The land use plan was approved and signed last Aug. 22 by Robert Nault, the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Fred Carmichael, the president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, but has yet to be signed by the Government of the Northwest Territories.
The document segments four areas of the roughly 60,000 square kilometres covered in the Gwich'in Settlement Area and will pave the way for responsible industrial, cultural and environmental stewardship of the settlement area.
The project began in 1983 when the Gwich'in helped establish a framework for land use planning, which evolved into the Mackenzie Delta Beaufort Sea Land Use Planning Process which was produced in 1991.
The government did not approve that plan and after the signing of the Gwich'in Land Claim in 1992, the process was re-established by the Gwich'in Interim Land Use Planning Board. Once the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act was passed in 1998, the Gwich'in had legal authority to produce their plan.
Carmichael said the approval of the plan represents a great day for the Gwich'in people.
"I remember my very first meeting with Minister Nault, and his statement to me was, 'This is taking far too long, let's get this done,'" Carmichael recalled.
Nault said the signing is a major milestone for the Gwich'in people, the NWT and the federal government, as the document represents the first land use plan completed under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
"This approval of the Gwich'in Land Use Plan, to me, is another one of those watershed moments of the Northwest Territories as it is the first completion of one of these land use plans," Nault said.
The 165-page document will guide future decision and direction to Gwich'in beneficiaries, industry, government and others who are active within the settlement area.