YESAB releases ATAC road recommendations

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board says the adverse effects of a proposed — and controversial — all-season road to a mineral deposit northwest of Keno City could be mitigated.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board says the adverse effects of a proposed — and controversial — all-season road to a mineral deposit northwest of Keno City could be mitigated.

In a report released May 3 YESAB identified eight areas the road would affect including moose harvests, peregrine falcons and trapline users.

ATAC Resources applied in July 2016 to build a 65-kilometre road to reach its Tiger gold deposit using the existing Hanson Lakes road. It would require the construction of eight bridges and 38 culverts to traverse 46 creek and river crossings.

The effects on moose could be particularly detrimental because they are already being harvested at sustainable levels and the new road would open up vast swatch of territory for hunters.

The area is a “prime late-winter moose habitat” according to Yukon government submissions to YESAB.

To mitigate the risk of overharvesting, YESAB recommends ATAC restrict road access, build a guardhouse, remove bridge decking when the road is not used and consider “appropriate enforcement mechanisms.”

The road’s route would force relocation of trapline infrastructure including trails and cabins.

“These impacts are adverse and irreversible,” the report reads. YESAB recommends that the company compensate trappers for the cost of relocating.

It also raised concerns about the potential effect on the peregrine falcon population.

“The limited population numbers of peregrine falcons and other raptors presents a compelling case that disturbance to nesting pairs of peregrine falcons is significant,” the report reads.

To avoid that, YESAB suggests banning any construction or decommissioning activities within one kilometre of nesting peregrine falcons “as informed by the regional biologist.”

The report also recommended that no project activities should occur within 250 metres of Ladue Lake

“The Ladue Lake area is already relatively accessible and new access will adversely affect land use values by increasing the developed footprint of the area as well as introducing traffic and construction activities to the area,” the report notes.

“These impacts will persist over the duration of the project, while the effects of landscape alteration will persist for some time after reclamation.”

The project drew ire from many, from trappers to elders in the area.

In February Chris McKinnon, who runs Bonnet Plume Outfitters, expressed his disgust for the proposal — 16 km of road would run through his outfitting concession.

“I just can’t believe we’d even possibly entertain the idea of putting in an all-season road for exploration purposes,” he said at the time. “That’s just insane. Ludicrous.”

Jimmy Johnny, an elder with the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, said the road could increase hunting pressure in the region.

“I want to keep it the way it is because of the future generations to come behind us,” he said.

The company promised that the road would be gated and patrolled to restrict road access and that it would be decommissioned when the company leaves.

During the public consultation YESAB received “an extraordinary number of comments from governments and the public.”

But a lot of them were not relevant to the project, the board found, and were not considered.

Many comments centred around the absence of land use planning the region, the potential effect on the Peel watershed and the perceived abuse of the staking process — all of which YESAB determined were not relevant.

The next step in the assessment will be consultation with the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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