Lands Department Update – October ’23

Over the last year, the Lands Department has made many strides to implement policies and techniques to manage and protect PRFN’s traditional lands, provide responsible land use planning, and expand PRFN’s land base. The team has been working diligently to follow the priorities of the CNP and address the wants and needs of Membership.

Phase one of the Community Land Use Plan with Firelight has been completed. PRFN Lands has also carried out several Elder interviews and mapping sessions for land use planning. The department has entered into the Land Use planning of the Liard Basin with Fort Nelson First Nation and BC as part of the consensus agreement with the province. This will be a major project over the next year, which will require plenty of Member involvement — interviews, going out on the land with different biologists and representatives from the province, and more. This is part of a massive project throughout Treaty Eight with different nations for different areas. It’s one of the first times that Nations have had an equal say in land use planning.

Additionally, work continues on the addition to the reserve. Using the new GIS system, the Lands Department will be supporting leadership with land selections on the Comprehensive Nation Plan priorities. This process has already begun, with base layers of data being compiled.

The Lands Department is lending support to the potential purchases of land in Fort Nelson — as seen in the recent survey. The Nation has purchased two parcels of land adjacent to the Prophet River land claim parcel in Fort St. John. A feasibility study and community engagement have been conducted for the best use of this property. Due diligence has also been conducted on several commercial and residential properties in Fort Nelson, which are currently having appraisals done.

PRFN remains committed to acquiring trap lines for Member use for community events, camps, and for cultural sites to do land-based learning with the community’s youth. The Lands department has already started taking youths out with Elders and doing activities on the land!

Membership has emphasized their interest in pursuing restoration, remediation, and reclamation efforts for lands impacted by industrial and resource development activities. As such, Lands is exploring a number of partnerships with companies and other First Nations on environmental management and reclamation work.

The Lands Department is building its capacity to have a comprehensive monitoring program in the territory, and have been using several members for site assessments and monitoring. A number of Members are training in Fort Nelson, in an effort to have as many Members trained and experienced as monitors because there will be lots of that work and more coming up.

Finally, the department has developed a referral management process that includes assessing every project proposed in Prophet River territory for impacts to treaty rights and known use areas. All Lands staff — Penny St. Pierre, Timber Bigfoot, Ken Bigfoot — are involved in the process. We’re working on a number of agreements with companies to have them agree to the process, pay for the process, and allow Prophet River decisions to be consent or no consent. Once the agreements are in place, there will be a way to achieve community consent on projects that are proposed.

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