The provincial government may be starting a lengthy process to turn over Crown lands in the Babine Lake area to the Lake Babine Nation but there’s still a long way to go to transfer a first block of lands agreed to in 2014.
Those lands, 13 parcels amounting to 1,260 acres are part of an incremental treaty agreement which is part of the overall package leading to an eventual formal land claims treaty.
The first such parcel to be transferred is the Fort Babine Lodge, originally under the control of a Lake Babine Nation member, along with its buildings and other improvements.
That’s not fully happened yet but the province has granted a licence of occupation to allow renovations to the buildings and that work is now underway.
The provincial indigenous relations and reconciliation ministry indicates there is a complex series of steps involved to complete transfers.
“Some of these steps include making the request to the province for transfer of a parcel, choosing a designated corporate entity to hold the lands, and determining how survey costs will be covered,” it states and once the transfer begins it can take a year or two to be completed.
“Under the agreement the transfer of some specific parcels has to happen before other specific parcels can be transferred,” the ministry added.
To date, the Babine Lake Nation has requested just the transfer of the Fort Babine Lodge property.
A 2018 business plan completed by the Babine Lake Nation calls for work so that “the lodge provides mid-priced accommodation, rental fishing boats, fishing licence sales, a waterfront with rental canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, an isolated and safe swimming area, and a fire pit…”
A main building is to be enlarged to include a restaurant and an RV parking area will also be improved.
Road access to the lodge property is via the Nilkitkwa Forest Service Road that runs north from Smithers Landing.
The pending transfer of the 13 parcels under the interim treaty agreement are intended to give the Babine Lake Nation a foothold for economic development and other uses in advance of any formal treaty.
That’s also the intention of the second fee-simple lands transfers amounting to approximately 20,000 acres of Crown land as negotiated in a 2016 deal called a “foundation agreement”.
The purpose “is to provide economic development opportunities for the Lake Babine Nation, in particular involvement in forestry operations and partnership opportunities with the forest sector,” indicates the indigenous relations and reconciliation ministry.
For now the transfers of the first lands under the interim treaty agreement and the proposed second series of transfers under the foundation agreement represent the only transfer steps underway.
“These negotiations are separate from the treaty process, which is now on hold, but build on those past negotiations,” the ministry states.
“Lake Babine Nation and the federal and provincial governments have agreed that the foundation agreement is the best vehicle to move forward on the Nation’s path to self government and implementation of title.”