First Nations pan Athabasca land-use plan

Alberta's land use plan for the lower Athabasca River region favours oilsands development over conservation, say First Nations leaders.
Sustainable Development Minister Mel Knight greets Chief Allan Adam Monday before a meeting with First Nations leaders unhappy with a land use plan in northeast Alberta. (CBC)

Alberta's land use plan for the lower Athabasca River region favours oilsands development over conservation, say First Nations leaders.

"The province neglects to consult with us in regards to the landuse framework plan," said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

"We want a co-management plan to be put in place where government representatives and First Nations will work together."

First Nations want the plan to protect more land from development and safeguard treaty rights. They said they may have no other choice but to take the province to court over the plan.

The province released the draft land use plan for the Lower Athabasca region, an area under pressure from oilsands and other industrial development, in April.

The province gave interested parties two months to react to the plan.

Scientists and environmentalists joined aboriginal leaders Monday, the final day of the comment period, in calling on the government to rework the draft plan.

"This attempt is not even worth of a passing grade in a university course let alone something on which you're planning to develop a huge section of the country," said ecologist David Schindler.

"There are a number of endangered species in that area," he said. "It's not clear that what they propose as protected areas would protect them and it certainly isn't clear that they would protect the subsistence living that we guaranteed people under treaty 8 which is 112 years old now."

Sustainable Development Minister Mel Knight intended to take a final plan to cabinet in July, but that deadline may be pushed back, he said.