Letter to the Editor

Free the wilderness The recent land-lease application of a Yukon big game hunting outfit for 40 land leases/licenses should be of great concern to…

Free the wilderness

The recent land-lease application of a Yukon big game hunting outfit for 40 land leases/licenses should be of great concern to the Yukon public.

It seems like somebody is anticipating a new Bonanza just around the corner, all about possible future real-estate opportunities in the pristine Yukon wilderness.

This is exclusively for folks of the big-game hunting outfits who might hope to strike it rich one day, perhaps selling these temporarily leased, later-turned-titled lands to wealthy foreigners, or anybody who will offer lots of cash for property in one of the last unspoiled places of the world.

Under the new Big Game Outfitting Land Application Policy from October 6, 2005, outfitters are now able to apply for land.

A lease grants the lessee the exclusive right to possess, use and enjoy a site for a specified use and period.

In other words, it’s like private property that is not titled yet.

Apparently, the main intent of this policy is to legalize informally existing sites and cabins that are being used without associated land tenure.

We don’t object to this policy and support the regulation of land use.

However, after careful examination and comparison with a similar document, the new Trapping Cabin Land Application Policy, we would like to point out several concerns.

While the Trapping Land Application Policy includes several references to regulate and limit the use of these land leases, such specific references are completely missing in the outfitters’ policy.

We wonder why. Is this just plain oversight?

Or does the Energy, Mines and Resources lands branch simply trust outfitters more than trappers?

The following specific references limiting leased land use can be found in the trappers’ policy.

We tried to adjust them to the outfitters’ version and would like the lands branch to review and consider adding them to the Outfitters Land Application Policy, preventing the possibility of abuse or land grab, which could ignite a wave of land speculation in the Yukon territory:

Land tenures approved under this policy are issued for big game hunting purposes only.

Land tenures under this policy do not imply a title or ownership of the land under the lease.

Land for activities based on use of natural resources for trapping and big game outfitting are — normally — only made available by lease or licence. 

Land will not be sold for big game outfitting purposes

Individuals are eligible for only one base camp.

 We also suggest limiting the number of leases per outfitting area for secondary camps.

On February 8, 2006, Lone Wolf Outfitting applied for 40 land leases/licences in order to establish permanent hunting camps in his outfitting area.

An application for 40 leases/licences in one single outfitting area seems like a lot. How can this be justified?

If these applications are approved by the government’s land branch, public access to a scenic, well-used and important location will be denied and could set the precedence for other applications.

Also, the owner of Lone Wolf could possibly sell 40 very valuable wilderness properties as soon as he obtains title for the parcels.

Lone Wolf outfitting has for years tried to discourage people from landing at his camp on the west shore of Big Salmon Lake.

On at least one occasion, a guided canoe party was literally driven off by the owner of Lone Wolf.

A few years ago, Lone Wolf’s posted “no camping” signs were deemed illegal by the government and had to be removed.

Lone Wolf’s camp is located on a very narrow land point and most of the surrounding land bordering his cabins towards the lake falls under the 30 metres public access right of way.

With the new Big Game Outfitting Land Application Policy, Lone Wolf seized the opportunity to finally get rid of canoeists and the general public for good.

He’s applying to turn the whole land point into a leasehold parcel right down to the water line, leaving absolutely no public access right of way for anybody to stop there anymore.

People who are familiar with Big Salmon Lake know that most of its western shoreline below the intake from Sandy Lake is very inaccessible due to steep and rocky banks.

There are only a couple of places that can be used for camping or emergency landings. This particular land point is absolutely crucial for canoeists to safely navigate the lake to the outlet, which marks the beginning of Big Salmon River.

On our last trip we had whitecaps all across the lake and were forced to wait out the wind for hours, sipping tea and enjoying the stunning scenery.

It would be dangerous if canoeists and boaters were denied access to this important location.

The Big Game Outfitting Land Application Policy has provisions to ensure that unreasonable land-lease applications won’t be granted.

We request that Lone Wolf’s application on Big Salmon Lake will be denied based on the following references of the Big Game Outfitting Land Application Policy:

Principles:

Land required facilitating public recreation, and multiple use of land and natural resources will — normally — be retained for public use rather than alienated for private use. 

Environmental Assessment Criteria:

Leasehold parcels will be set back a minimum of 30 metres from the ordinary high-water mark of lakes and rivers.

The setback may be increased where required due to environmental, cultural or scenic values or to facilitate other land uses or management considerations.

Resource Management Criteria:

Sites needed to accommodate public access and use of land or water resources are normally retained for public use rather than alienated for private use.

Since the owner of Lone Wolf Outfitting is not willing to share a 30 metres setback with the public, we would suggest that he move his base camp to some “Loner” location, far away from a popular lake and canoe route.

As a family of passionate recreational canoeists, we commend the foresight of the Yukon government in upholding policies, like the 30-metre setback along waterways as a necessary precaution to protect public access from the greed of a few individuals.

Other jurisdictions lost most of their public access to lake shores.

We hope all people who treasure travelling the Yukon’s wilderness will contact the government’s lands branch regarding this issue, helping to prevent the possibility that YTG grants waivers to companies or individuals overriding these policies.

The Energy Mines & Resources lands branch is seeking public input regarding the land lease applications of Lone Wolf Outfitting until April 21, 2006.

Current applications and policies can be viewed on the government website (www.emr.gov.yk.ca/lands/info.html).

Felix and Astrid Vogt

Via e-mail

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