Jim Tredger seeks clarity on the Ddhaw Ghro Habitat Protection Plan

Yukon NDP MLA Jim Tredger asked the following question in the Yukon legislature regarding the Ddhaw Ghro Habitat Protection Plan on Tuesday, 24 November 2015.

Yukon NDP MLA Jim Tredger (Mayo--Tatchun): I too would like to thank all the people from industry and from Energy, Mines and Resources for the work they are doing on our type 2 sites. These are complicated, these are complex, and they are a real liability and there are no easy solutions. 

I just would encourage the minister and those responsible to develop a way to keep the public informed, to give assurance that the work being done is working or not, so that people are aware of it.

I would like to just ask a couple of quick questions about situations in Selkirk First Nation. I know I talked about Ddhaw Ghro before. 

I will just read a little bit from a letter around Ddhaw Ghro: “After more than 40 meetings over five years, and many hundreds of thousands of dollars, the recommended Ddhaw Ghro Habitat Protection Area Plan was submitted to the Yukon government in June 2006 for final ratification… So, why is the plan not final? The Yukon government has stalled ratification for nearly seven years because Energy, Mines and Resources staff refuse to agree to a plan recommendation to protect the Ddhaw Ghro hot springs from wildfire… The solution here is simple. Tell your EMR staff to agree to the recommended plan. Work with the communities to develop a workable fire management plan. Give the Ddhaw Ghro Habitat Protection Area a final plan. Respect the wishes of Northern Tutchone elders and citizens of Selkirk First Nation, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, and First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun.” That letter was written by Bob Hayes on April 19, 2013. 

The other area that needs work on is the buffer area around Fort Selkirk. I know the minister has been working a bit on that. It has been several years in the making. Selkirk is very concerned about it, and I’m wondering if the minister has a timeline on when that buffer zone can be finalized — or even an update as to where negotiations and conversations are around that?

Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Scott Kent: I’ll have to look into the Dhaw Ghro issue. I wasn’t aware that Energy, Mines and Resources had any issues with it. That’s not to say that there aren’t, but Environment, of course, is responsible for parks and Community Services is responsible for wildland fire, so I’ll have to get a better, more fulsome answer for the member opposite. As I mentioned, I’m not 100-percent sure what Energy, Mines and Resources’ role would be in that, or if what the writer of the letter is saying is accurate, but I’ll certainly endeavour to find out.

With respect to the Fort Selkirk historic site and the request for a staking prohibition, obviously this is an important site. It is certainly a special part of the heritage of the territory. Our government remains committed to working jointly with Selkirk First Nation to protect, preserve and promote that site for the benefit of current and future generations. This is a partnership that Energy, Mines and Resources has with Tourism and Culture. Our role at EMR, with respect to the Fort Selkirk historic site — that site itself is permanently withdrawn from staking under the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act in accordance with the Selkirk First Nation Final Agreement. We’re continuing to have discussions with Selkirk First Nation on a buffer area for Fort Selkirk for withdrawal from staking, so that associated historic values in the area will be protected. 

It is a co-owned and co-managed site of Selkirk First Nation and the Yukon government. As I mentioned, it has been withdrawn under the QMA and the PMA in accordance with chapter 13 of the final agreement.

YG and Selkirk First Nation jointly developed and approved the Fort Selkirk historic site management plan in May 2000, including outlining the boundary of a buffer for the site. The management plan covers the full management area as defined in the Selkirk First Nation Final Agreement, including both lands visible from the historic townsite and undefined lands required to buffer the site and control access, and includes both public and settlement lands. The site was, in the interim, withdrawn from staking in 2003 and permanently withdrawn in 2005. In 2013, Selkirk First Nation requested that the area for the buffer zone around the site be withdrawn from mineral staking. During 2013 and 2014, a joint working group — YG and Selkirk First Nation — looked at heritage values in the area and recommended a refined buffer zone boundary to encompass identified historic values. The draft buffer area recommended by the joint committee area covers two lapsed partial claims that were formerly held by a junior mining company.

Selkirk First Nation has subsequently requested a significantly larger buffer than was contemplated in the committee’s November 2014 recommendation. The larger area outlined by the Selkirk First Nation encompasses parts of three active quartz claims that are owned by a junior company.

A 2015 letter from the Premier maintains that we remain interested in working with Selkirk First Nation to define an appropriate area of withdrawal to protect the historic site and values associated with it. Again, work continues to come up with a compromise and a solution to this important issue, and Energy, Mines and Resources will continue to play its role in coming up with something that’s sufficient, as far as a buffer zone and a staking withdrawal around the Fort Selkirk historic site.

Tredger: I thank the minister for that answer and would encourage consultation or work with Selkirk First Nation on both those issues.