Three Yukon First Nations are standing together to oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on their traditional territories.
The Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun made the decision at their first joint meeting since the signing of the North Yukon First Nations intergovernmental accord in September.
That agreement was meant to protect resources on the traditional territories of the three First Nations and ensure sustainable development.
“There are too many questions about fracking for us to support it,” Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Roberta Joseph said in a news release. “Until such time as fracking is proven environmentally sustainable, our citizens believe it should not be employed in our region or the Yukon.”
Ray Sabo, lands and resources manager with the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, said the announcement was released this week partly to coincide with the government’s recent tabling of amendments to the Oil and Gas Act.
Those amendments did not include any specific reference to hydraulic fracturing, but would allow the government to extend the term of oil and gas permits beyond their existing 10-year limit.
Sabo also referred to the government’s decision this past spring to allow applications for fracking to take place in the Liard Basin, in the territory’s southeast corner. He said his First Nation is concerned that it may only be a matter of time before that decision extends northward.
“The way that we’re headed with regards to oil-and-gas activity in the Yukon, we do have a sense that that will happen fairly soon,” he said.
Currently, Northern Cross is the only oil-and-gas company doing significant exploration work in northern Yukon, in the Eagle Plain region.
Northern Cross president Richard Wyman said his company has no current plans to use fracking in the region, but didn’t rule out the possibility down the road.
“It’s possible sometime in the future,” he said.
Based on language in the news release from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in and Vuntut Gwitchin chiefs that referred to a ban on fracking “until it can be proven safe,” Wyman said he doesn’t feel the First Nations are dead-set against it.
“If anything, it tells me that there’s an open mind there to learn more about it and be receptive to new things,” he said. “We’ll just see how things play out when the time comes to even consider hydraulic fracturing in that area.”
But Sabo said the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun passed a resolution over a year ago banning fracking outright. He said the general assembly would need to pass a new resolution before that could change.
“The government needs to understand we have taken a clear position on our opposition to the use of hydraulic fracturing,” said Chief Simon Mervyn in the news release. “Our citizens passed a general assembly resolution banning hydraulic fracturing in our traditional territory and yet Yukon government continues to proceed in allowing this extractive process to enter the Yukon.”
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