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Assessment board approves another lease on trapline

Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation is experiencing déjà vu.Even while the First Nation fought a landmark court case against an…

Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation is experiencing déjà vu.

Even while the First Nation fought a landmark court case against an agricultural lease in its traditional territory, another very similar lease was being pushed through the assessment process behind it.

This second agricultural lease application was on traditional land, overlapped an elder’s trapline and was recommended despite opposition from the First Nation.

It’s very similar to the lease awarded to Larry Paulsen in 2004, which the First Nation took to court.

The government didn’t undertake meaningful consultation with the First Nation despite the parcel sitting on its traditional territory and overlapping a portion of an elder’s trapline, Little Salmon/Carmacks argued.

Territorial Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale agreed, and ruled in the First Nation’s favour.

The Yukon government and First Nations are currently waiting for the results of a government appeal on the case.

If the government loses the appeal, the case could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.

However, while all this was going on, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board was recommending the second, similar agriculture application.

It was for land in the same area outside of Carmacks and even overlaps the very same trapline — trapline No.143, owned by elder Johnny Sam.

Little Salmon/Carmacks cannot support this project proposal primarily because of its location, the First Nation said in its assessment board submission.

The proposed farm would overlook the Dog Salmon Slough, which is an important wildlife habitat area.

Locals recognize the habitat as important for moose calving and its significance for spawning salmon and many other fish species.

Bears also use the slough heavily for fishing in the fall.

The Carmacks Renewable Resources Council had already identified the area as a potential habitat-protection area in the Carmacks Community-based Fish and Wildlife Plan.

The proponent has also identified that she may, in the future, pump water out of the main channel of the Yukon River for irrigation, the First Nation’s six-page submission continued.

This could endanger salmon coming into the slough to spawn, the fry and the habitat.

Sam felt the proposal would destroy a road he uses for trapping.

There has been too much disturbance of this area and agricultural leases within his concession already take up too much prime trapping area, he said.

A large section of Sam’s concession was burned in forest fires, leaving him with only the heavily timbered area along the Yukon River on the west side of the highway.

The agriculture applicant would be better off applying for land that is already burned to reduce impacts on other users of the area, the First Nation suggested.

First Nation representatives declined to comment on this story as it may affect the current court case.

The Selkirk First Nation is also vehemently opposed to the proposal.

Both First Nations expressed a desire to sit down with government to have a say on where they feel suitable areas available for agricultural development may be.

So far, this has not taken place.

Sarah Kruse, who is applying for the agricultural lease, originally applied for two adjoining 65-hectare parcels of land near McGregor creek, approximately 53 kilometres north of Carmacks.

This February, the assessment board recommended the application be allowed with several mitigating measures.

The parcels should be reconfigured to eliminate a lower bench area to provide a wildlife travel corridor.

This removed about 14 hectares from the proposal.

The assessment board also recommended that all attractants, such as kitchen waste and animal feed, be kept in bear-proof containers.

And the proponent should take extra care when constructing a sewage-disposal system.

The Yukon government accepted the recommendation with its conditions on March 10.

So far, the lease has not yet been awarded and is still pending.

After accepting the recommendations, the government met with Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation to discuss it further.

That consultation will resume this fall.

This is the third time Kruse had applied for the two lots.

She withdrew an earlier application in 2006 to wait for a heritage assessment to be completed in the area.

Kruse’s contact number was at the nearby McCabe Creek Farm, which is owned by her parents Jerry and Kathy Kruse.

The woman who answered the phone said Sarah did not wish to comment on the application at this time.

“A lot of those issues that are involved in the Paulson case are kind of out of our area,” said assessment board spokesperson Rob Yeomans.

“We’re pretty focused and pretty specific on the scope of the project that’s being done.

“When we start getting into land title and aboriginal rights and title we leave that to the courts and governments.”