The Taku River First Nation and the government of British Columbia, Canada, agreed to a land use management plan for part of the Atlin Taku region Tuesday, according to a release from the Canadian Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.
The area covered in the agreement is about 11,500 square miles and includes the Taku Watershed, which supports the largest commercial salmon run in Southeast Alaska, the release states.
Premier Christy Clark, head of government in British Columbia, and Taku River Tlingit First Nation spokesman John Ward signed the agreement in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“This agreement represents a clear shift from conflict to collaboration between B.C. and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation,” Clark stated in the release. “This balanced approach means a brighter future for families in the Northwest and opens the territory for business, bringing new jobs and opportunities, while protecting key environmental and cultural values.”
The agreement establishes a system of decision making for land-use management in the covered area which involves the governments of both British Columbia and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation. It also sets aside certain parts of the covered area for conservation, while leaving others open for resource development, said Maria Wilkie, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and reconciliation.
One spot the agreement allows to be developed includes the site of the Tulsequah Chief mine, she said. The mine is now owned by Chieftain Metals. The mine has caused controversy in the past because of the sulfuric acid and other pollution it produced, which found its way into the Taku River. The level of pollution in 2010 was not large, according to Empire archives. However, a 2003 flow-data estimate from the Center for Science in Public Participation revealed the mine “was leaking 23,861 pounds of zinc, 5,099 pounds of copper, 122 pounds of lead, 97 pounds of cadmium, and 49 pounds of arsenic a year into the watershed.”
The Taku River Tlingit are working to establish agreements with mining companies to extract resources from the land, the release states. Chieftain Metals is conducting test drilling on the Tulsequah Chief site, according to a June press release.