The Plan Document
Geenjit Gwitr'it T'igwaa'in (Working for the Land), the Gwich'in
Land Use Plan (9,692 KB) is the plan for the Gwich'in Settlement
Area under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. It covers
all lands within the Settlement Area that are outside of municipal
boundaries, an area just under 57,000 km2. In the Land
Use Plan's six year development stage, the Planning Board consulted
extensively with Gwich'in communities and organizations, territorial
and federal government departments, industry groups and environmental
non-government organizations. The Land Use Plan is based on existing
traditional and scientific knowledge about the region.
The Plan provides background information and establishes land use
zones in the Settlement Area. The Land Use Plan also identifies
outstanding environmental issues and recommends actions to be taken
by the appropriate agencies in addressing the issues.
After plan approval (August 2003), all licenses, permits or other
authorizations relating to the use of land, water or the deposit
of waste in the Settlement Area must conform to the Land Use Plan.
There is some flexibility with respect to conformance because the
Planning Board will consider making exceptions and amendments.
What are the basics of the Plan?
There are many resources the land supplies and many ways land,
water and resources can be used. The Planning Board appreciates
that using land resources should benefit the people of the Gwich'in
Settlement Area and Canada as a whole. For this reason, the Planning
Board encourages multiple uses or many uses of the land. Land resources
should be used for the maximum gain of the people of the area.
All land uses are important and meet different human needs. There
are a number of different potential land uses for the Gwich'in Settlement
Area such as traditional activities (which may include a spiritual
aspect), transportation, waste disposal, military activities, mining,
oil and gas activities, sand and gravel pits, power developments,
timber harvest, commercial fisheries, and tourism.
Often land uses take place without any concerns being raised. Sometimes
different land uses compete for the same resources causing land
use conflicts. Other times land uses impact on people living and
using the area, or the environment that people depend on. One way
to avoid land use conflicts and negative impacts on people or the
environment is to identify what land uses should and should not
take place in areas before they are proposed. For this plan, this
is done using a Land Zoning System.
The Land Zoning System describes what is allowed or not allowed
in specific areas. This Zoning System has three zones: Gwich'in
General Use Zones, Gwich'in Special Management Zones, and Gwich'in
Conservation Zones (which includes the sub category of Heritage
Conservation Zones). This system promotes multiple or many uses
of land, water and resources in certain areas and controls activities
in critical and sensitive environmental and heritage areas. The
zoning strives to achieve a balance between conservation of the
land and the use of land, water and resources to meet human needs.
In more detail the zones are:
- Gwich'in Conservation and Heritage Conservation Zones:
where uses related to oil and gas development, mineral and
aggregate extraction, transportation, waste disposal, communication,
power development and commercial renewable resource activities
are not permitted (approximately 10% of the Settlement Area)
- Gwich'in Special Management Zones:
where all land uses are possible as long as conditions outlined
in the Land Use Plan are met and approvals through the regulatory
system are obtained. The Land Use Plan conditions are designed
to protect valued resources identified by communities or
other organizations during the planning process (approximately
33% of the Settlement Area)
- Gwich'in General Use Zones:
where all land uses are possible with the necessary approvals
from the current regulatory system. The Land Use Plan imposes
no conditions for proposed uses and activities in these
areas (approximately 57% of the Settlement Area).
Please consult the Plan for more detail about the values of these
zones and the planning process.
Nành' Geenjit Gwitr'it T'igwaa'in required the approval
of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, the Minister of the Department of
Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development and the Minister of
the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In September
1999, the Gwich'in Tribal Council approved the Plan. The Government
of the Northwest Territories then approved it, with minor changes,
in November of that same year.
During their final review for approval, the federal government
raised some very fundamental concerns. In the seventeen proposed
Gwich'in Conservation Zones, the Plan does not allow for development
requiring licences, permits, or other authorizations. The main issue
was the free access provisions in the Canada Mining Regulations
(CMRs) conflicted with these restrictions.
Bob Simpson, the Board's chair, and the Gwich'in Tribal Council
met with Minister Nault in November 2001 and agreed on the steps
to finally get the Plan approved. The agreement was that all of
the Conservation Zones (including the Heritage Conservation Zone
subset) be withdrawn from any subsurface activity until January
2008. In this time, the CMRs will be changed to be consistent with
the land use plan. Minister Nault also agreed to fund mineral and
energy assessments in the Conservation Zones so that the Board may
do more detailed planning in the future.
Any changes that were made to the plan during the Federal review
process were taken to the communities, the Gwich'in Tribal Council,
and the Territorial Government for approval. Once the wording was
agreed to and the interim land withdrawal in place, the plan received
its final approval from Minister Nault.
The dates of the land use plan final approval are:
- Gwich'in Tribal Council approval: April 8, 2003
- Government of the NWT approval: July 10, 2003
- Federal Government approval: August 7, 2003
As of August 7, 2003, the plan is considered
to be in effect. Any amendments to the land use plan
will require approval of the same three signatories.
The History of the Gwich'in Land Use Plan
The Gwich'in are as much a part of the land as the land is a part
of their culture, values, and traditions. In the past they were
stewards of the land on which they lived, knowing that their health
as people and a society was intricately tied to the health of the
land. In response to the Berger enquiry of the mid 1970's, the government
of Canada made a commitment to recognise this relationship by establishing
new programmes and institutions to give the Gwich'in people a role
as stewards once again. One of the actions taken has been the creation
of a formal land use planning process.
Many people from all communities in the Gwich'in Settlement Area
have worked diligently on land use planning in this formal process
with the government since the 1980s. Throughout these years people
have continued to put their time and energy into land use planning
because of their commitment to taking care of the land and their
childrens' future. The Gwich'in helped to set the framework for
the 1983 Basis of Agreement on Northern Land Use Planning. The first
attempt to develop a Land Use Plan was through the Mackenzie Delta
Beaufort Sea Land Use Planning process which was appointed in 1987
and included Gwich'in representatives. The Mackenzie Delta Beaufort
Sea Land Use Plan produced in 1991 was not approved or implemented
by government. After the signing of the Gwich'in Land Claim in 1992,
the Gwich'in Interim Land Use Planning Board was given the task
to begin land use planning again. However, it was not until the
Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act was passed in 1998 that
there was the legal authority to produce a Gwich'in Land Use Plan.
After approximately 20 years of work on the part of many people,
the Gwich'in Land Use Planning Board (Planning Board) is proud to
present Nanh' geenjit gwitr'it t'igwaa'in/Working for the Land -
Gwich'in Land Use Plan.