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Home / News / Fort Nelson First Nation files lawsuit to protect caribou
Fort Nelson First Nation files lawsuit to protect caribou
Courtesy of the BC Gov

Fort Nelson First Nation files lawsuit to protect caribou

A BC First Nation has filed for a judicial review of the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s approval of Rockyview Resources recent pipeline project.

Fort Nelson First Nations say the project is going to cut across critical boreal woodland caribou habitat – an animal already provincially and federally recognized as a species at risk.

“The 39km proposed gas pipeline cuts right through core caribou habitat in our territory, in an area with the most concentrated and highest known use by boreal caribou for forage, calving, rearing and protection from predators,” says Lana Lowe, Director of FNFN Department of Lands & Resources. “This area has been important harvesting grounds for our people, but in particular, the area contains very important habitat for caribou, which our people have relied on for many generations to feed our families.”

Fort Nelson First Nation are challenging this decision because they feel they were not properly consulted, their requests and concerns were never considered and information about the herd was never taken in to account.

The community is standing up for their treaty rights to harvest caribou and no longer will be ignored.

FNFN made strong submissions to the board throughout the application process, including a developed plan (the FNFN Caribou Report) to support herd recovery in that area.

The 39 KM gas pipeline project was approved on June 23rd and no invitation was extended to the First Nation group to work out a specific consultation process, and their caribou report remained unconsidered.

The BCOGC deemed it not practical to consider the report and continued to use inadequate and incomplete data to determine the pipeline posed no threat to caribou in the area, although no clear explanation of this was provided, according to a press release from FNFN.

“The BCOGC demonstrated an inadequate, unlawful and wholly unacceptable approach to consultation with FNFN regarding how this pipeline will impact boreal caribou in our territory,” says Lowe. “There is no evidence to suggest that the herd is stable, yet the province and Rockyview Resources insist that it is. 84% of boreal caribou habitat in B.C. is within FNFN territory. We clearly have an interest in saving and helping restore caribou populations, and for this reason, our community has chosen not to hunt caribou until the population stabilizes. We expect the same stewardship ethic from companies who wish to access our territory for economic purposes.”

This approval comes after the BC Liberal Government committed $27M to a comprehensive caribou recovery program– demonstrating its commitment to the species at risk.

Caribou are one of Canada’a most iconic animals. There are 51 woodland caribou herds in British Columbia divided into four groups: southern mountain, central mountain, northern mountain, and boreal.

Fort Nelson First Nation says the are committed to successful working relationships that focuses on early engagement, joint planning and co-development. This includes having steps taken by the proponent to engage respectfully with the nation to properly understand their concerns. Projects must also adhere to environmental standards compatible with those of the nation.

FNFN supports development and operation in its territory, as long as the proponent and FNFN’s objectives align.  Over the past year, 77 referrals for projects in FNFN Territory were processed. Only one was rejected: Rockyview’s proposal.

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