​Fort Nelson First Nation files for judicial review of gas pipeline approval over caribou protection

Image: Alaska Highway News

The Fort Nelson First Nation says it supports project development, but a new pipeline approval across its territory demonstrates an “inadequate, unlawful and wholly unacceptable approach to consultation” regarding how it would impact boreal caribou.

The band has filed for a judicial review of the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s June approval of a gas pipeline owned by junior Rockyview Resources.

More than 80 percent of boreal caribou habitat in B.C. is on Fort Nelson First Nation lands, the band says.

“We clearly have an interest in saving and helping restore caribou populations, and for this reason, our community has chosen not to hunt caribou until the population stabilizes. We expect the same stewardship ethic from companies who wish to access our territory for economic purposes," Fort Nelson First nation director lands and resources Lana Lowe said in a statement.

"The 39km proposed gas pipeline cuts right through core caribou habitat in our territory, in an area with the most concentrated and highest known use by boreal caribou for forage, calving, rearing and protection from predators.

The first nation says that throughout the application process it made “strong submissions” to the regulator regarding the proposed pipeline, including a plan to support the recovery of the caribou in that area and a consultation process specific to the proposed project application.

However, it says the BC Oil and Gas Commission refused the invitation to work out a specific consultation process, and deemed it not practical to consider the band’s report.

“This resulted in the BCOGC using inadequate and incomplete data to determine that the proposed pipeline poses 'no material adverse effect' to the caribou populations in the area. The BCOGC has not provided a clear explanation of this determination,” the first nation says.

"It's important to stress that as a nation, we support and encourage economic development opportunities in our territory," Fort Nelson First Nation acting chief Sharleen Gale said in a statement.

"We look to proactively engage both proponents and the crown on development opportunities so that they can be planned in a way that creates long-term benefits for our members while also respecting our lands, water and treaty rights."