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Land use and public policy in northern Canada Naysmith, John K.

Abstract

Northern Canada was first occupied by man at least 25,000 years ago. The fur trader, the first European to live in what is now the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories, arrived less than 300 years ago, and northern land use, not related to subsistence living or the fur trade, has a history of less than 100 years. The north has experienced three distinct waves of land use activity within the past seventy-five years. The discovery of gold in the Yukon and the subsequent placer mining operations at the turn of the century marked the beginning of the 'development era'. During the second world war, roads, pipelines and airfields were constructed north of 60. Finally, the extensive oil, gas and mineral activity, which today extends across the north, including the Arctic Islands, began in the 1960s. The purpose of this study is to analyze northern land use and related public policy in Canada north of 60 degrees north latitude and to propose a course of action for the administration and management of the region's 1.5 million square miles of public land. It is shown that starting with the Dominion Lands Act in 1872 virtually all of the body of law pertaining to northern land has been a response to increasing and/or altering demands for the alienation of public land and associated resources. As a result the relationship of the various acts and regulations to each other grow more complex while the respective administrative responsibilities of the federal and two territorial governments become less definable. In addition to the legal and administrative institutions related to northern land, there are the claims of the north's native people to substantial areas of land, and society's growing awareness of the social and cultural implications of northern development. If policy-makers are to resolve the complex issues surrounding northern land today they must first consider the land itself and develop policy which is based on an understanding of its nature, capability and limitations. Within that context the study proposes the following with respect to the future administration and management of northern lands: (1) a land use planning process for guiding and determining decisions respecting land use and allocation which would: (i) account for the natural values and properties of the land; (ii) consider the potential uses of the land and its capabilities; (iii) propose and assess the consequences of various forms of land use and development; (iv) monitor and document land use; (2) a land use planning commission in each territory; (3) a northern land classification system; (4) a mechanism for citizen participation in the land use planning process; (5) a revised legislative base; (6) a selection process for settlement of native land claims. The next logical step in the evolution of the territorial governments is an increased role in the management of northern land. The administration of federal land legislation by a department of land and forests in the Yukon Territorial Government and the Government of the Northwest Territories is suggested.

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