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Bonnet Plume cabins one step closer to being razed

The Yukon government has honoured its promise to seek a court order to raze several apparently illegal cabins on the Bonnet Plume River.

The Yukon government has honoured its promise to seek a court order to raze several apparently illegal cabins on the Bonnet Plume River.

An affidavit filed with the Yukon Supreme Court on Tuesday is pursuing a judicial order to remove cabins erected by Bonnet Plume Outfitters.

The company built a two-storey cookhouse and three smaller cabins between 2005 and 2006 at its Copper Point camp about 160 kilometres northwest of Mayo.

Lands branch officials were only made aware of the buildings through a complaint.

Challenged in the legislature in December, Premier Dennis Fentie announced Bonnet Plume had until last Friday to provide documents showing it had authority to build the cabins.

While a letter from the McKinnons arrived, it didn’t meet the requirements for legal documentation, said Energy, Mines and Resources spokesman Ron Billingham on Wednesday.

“Now that the outfitter has responded, and it was deemed that their response wasn’t legal proof, they’ve (the Yukon government) gone to the next step seeking a removal order,” said Billingham.

A review package of the government’s affidavit and its evidence has been sent to Bonnet Plume Outfitters.

The McKinnons have seven days to acknowledge receipt of the package and specify whether they intend to challenge the order or not, said Billingham.

If the company responds, the judge will set a court date to decide the future of the cabins.

But if there is no response, the judge can sign the order and advise the outfitter they have 30 days to respond before the cabins are removed, said Billingham.

“They get another kick at the can, as it were,” he said.

Chris and Sharron McKinnon, owners of Bonnet Plume Outfitting, are declining to comment on the situation.

But in a brief phone conversation on Tuesday, Chris said a letter explaining the company’s dealings with the government was sent before the December 15 deadline.

In that letter, the McKinnons allege lands branch manager Bryony McIntyre visited their site last year at their request and made no mention of improper authority to build cabins.

McIntyre was called, but was out of the office on Wednesday.

A second letter from the McKinnons, sent to the News last week, stated the couple thought they were going through “the proper channels” to build the cookhouse.

These efforts included discussions with the Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board, they said.

“We went through the only process available to us,” read the letter (see page 8).

Though the government alleges Bonnet Plume Outfitters has not provided documentation, the company does have certification with the Environment department.

For outfitter certification in the Yukon, a company must submit yearly camp and equipment reports, said Tony Grabowski, manager of enforcement and compliance with Environment.

Outfitters are required to specify their building and airstrip locations and provide emergency contact information before certification can be granted, he said.

Bonnet Plume Outfitters currently has proper certification, and did last year as well, said Grabowski.

Environment enforces environmental and wildlife issues, while Energy, Mines and Resources deals with land issues, he said.

Environment requires outfitters to prove they have camps for shelter in the wilds; it’s a safety issue, said Grabowski.

“Hunter safety is important. We want clients to get a return ticket from the Yukon, not a one-way ticket,” he said.

In their letter to the News, the McKinnons note their outfitting concession is in a remote area and needs “quality cabins for safety and care for our clients.”