Protected wetlands can still be drilled for oil

Oil and gas developers can tap resources beneath protected wetlands south of Carmacks, according to a ministerial order passed last month.

Oil and gas developers can tap resources beneath protected wetlands south of Carmacks, according to a ministerial order passed last month.

The Nordenskiold Wetland Habitat Protection Area, a 78-square-kilometre wetlands in central Yukon, had its protection from oil and gas development removed by Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Patrick Rouble on August 2.

That’s because resource extraction can still take place if directional drilling is used, said Nancy Campbell, an Environment Department spokesperson.

“You can still come at it from the sides without disturbing the surface,” said Campbell.

The area is a long strip of wetlands on the sides of the Nordenskiold River, parallel to the Klondike Highway between Carmacks and Whitehorse. It’s 30 kilometres long, but only 2.5 kilometres wide.

The wetlands have long provided First Nations with moose, ducks and duck eggs, muskrat and salmon, says a government news release from August 3.

“We are pleased to see the ‘breadbasket’ for our citizens protected because it is rich in wildlife and fish for traditional harvesting,” said Environment Minister John Edzerza in the release.

It’s known as a breeding area for ducks, swans and geese.

The wetlands remain protected from quartz, placer and coal mining, which can’t be done without damaging the surface, said Campbell.

She didn’t know if oil and gas exploration would require damaging the surface.

The protected area is the fourth created by the Yukon government since land claims agreements were signed. The region has had interim protection since 1995.

The Yukon government and the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation have created a management plan, it just hasn’t been signed yet.

“They’ve been a little distracted,” said Campbell.

Chief Eddie Skookum is still weathering the storm over his reckless endangerment conviction in Alaska earlier this month.

But even if the wetlands is open for drilling, there is little chance the place will be developed, said Campbell.

She spoke to a biologist with expertise on the Nordenskiold, who told her there is little oil and gas potential in the area, she said Thursday.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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