POLITICS

Alberta First Nation to plan protection for important area in oilsands region

03/25/2015 05:17 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
EDMONTON - The Alberta government and a northern aboriginal band have agreed to develop a plan to protect a culturally important area in the heart of the oilsands region.

But the agreement won't affect the Fort McKay First Nation's disagreement with the province's overall land use plan for the area.

The province has signed a letter of intent with Fort McKay First Nation to develop an access management plan for the Moose Lake area, about 50 kilometres north of the community of Fort McKay.

"Moose Lake is an important place for the people of my community," Chief Jim Boucher said in a news release. "It is where many of us go to hunt, trap, fish, and pick berries safely and in peace."

The amount of land involved is to be determined during talks between the band, industry and government.

Premier Jim Prentice, who also serves as aboriginal affairs minister, acknowledged that while the band has participated in oilsands development, industry has encroached on land important to them.

"When Chief Boucher asked for our support to protect the small parcel of land near Moose Lake for his community, I didn’t hesitate to say yes," he said in a statement.

The province said in a press release that the agreement to work out the protection was made possible by the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, which attempts to balance environmental concerns with energy development for the oilsands.

However, Fort McKay is one of several bands involved in a legislative review of the plan.

A spokeswoman for the band says Wednesday's agreement doesn't affect Fort McKay's involvement in that review of the government's land use plan.