The B.C. government and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation have signed a land use agreement covering a vast area of the province's northwest that will protect some parts and open up others for resource development.
Premier Christy Clark said on Tuesday the deal creates 13 new protected areas and protects about 800,000 hectares of more than three million hectares in the Atlin Taku region, including the existing Atlin Park.
But Aboriginal Relations Minister Mary Polak said 90 per cent of the areas with the highest mineral potential remain available for exploration and potential development.
Clark said the deal follows years of litigation over a mine in the area, which the province ended up winning in the Supreme Court of Canada.
"This agreement represents a clear shift from conflict to collaboration between B.C. and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation," said Clark.
Mining jobs expected
Band spokesman John Ward said the agreement will protect the land and provide the means for band members to prosper in their own traditional territory.
"The Taku River Tlingits have looked forward to this day for a very long time," said Ward.
The First Nation has already begun to work with mining developers on potential resource projects that could create 600 jobs, said Clark.
According to a statement released by the government, the Land Use Plan area covers an area the size of Vancouver Island and includes the Taku Watershed, one of B.C.'s most significant salmon watersheds, which supports the largest commercial salmon run in south-eastern Alaska.
The deal is a land use agreement, but is not a treaty. The Taku River Tlinglit band website says their traditional territory covers parts of both B.C., Yukon and Alaska.