square miles) in the Atlin Taku region of northwestern B.C.

“This agreement represents a clear shift from conflict to collaboration between B.C. and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation,” said Premier Clark. “This balanced approach means a brighter future for families in the Northwest and opens the territory for business, bringing new jobs and opportunities, while protecting key environmental and cultural values.”

The Taku River Tlingit have already begun to work co-operatively with mining developers in the area on potential resource development projects. It’s expected that future resource extraction projects could support 350 jobs during construction and 280 operations jobs.

“The Taku River Tlingits have looked forward to this day for a very long time,” said spokesperson Ward. “I wish to congratulate and thank the members of my First Nation for their hard work and dedication in bringing our ‘Tlatsini Vision’ to life in Government to Government Agreements, which will protect our lands and Tlingit Khustiyxh, our way of life, and help make our dreams of a prosperous and sustainable future a reality.”

“I extend our thanks and appreciation to the Premier and government of British Columbia for their efforts and the political will to successfully conclude the Atlin-Taku Land Use Plan and Government-to-Government Agreement, and to everyone who participated and supported the work of the TRTFN in reaching this important milestone in BC-First Nations’ relations. It is a win for the TRTFN, for B.C. and indeed for the country.”

The Land and Resource Management and Shared Decision-Making Agreement is the first of its kind in British Columbia. It gives formal effect to the Atlin Taku Land Use Plan and establishes Government-to-Government (G2G) decision-making structures and processes, to guide future land and resource management, engaging the community of Atlin and a cross-section of environmental and industry stakeholders. The agreement was developed collaboratively by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and B.C.

The TRT gave the task of choosing Tlingit names for the land use plan and G2G agreement to a distinguished community elder. The land use plan, Wóoshtin wudidaa, means “Flowing together;” the G2G agreement was named Wóoshtin yan too.aat meaning “Walking together”. The inspiration is the confluence of the Sloko and Nakina Rivers at the heart of Taku territory – two rivers with different headwaters, coming together to flow as one.

“After three years of negotiations, the Taku River Tlingit and B.C. have achieved agreements that send a clear signal internationally that this is a place where government and First Nations can work together co-operatively, with respect, in consultation with local stakeholder groups,” said Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mary Polak. “While the most sensitive areas critical to the Taku River Tlingit culture have been protected, a significant portion of the planning area is open for potential resource development. The certainty achieved through this Land Use Plan will establish an improved investment climate considerate of Taku River Tlingit cultural values.”

Including the current Atlin Park, the plan brings the protected area up to 26.2 per cent of the Land Use Plan area; 800,000 hectares (3,088.82 square miles) – equivalent to the size of 2,000 Stanley Parks – is fully protected. Some 90 per cent of the areas of highest mineral potential remain available for mineral exploration and potential development.

“This is another significant milestone in land use planning in British Columbia, fully protecting an additional 800,000 hectares and providing certainty for investors over three million hectares in an area of the province rich in natural beauty and natural resources,” said Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson.

The Land Use Plan area is close to the size of Vancouver Island and includes the Taku Watershed, one of B.C.’s most significant salmon watersheds. It supports the largest commercial salmon run in south-eastern Alaska. The Plan area is recognized internationally as home to salmon, grizzly bears and caribou, and is rich in culture, biodiversity and boreal forest.

“Atlin is a place of great natural beauty, with a long and diverse history and strong sense of community,” said Joint Land Forum representative Asa Berg. “Those who choose to live in Atlin do so because they are truly connected to the land — it is their source of income, their source of recreation and their way of life. The Atlin Taku Land Use Plan will protect the areas of great importance to the community — such as the Atlin River and Monarch Mountain, while also creating economic opportunities that will facilitate community revival. The land use plan will allow for the diversity of Atlin to continue in a balanced way that will support both economic growth and protect the natural beauty to ensure that our children and families can continue to thrive in this remote northern community.”

From 2000 to 2004, the Taku River Tlingit and B.C. were involved in litigation at the Supreme Court of Canada. The completion of the Land Use Plan and G2G Agreement represent a clear shift toward greater collaboration between the First Nation and B.C.

The Taku watershed has been one of the last remaining regions in B.C. without a land-use plan. Some 17.8 per cent of the plan area will be recommended for designation as new protected areas, to bring the total in the land use plan area to 26.2 per cent. This will protect areas of exceptional conservation value and strong Aboriginal and community interest, including the mainstem of the Taku River and a significant proportion of its major tributaries, the Nakina, Inklin, and Sheslay.

The Land Use Plan resolves long-standing access, protection, and mineral development issues in the Taku watershed, and provides clarity with respect to the values and objectives to be considered in resource management decision-making. Prohibiting commercial forestry in a large proportion of the plan area conserves critical caribou habitat. Salmon habitat conservation measures in the Taku watershed support its continued role as a salmon stronghold for both B.C. and Alaska.

To find out more about the land and resource management and shared decision-making agreement, go to:

http://www.newrelationship.gov.bc.ca/agreements_and_leg/engagement.html.

To view a map of the area showing the Land Use Plan, go to: http://www.ilmb.gov.bc.ca/slrp/lrmp/smithers/atlin_taku/index.html.

Photos of the Atlin Taku region can be viewed at: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjtWoHfT