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Forum held to review Dehcho Land Use Plan

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 11 2008

DEH GAH GOT'IE/FORT PROVIDENCE - A revised version of the Dehcho Land Use Plan could be ready for approval as early as June, according to members of the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee.

The committee has been working since July 2007 to resolve the differences between the Dehcho First Nations (DFN), the territorial government and the federal government, said Michael Nadli, the chair of the committee.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Community representatives talk with Dehcho officials during a forum on the Dehcho Land Use Plan held in Fort Providence. Representatives include, from bottom left, Chief Fred Tesou and Darrell Betsaka of Nahanni Butte and Les Norn and Chief Alex Sunrise of the Hay River Reserve. Officials From top left, Chris Reid, legal council for DFN, George Erasmus, chief negotiator for DFN, Herb Norwegian, a representative for Liidlii Kue First Nation, Petr Cizek, representative for DFN on the Land Use Planning Committee, and Samuel Gargan who chaired the forum. - photo courtesy of Michael Nadli

"There's still a strong commitment from all three parties that we complete the revisions," said Nadli.

Representatives from Deh Cho communities were given a chance to review the changes during a forum held in Fort Providence from Dec. 2 to 4.

The Dehcho First Nations held the forum as a follow up to the community consultations that were done in November, said Nadli.

"Our message is: we're pretty close to what we believe is a balance between conservation and development opportunities," said Nadli.

Conservation and development have been a major negotiating issue.

In June 2006, the plan was originally ratified by DFN at an assembly. The territorial and federal governments rejected the plan, however, because of the high level of conservation and how the plan would interact with the current legislative and policy framework.

Using a number of different zones the 2006 plan prohibited mining on approximately 70 per cent of the Deh Cho territory and oil and gas development on approximately 60 per cent, said Petr Cizek, a representative for DFN on the committee.

Under the current revisions mining along with oil and gas development are only prohibited on 53 per cent of the land base. Near the 50 per cent of the Deh Cho protected during the original 2003 land withdrawals.

Most of the conservation zones remain intact. The 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 of terms and conditions that take into account wildlife, ecological and cultural values, said Cizek.

"The land use plan I strongly believe remains a world class document, something the Deh Cho people can be extremely proud of," Cizek said.

Cizek said it has taken a lot of hard work and compromises on all sides to reach this point in the revisions.

Mark Warren, the territorial government's representative on the committee said the government's priority is to complete the revisions to the plan so it can be approved.

"We see the value for having a land use plan for the settlement area for the Dehcho territory," said Warren.

The land use plan provides a road map for users, giving them direction on how and where development can take place, Warren said.

"It provides some certainty where there isn't certainty now," he said.

The land use plan would also represent a huge area of conservation the territory doesn't currently have. The territorial government did object to the original levels of conservation but during the revision process a more appropriate balance has been found with development, said Warren.

The committee's goal is to have the revised plan ready for approval in time for the DFN annual assembly in June, Warren said.