Conrad campground could cool conflict: NDP

The NDP wants to know why the government chose Atlin Lake as the spot for Yukon's next campground when it might have picked a less controversial location.

The NDP wants to know why the government chose Atlin Lake as the spot for Yukon’s next campground when it might have picked a less controversial location.

The site on Atlin Lake lies in the traditional territory of both the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the Atlin, B.C.-based Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

The Taku River Tlingit have threatened to sue the Yukon government if it continues to push forward with plans to build the campground.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in the spring.

The First Nation wants the Yukon government to negotiate a land claim with them before allowing any more development on the traditional territory.

The Carcross/Tagish First Nation has also expressed concern with the Atlin Lake location.

It is “deeply concerned” by potential impacts on the environment, wildlife and heritage resources, according to the First Nation’s submission to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

A different campground reserve, located south of Carcross near the Conrad historic site, would have been a better choice, said NDP MLA Kevin Barr in the legislature Tuesday.

Conrad City, named for Colonel John Howard Conrad, was briefly the focus of silver exploration efforts in the early 1900s.

That site was negotiated in Yukon’s final agreement with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

The Yukon government has the “sole discretion” to develop that area into a campground, but must give the First Nation first opportunity to accept the contract for the work, according to the agreement.

When asked why the Yukon would push for development on Atlin Lake against the wishes of the Taku River Tlingit, Environment Minister Currie Dixon said that the government is not willing to wait for a land claim to be signed before allowing any development.

“That’s going to take a lot of years and we’re not willing to say that absolutely nothing can occur in this area until they have a land claim.”

A spokesperson for Environment said in an email that the Atlin Lake location was picked because it was the best match for new campground facilities close to Whitehorse.

“It not only would address the demand for camping in the Snafu Lake area but also would be on lands reserved for this purpose, with minimal adjacent or conflicting land use. The current upgrading of the Atlin Road was also a consideration,” according to the email.

Dixon hinted that a campground at Conrad could also be in the works.

“I agree with the member opposite that Conrad would make a fantastic campground and I think that is certainly something we’re interested in; it’s something we’ve conveyed unofficially to the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and I look forward to making some announcements about that in the near future.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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