There’s going to be a new protected area in the Skeena on Tahltan territory: a 3,500 hectare conservancy next to Mount Ediziza Provincial Park which separately encompasses over 230,000 hectares.
The Tahltan Central Government made the announcement this week, alongside the Province of B.C., Skeena Resources, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and BC Parks Foundation. The 3,500 hectares in the new protected area is equivalant to 35 square kilometres, compared to 2,300 square kilometres in Mount Ediziza Province Park.
“Mount Edziza and the surrounding area has always been sacred to the Tahltan Nation. The obsidian from this portion of our territory provided us with weaponry, tools and trading goods that ensured our Tahltan people could thrive for thousands of years,” Chad Norman Day, President of Tahltan Central Government, said in a release. “This area is an initiative we can all take pride in. I am so relieved and thrilled that Mount Edziza is better protected for our future generations.”
This announcement was more than 20 years in the making. The Cassiar Iskut-Stikine Land and Resource Management Plan, developed in 2000, recommended that new protected areas be added to northwest B.C.
“[It] also recommended that if the mineral tenures in an area next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park became inactive, the area should be added to the park,” a backgrounder explains.
Instead, “government-to-government discussions with the Tahltan recommended the area be designated as a conservancy. Conservancies are established to explicitly recognize the importance of an area to First Nations for social, ceremonial and cultural uses. They also enable the continuation of traditional Aboriginal uses and provide flexibility to ensure opportunities for low impact, compatible economic activities.”
As a result of these discussions, Skeena Resources is returning mineral tenures for its Spectrum copper-gold project.
“Through many open and respectful conversations with Tahltan leaders over the years, we have developed a sincere appreciation of the cultural importance of this area to Tahltan,” Skeena Resources President and CEO Walter Coles said. “We are deeply committed to our partnership with the Tahltan Nation and are happy that we can play a role in protecting this area for future generations.”
Other participants are calling it a genuine moment of unity in the Skeena.
“This is a triple win,” said Andy Day, CEO of the BC Parks Foundation. “Together, we’re protecting a huge area for wildlife and nature, we’re advancing reconciliation, and we’re supporting sustainable recreation and use.”