The Yukon government drafted a land concession policy based on federal consultations that it couldn’t fully review, said Lyle Henderson, director of lands branch with Energy, Mines and Resources.
“The Yukon government did not do extensive consultations on this policy,” Henderson said of the big game outfitting land application policy that came into effect in October.
On Thursday, Henderson fielded questions about the policy at a Yukon Fish & Game Association meeting.
Some feared the policy will allow outfitters to grab land by applying for leases on existing concessions.
And Henderson’s comments did little to bolster the government’s case that proper consultations were held.
The “perceived lack of consultations” stemmed from confusion over which government had conducted the necessary consultations, he said.
Between 2001 and 2002, through the now-defunct Federal Territorial Land Advisory Committee, Ottawa entered into “some consultation” with stakeholder groups, including First Nations, on an outfitter land policy similar to the one introduced by the Yukon.
Then, after assuming control of lands and resources through devolution in 2003, the Yukon reviewed the file and determined that the feds had done “the appropriate level of consultation,” on the policy, he said.
“On that basis, they implemented the policy last year.”
But Henderson later added that Yukon officials were “not privy to all of the federal files and Ottawa decisions and nuances of the consultations they were trying to do during 2001-2002.”
And that didn’t jibe with some citizens’ ideas about what consultation means.
“There has been a complete lack of consultation and involvement of the First Nation governments (on the policy),” said Emmie Fairclough, with the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.
Fairclough noted that federal consultations on the proposed policy in 2001-2002, through FETLAC and the Land Application Review Committee, raised several “action items” that don’t appear in the Yukon government’s policy.
“If the Yukon government is not privy to what the federal (government) did before, then why would you accept the fact that consultation was good enough … when so many First Nations disagreed with it, and so many other people disagreed with it?”
The Ta’an Kwach’an Council is one of several First Nations that have written to Premier Dennis Fentie demanding he rescind the policy, she said.
The Yukon inherited a huge portfolio in 2003 after devolution, and it took the government more than a year to find out what it had received, explained Henderson.
It was concluded that YTG had inherited an in-progress policy on outfitting land applications, he said.
“Once it had that information in place, it (YTG) then worked to implement the outfitting game policy, and that took over a year to implement, leading up to what we were instructed to release last fall.”
The decision to launch the policy came from either Energy Mines and Resources minister Archie Lang, or the cabinet, he said.
Henderson was conciliatory and helpful during the meeting, fielding two hours of queries and trying to assuage several worries about the new policy.
“I fully appreciate there is a difference on the level of consultation,” he said.
However, some supported the policy.
Without it, the future of the business is in doubt, said Dave Dickson, of Dickson Outfitters, a First Nations trapper born and raised in the Yukon.
“As a trapper, I can get as many leases on my trapline as I need; I’m not aware of a public consultation process to get those leases.”
As a First Nation citizen, he can put up a cabin anywhere in his traditional territory and it doesn’t require any process, said Dickson.
Now, 19 Yukon outfitters can apply for leases under the new policy.
Lone Wolf Outfitting Ltd., a Whitehorse-based company, was the first to apply.
It is seeking 11 leases on each of its base camps within a two-million-hectare concession that includes much of the Big Salmon River.
Leases can be no larger than 3.99 hectares and will be granted for 10 years.
Only outfitters who had concessions before the policy came into place in 2005 can apply, explained Henderson.
“This policy is not about accepting applications for a brand-new cabin sites,” he said.
Lease decisions will be made in September, said Henderson.