Yukon mining interests have successfully lobbied to save a road running through the newly expanded Nahanni National Park Reserve.
The park reserve will cover 91 per cent of the Nahanni River Watershed if legislation tabled by federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice passes into law.
It will expand to cover 30,000 square kilometres, making the park slightly smaller than Vancouver Island.
The legislation allows for the federal minister to issue road permits for an existing road between Tungsten, Northwest Territories, and Howard’s Pass, Yukon.
“The legislation is meant to respect existing road and mining permits,” said Parks Canada chief executive officer Alan Latourelle.
That road, which begins in the Yukon as the Nahanni Range Road, is crucial to Selwyn Resources’ lead-zinc deposits in Howard’s Pass, estimated to be the largest in the world.
The Yukon government and Selwyn used the same lobbyist to ensure this strategic link was protected after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced plans to expand Nahanni in August 2007.
The proposed Mactung mine, near Tungsten, will also be allowed to continue until the end of its mine life, if developed, said Latourelle.
The park expansion is smaller than earlier plans because of different First Nations claims in the region.
The land included in the legislation is claimed by the Dhecho First Nation. They “support” the expansion of the park, but under the legislation tabled Tuesday, the expanded park will only be a reserve until the land claim agreements are settled.
A park reserve is a toned-down park with looser regulations under the Canada National Parks Act.
Prentice’s legislation, tabled Tuesday, holds off from declaring a full-tilt park so that other First Nation claims, like those of the Kaska Nation, can be figured out too, said Latourelle.
“We have been in consultations with the Kaska on their claims,” he said.
The Kaska Nation, which has traditional territory in the Yukon and British Columbia, was included late in the expansion process.
The northern tip of the watershed, which is not covered by the legislation, is Sahtu First Nation land. The Sahtu have a land claims agreement and therefore must use a different process to turn the land into a park.
The Sahtu have already withdrawn the land for the park and, if their process succeeds, the park could become even larger.
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