The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Sacred Headwaters Protection a ‘Great Beginning’

Signing of Klappan Plan after years of battles brings celebration — and reminders much work is left to be done.

By Amanda Follett Hosgood 30 Aug 2019 |

Amanda Follett Hosgood lives and writes amidst the stunning mountains and rivers of Wet’suwet’en territory. Follow her adventures on Twitter.

“Protect our land!”

The cry rings out across Kawdy Cho camp, eliciting laughter as dignitaries, their pens poised, gather around a plywood podium to ensure — at least for a while — protection of the Sacred Headwaters.

The laughter signals the sense of relief and hope that the signing of the Klappan Plan by the B.C. government and the Tahltan First Nation is a step toward giving the nation greater control over its traditional territory after 15 years of disputes over resource development in the area, the source of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers.

Last week, Doug Donaldson, the BC minister of forests and natural resources, Iskut Band Chief Marie Quock, Tahltan Central Government president Chad Day and Tahltan Band Chief Rick McLean signed the agreement in a ceremony held at a camp 100 kilometres southeast of Iskut, deep in the heart of Tahltan territory. The camp, at the base of Klappan Mountain, is used to teach Tahltan youth about their culture.

McLean, the last to sign, smiles broadly as he lifts the document for all to see. Applause erupts from the 50 or so people gathered — Tahltan community members, government bureaucrats, environmental advocates and mining industry representatives.

James Bourquin, who has lived in Iskut for decades and raised his family here, says the enthusiasm is justified.

“When you’re all on the same page, it’s a time for celebration,” he says. “Our job now is to pass on our interests to our kids.”

The agreement follows years of battles over resource development in the region. As the leaders pose for photos, they share the spotlight with Tahltan elders, the Klabona Keepers, who fought to protect the area from mining and fracking. Some were taken away in handcuffs during 2005 road blockades.

Some of the Keepers, Quock notes later, did not live long enough to see the agreement signed.

Finding common ground has been challenging since conflict erupted over the future of the Sacred Headwaters 15 years ago. As well as being the source of three of B.C.’s major salmon rivers, the Klappan also contains rich coal deposits. Industry’s interest in the region dates back to the 1980s, when Gulf Canada conducted exploration work here.

In 2004, Fortune Minerals acquired the Klappan Mountain coal licences; the same year, the province granted a tenure to Royal Dutch Shell to drill for coalbed methane in the culturally significant area.

Community members who wanted to protect the Klappan were outraged, and the community was divided between those favouring conservation and those who welcomed the economic development.

In 2008, after the conflict had attracted international media attention, the provincial government imposed a two-year moratorium on coalbed methane development in the headwaters, which was later extended until 2012. Later that year, Shell relinquished its tenure.

The issue flared again in March 2013 when Fortune Minerals was granted a permit to continue coal exploration in the Klappan, leading to more road blockades that August. Talks between the province and Tahltan leadership began in 2013. In 2014 the Klappan Technical Report laid the groundwork for the Klappan Plan signed last week.

851px version of PHOTO1.KlappanSigningAgreement.jpg
Participants and witnesses at the signing of the new Klappan Plan on Aug. 27. Photo by Tamo Campos.

The plan divides the region. Zone A, the Sacred Headwaters, is about 287,000 hectares, or 46 per cent of the area covered by the agreement. The area surrounds Klappan Mountain and has “significant ancient, historic, current, and future uses, sites, gathering/harvesting areas, and trails,” the plan says.

“The zone is considered one of the core areas of cultural importance and a seasonally important ‘breadbasket’ to meet sustenance needs for the Tahltan Nation.”

The management objective within that zone is, according to the plan, to protect “the core of the Klappan, including the Sacred Headwaters area, from Industrial Activity for an initial proposed minimum period of 20 years.”

But existing coal licences still leave question marks about the extent of the protection.

In 2015, the province and Fortune Minerals agreed on a Coal Licence Purchase Agreement. The government agreed to buy Fortune’s licences for $18.3 million, but gave the corporation a 10-year option “to re-purchase the licences at the original price after the Province and the Tahltan Nation have developed a shared vision for the Klappan.”

That — and the 20-year limit on the Klappan Plan — leave the area vulnerable to mining.

The Sacred Headwaters is buffered by two other zones. In Zone B, about eight per cent of the area, industry is “generally acceptable,” although “proponents are encouraged to build and strengthen their relationship with Tahltan, and engage in discussions on the proposed project.”

In Zone C, almost half of the total area, “economic development is viewed as appropriate and acceptable.” It’s intended to provide space for “mutual interest in responsible economic development.”

Some Iskut elders say the goal remains permanent protection for the entire area. In a letter last year in response to the plan, 16 elders said they see it as “a building block to achieve long-term conservation of our unceded, traditional territories in the Klappan.”

“We want to emphasize that this cannot be interpreted as wholehearted support,” they wrote. “There is much work yet to be done, many fundamental discussions to be had and we don’t want those to cease once the implementation plan has been approved.”

A Klappan Decision-Making and Management Board, composed of provincial and Tahltan representatives, has been assembled to implement the plan. Their first task will be addressing the coal licences.

The agreement’s signing comes just 10 days after the federal government announced the Tahltan Central Government would receive almost $4 million for land-use planning to establish Indigenous protected areas within their territory.

Before the signing, people from all sides in the past disputes gathered under the late-August sun to talk, laugh and dine on caribou stew and porcupine meat.

In the Iskut community hall that evening, Donaldson tells those gathered that the plan is “a great beginning.”

Quock agrees.

“The work isn’t done. It’s actually just starting. There’s a lot of work we still need to do,” she says. “In 2005, our community got ripped apart when Shell was wanting to go in there. That was one of the toughest times for us. That’s when I first became the chief. That was very, very difficult, finding the balance between the people who wanted to work, the people who wanted to protect the land.”

“I knew in my heart all the time that the Klappan is a very special place and we do need to protect it. There are some special places in the world that need to be protected — that’s one of them.”  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll