By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Alberta Government and the Fort McKay First Nation have reached an agreement on an access management plan (AMP) for Moose Lake – a traditionally sacred place for Fort McKay Nations.
The access plan prohibits major infrastructure development within a 10-kilometer “buffer zone” around Moose Lake, an area the Fort McKay First Nations use for hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering. There will also be no new metallic or industrial minerals extraction allowed in the zone.
All energy-related activities within a 1-kilometer radius of Moose Lake and Buffalo reserves are restricted to low impact exploration and monitoring only – with more enhanced environmental monitoring for all industrial development within the area.
Fort McKay First Nation (FMFN) Chief Mel Grandjamb welcomed the agreement. “I must say the (Alberta) government listened and it understood Fort McKay’s desire to protect Moose Lake,” he stated.
“With that understanding of our need, the government was able to take the documents through Cabinet with all our recommendations, including the ban of major infrastructure within the 10-km zone.”
“The whole basis of this is for our members to go to that lake, (so) we can practice our treaty rights. We have an inherent right to the land,” he said.
$8 million is going to be invested by the Alberta Government for the restoration of legacy seismic lines in the buffer zone.
Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said “It’s just one component of our commitment within that plan, but a pretty big one.
“At the end of the day what we see here is a plan that balances First Nation community needs and rights, the treaty rights, within the area but still allows resource development to take place,” he said.
Indigenous Relations Minster Rick Wilson also spoke on the plan by saying, “It’s a great move forward to find that balance with the First Nation and industry and the government working together.”
The Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations released a statement congratulating Fort McKay on their success in preserving the land for traditional use.
On March 1, Grand Chief – Okimaw Vernon Watchmaker, on behalf of the Treaty Six Chiefs, congratulated Chief Mel Grandjamb and his peoples for securing Moose Lake as a traditional use area for their members.
“Their dedication and determination for more than twenty years to achieve their goals of having lands and waters for the future use by their members is a great achievement,” said Grand Chief Watchmaker.
“The agreement with the Province is the first step for the Fort McKay First Nations and their future generations to protect their lands for the future use.”
“Determination and perseverance on the part of Fort McKay has led their successful conclusion of a plan to go forward. They must be commended for their efforts – we await to see the outcome of their work for all the future generations to learn their traditional ways,” concluded Grand Chief Watchmaker.
Fort McKay Metis Nation said the agreement is the culmination of many years of effort with various governments to ensure a plan to protect the sensitive Moose Lake area.
“We’ve been moving the ball down the field for years,” stated Fort McKay Metis Nation President Ron Quintal. “Minister Nixen and Premier Kenney deserve credit for taking this file over the goal line. This decision creates a good framework for further discussions and forms the basis for the management of these important traditional lands and recognizes Metis Harvesting and Aboriginal Rights. This is a major step forward in the relationship between our communities and the Government of Alberta.”
The Moose Lake AMP will initially be implemented as a policy before it is incorporated in the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP). In 2022, when LARP is reviewed, the Moose Lake AMP will be incorporated permanently.