First Nation goes to court to stop development on traditional land

The Yukon government is embroiled in yet another land dispute, this time with the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.

The Yukon government is embroiled in yet another land dispute, this time with the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.

Little Salmon/Carmacks filed a petition with Yukon Supreme Court on Tuesday, seeking an injunction to prevent the government from granting a 65-hectare parcel of land in the First Nation’s traditional territory to a private citizen for agricultural development.

The parcel is located near McGregor Creek on the North Klondike Highway.

The land application review committee approved an application from farmer Larry Paulson in August 2004.

The application was granted despite concerns from the Yukon government’s own officials about impacts on wildlife, settlement land and archaeological resources, the First Nation said.

“The other government ignored a fish and wildlife management plan previously developed in collaboration with their own department of Environment and the Carmacks Renewable Resource Council,” Little Salmon/Carmacks said in a release.

“No environmental assessment of the application has been conducted.”

Furthermore, the First Nation was not “adequately” consulted.

“The disposition will adversely affect and infringe various Little Salmon/Carmacks rights and interests secured through their land claims agreement.”

The Paulson disposition will also adversely affect First Nation elder Johnny Sam’s trapline, and nearby settlement land, said Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation lands director Susan Davis.

“We are taking them to court,” said Davis, who was reluctant to comment on the case because of advice from legal counsel.

Little Salmon/Carmacks names Paulson, former agriculture branch director David Beckman and “the Yukon minister of Energy, Mines and Resources,” currently Archie Lang, as respondents to its court petition.

In doing so, Little Salmon/Carmacks joins a growing number of disgruntled individuals and First Nations either pursuing legal action against the Resources department, or considering it.

The Ta’an Kwach’an Council, for example, filed court documents earlier this year to prevent a 65-hectare disposition to private agricultural interests within its traditional territory near Shallow Bay.

The Council of Yukon First Nations and the Ross River Dena Council both sent letters to Premier Dennis Fentie in recent weeks, detailing their concerns about the government’s new land application policy for big game outfitters, and requesting a halt to the process.

And some private individuals, such as Brett Boughen and Sheila Alexandrovich, are considering legal action against the government to prevent residential lot development in the Annie Lake Road area.

So is the Carcross-Tagish First Nation.

Lands branch officials suggested legal action as a final option, Boughen said in a previous interview.

For Little Salmon Carmacks, the courts are a last resort, said Davis.

“From the point of initiation until now, there has been a copious amount of attempt to engage the Yukon government into discussions on this,” said Davis.

“We were trying to take a different approach. We have documentation that shows they have no interest in working these issues out with us.

“We’re really looking forward to a court decision on this.”

The First Nation wants the Paulson disposition cancelled and its application to undergo an assessment from the new Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board.