Smith’s Landing rejects Athabasca land use plan

Smith’s Landing rejects Athabasca land use plan
The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan will be on display in Fort Smith May 3 and Fort Chipewyan May 5.

Smith’s Landing First Nation has spoken out against the failure of Alberta’s Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) to protect its treaty rights in northeastern Alberta, as the government gets set to consult the public in both Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan.

Citing the fact that LARP designates Smith’s Landing treaty, traditional and reserve land as “mixed management zones” – the same classification as the Fort McMurray oilsands region – Chief Cheyeanne Paulette said the band will oppose the plan until Alberta agrees to a direct meeting with SLFN.

“A regional plan cannot assume that a framework strategy for the Fort McMurray oilsands area can be transferred to the northeastern portion of the Athabasca region,” Paulette said.

The chief added that Alberta’s vision of industrial development on and around SLFN traditional territory will have “adverse effects on SLFN’s treaty rights that cannot be mitigated by planning that focuses on the Fort McMurray industrial region.”

SLFN’s position comes after both First Nations in Fort Chipewyan slammed the plan when it was first released for ignoring Aboriginal recommendations and threatening treaty rights.

Meanwhile, as the public in both Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan get set for open meetings on the fate of LARP, another report has heavily criticized the plan and called on the government to implement 19 additional steps to ensure environmental protection in the region.

The Pembina Institute’s report, Solving the Puzzle, released last week, sets out a range of recommendations it says would help LARP address the “majority of unresolved environmental problems” in the region.

Included in the plan are recommendations to limit the total amount of land under development to five per cent at any one time, protect 50 per cent of public forest lands from industrial development and ban approval of new oilsands mines until technology to deal with tailings ponds are in place.

“These policy recommendations are rigorous, practical and consistent with the best available science and leading policies in other jurisdictions,” said Jennifer Grant, director of the Pembina Institute’s oilsands program. “The Government of Alberta faces a narrow and critically important window of opportunity to raise the bar on oilsands development.”

Alberta Sustainable Resources Development Minister Mel Knight released the draft LARP last month. He called it a balance between “human activities and the protection of Alberta’s landscapes,” and said it would be the first of seven regional plans eventually covering all of Alberta.

The plan calls for an additional 16 per cent of the lower Athabasca region to be set aside, free from development.

Included in it is a designation of the Slave River rapids as a “tourist recreation area,” and a swath of land north of Fort Chipewyan set aside as a provincial park.

Public consultation on the plan happens in Fort Smith on May 3 at the Pelican Rapids Inn, and in Fort Chipewyan on May 5 at Mamawi Hall.

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