A new conservancy has been created in Tahltan territory that will protect wildlife and the environment near Mount Edziza Provincial Park in northwest B.C.
The conservancy was created through a partnership between the Tahltan Central Government (TCG), provincial government, Skeena Resources Ltd., the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the BC Parks Foundation.
With an area of around 3,500 hectares, the protected land is located in an area of B.C. historically known is the Ice Mountain Lands and will be renamed at a later date to better reflect Tahltan heritage.
“This area is probably the most sacred and important to the Tahltan people of anywhere,” said Chad Norman Day, TCG president.
“I’m sure our ancestors and others are smiling down on us today now that we’ve got it better protected.”
Day said that the Tahltan Nation may not exist today if it weren’t for the Mount Edziza area, because of the advantages that came with mining obsidian — a naturally occurring volcanic glass — for use in tools, weapons and trade.
It is the first step in the Tahltan Stewardship Initiative, which aims for self-determination and stewardship of Tahltan territory over the span of several years.
Conservancies are designed to preserve the environment and offer outdoor recreation opportunities. They allow for a wider range of economic opportunities than Class A parks, but commercial logging, mining and hydroelectric power generation are prohibited.
Day said that there are no planned economic activities in the area, and those decisions will be made at a later date through a robust internal engagement process through the Tahltan Stewardship Initiative.
Skeena Resources Ltd. is returning its mineral tenders for its Spectrum mineral claim in the creation of the conservancy.
“We are very pleased to work with our Tahltan partners to be a part of this historically significant event,” said Walter Coles, president of Skeena Resources Ltd, in a media release.
“We are deeply committed to our partnership with the Tahltan Nation and are happy that we can play a role in protecting this area for future generations.”
On Mar. 31, the Tahltan Central Government and Skeena Resources Ltd. announced that the TCG would invest $5 million through the purchase of around 1.6 million ‘investment rights’ at $3.13 each, which will convert to common shares.
Day said the Tahltan have been advocating to have the land protected for over 20 years, and it would not have been possible without a strong relationship between the TCG and Skeena Resources Ltd. and an agreement between the parties to start working on the project around four years ago.
“This has always been a company under Walter’s leadership that has not been afraid to be a trailblazer and to help create positive changes with reconciliation, and obviously, specifically with the Tahltan people,” he said.
“Eventually, we got a deal done with with the province and with multiple stakeholders, so very proud of of that work, but it would not have happened if we didn’t build a really strong relationship with Skeena Resources and if Skeena Resources didn’t make a strong commitment to try to protect this area with us.”
In total, there are 157 conservancies in B.C., ranging in size from 11 to 322,020 hectares. The Mount Edziza Conservancy was also supported by the Wyss Foundation, MakeWay, the Wilburforce Foundation, MapleCross Fund, Sitka Foundation, Leon Judah Blackmore Foundation and the Government of Canada.