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Step toward land-use plan
Committee formed to balance needs of community with aboriginal needs and rights

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 7, 2012

Multiple levels of government gathered in Inuvik last Friday to form a committee that will look into land use around Airport Lake, just outside of Inuvik. This could mean new sites for recreational cabins may become available down the road, but officials are careful to highlight that this is still only a possibility.

NNSL photo/graphic

Donald Andre, left, of the Nihtat Gwich'in Renewable Resource Council, Jozef Carnogursky, president of the Nihtat Gwich'in Council, Richard Nerysoo, president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Robert C. McLeod and Inuvik Mayor Denny Rodgers create a new steering committee on June 1 by signing on to work together on a management plan for Airport Lake. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

"It's important that we all work together and come up with a plan that works for everyone," said Mayor Denny Rodgers.

Gwich'in Tribal Council president Richard Nerysoo echoed the idea that the committee aims to balance the interests of everyone who uses the lake.

"It's about balancing the recreational needs of the community with the aboriginal rights and needs of people who have traditionally used the area," he said.

To meet these goals, a new steering committee was created June 1 by Rodgers, Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Robert C. McLeod, Nerysoo, NGC Nihtat Gwich'in Council president Jozef Carnogursky and Donald Andre of the Nihtat Gwich'in Renewable Resource Council.

This committee should set an example for multiple levels of government working together on other projects in the future, McLeod said.

"I think it's huge," he said. "In a place like Inuvik, especially, where we have so many groups in town here, this hopefully is a sign of things to come."

A recreational leasing and policy framework discussion paper released by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs in January states there are currently 42 cabin sites located around Airport Lake, on Commissioner's Land. It proposes 16 new cabin sites could be supported on Commissioner's Land near the lake. The paper is meant to be a starting point for discussions on recreational land use.

"When we're all open, we have the ability to have a conversation that results in real constructive solutions," Nerysoo said. "We always have to measure these things in terms of how changes to the use of land will affect the aboriginal rights of people who live in the region. You can't simply say that you will approve fishing in the lake when historically people have fished in the lake for food."

The lake is also bordered by Gwich'in settlement land, which was not a part of the MACA study.

The Inuvik Airport is located on one side and there is an active quarry near another portion of the lake.

The existing sites around Airport Lake were originally built as squatters cabins. The fact all of these cabin owners have now signed on with MACA and are willing to be a part of this process is a big credit to the department and to the cabin owners, said Rodgers.

"To the GNWT's credit, MACA has taken that on and everyone has signed on to leases out there, which legitimizes (those cabins). So now we just have to come up with a plan to determine what we're going to do with it," he said.

While there are still plenty of so-called squatter cabins in the surrounding area, it is important to legitimize the area surrounding Airport Lake because there is a need for recreational space close to town, McLeod said.

"There are still a lot of places out in the Delta where people will go and just put their cabins up, but there are a lot of people who like to have places fairly close to town," he said.

Now that the committee has been struck, it will get to work putting together a land use and management strategy for the entire lake.

"It's going to take us a bit of time, but the important thing is we are beginning the process," Nerysoo said.

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