Tlingit declares Taku River protection
North of 60 Mining News - January 23, 2023
Last updated 1/23/2023 at 11:55am
First Nation seeks balance between conservation and mineral extraction in area important to the Taku River Tlingit way of life.
To help preserve an intact ecosystem within the Taku River watershed, the Tak'hu River Tlingit have declared an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area that covers roughly 18,000 square kilometers (7,000 square miles) within their traditional territory in Northern British Columbia.
"Tak'hu (Taku) River Tlingit have a sacred relationship with our territory, reflected in the concept of Lingít Kusteeyí (Tlingit Way of Living), which encompasses caring for all life," said Jìnìk (Charmaine Thom), spokesperson for the Tak'hu River Tlingit. "The declaration of the IPCA is an extension of this commitment to forever care for the fish, wildlife, waters, and all other life and spirits within Tak'hu (Taku) River Tlingit Territory."
Extending roughly 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast from the southern tip of Atlin Lake to nearly Telegraph Creek, and approximately 110 kilometers (70 miles) east from the Alaska border near Juneau, the proposed Tak'hu River Tlingit Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area covers a biodiverse ecosystem that includes all five species of Pacific salmon and supports large mammal predator-prey relationships from the inland boreal forest and glacier-fed streams to coastal transition zones.
This watershed, the largest on the Pacific Coast of North America that is not accessible by road, also lies within BC's Golden Triangle, a region famed for its rich stores of gold, copper, and other metals.
As a balance between nature preservation and mining opportunities, roughly 60% of the IPCA encompasses already established and newly designated protected areas, and the remaining 40% would be specially managed areas that provide opportunities for respectful mineral extraction and other uses that support a low-carbon economy.
"The new IPCA establishes a fair, responsible and respectful framework for indigenous leadership, reconciliation, economic certainty, environmental protection, climate resilience, and wild salmon conservation and restoration," Jìnìk said.
The Tak'hu River Tlingit IPCA fulfills the ambitious direction laid out in Tlatsini (Places That Make Us Strong) Vision developed by the Northern BC First Nation in 2009.
Tlatsini Vision lays out the Tak'hu River Tlingit intent to protect areas of the Taku River watershed necessary to "Tlingit Way of Living" while providing for opportunities for the First Nation.
As such, the IPCA would set aside approximately 10,800 square kilometers (4,200 square miles) covering salmon spawning rivers and surrounding areas for conservation, while placing about 7,200 square kilometers (2,800 square miles) with high mineral potential in specially managed areas open for respectful mineral exploration and extraction.
"The mapped vision for the T'akú Tlatsini Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (T'akú IPCA) represents generations of knowledge and decades of work," said Jìnìk.
The Tak'hu River Tlingit points out that its people have historically been miners, and this IPCA provides a path forward that values and considers all aspects of their cultural heritage while supporting Canada's need for critical minerals.
"We invite those interested in economic development to work with us in respect of our laws, standards and protocols that will ensure developments are undertaken in sustainable and honorable ways for a shared thriving future," the Tak'hu River Tlingit inked in the IPCA declaration.
The Tak'hu River Tlingit says it looks forward to implementing the IPCA with the ongoing support of the provincial and federal governments, neighboring First Nations, local communities and partners, and responsible businesses.