Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for March 9, 2009

Dispute over buildings settled out of court

A land dispute involving a big game outfitter who built a dining lodge and three sleep cabins along the Bonnet Plume River has been settled out of court.

By Chuck Tobin on March 9, 2009 at 4:39 pm


Photo submitted

ONE GOES, THREE STAY - Bonnet Plume Outfitting has agreed to remove its cooking lodge (with barn-shaped roof) at Copper Point on the Bonnet Plume River. The company will be allowed to keep and use the three sleep cabins seen at the top of the photo. The temporary tent-type structures in the photograph belonged to a mineral exploration company. Photo courtesy GOVERNMENT OF YUKON

A land dispute involving a big game outfitter who built a dining lodge and three sleep cabins along the Bonnet Plume River has been settled out of court.

The government has maintained the company did not have permission to build the four structures there, while the owners of the outfitting business said they did.

Lyle Henderson, director of the territorial lands branch, said Bonnet Plume Outfitting has agreed to tear down the lodge at Copper Point this summer, but will be permitted to keep and use the three sleep cabins for three years, and possibly permanently.

The use of the cabins, he said, will be limited to eight consecutive weeks during the fall hunting season.

Under the arrangement, the Yukon government will assist Bonnet Plume with its application under the 2005 land use policy for big game outfitters.

Once the process is complete, the company will be able to apply for permanent status for the three cabins, though nothing is guaranteed, Henderson said.

Similarly, the director acknowledged, once the existing sites for base camps and other campsites have been documented, Bonnet Plume will be eligible to apply for permission to rebuild the lodge at one of its existing sites.

But there will never be a lodge at Copper Point, Henderson insisted.

In the meantime, Bonnet Plume will be able to store the material from the torn-down lodge at the end of the nearby runway built by a company in the 1990s during its mineral exploration activities.

The outfitting company began construction in 2005, and the development was eventually brought to the attention of the lands branch in Mayo.

“This case has been in the legal system for over two years,” Henderson said Friday after releasing news of the settlement. “The outfitter was conducting a certain amount of business using the facilities.

“In the interest of moving ahead on a land application process and terminating an indefinite legal process, an agreement was made to allow the three cabins to remain for the three-year period,” he said.

The director of lands said in light of the Bonnet Plume decision, the Yukon government will review a similar case involving the government’s belief that Mervyn’s Yukon Outfitting built a cabin on Ittlement Lake northeast of Haines Junction without authority.

Bonnet Plume owners Chris and Sharron McKinnon of Calling Lake, Alta., argued they had been given verbal approval from the lands branch to proceed with construction of the Copper Point development.

They maintain they were led to believe the construction of cabins by outfitters to provide for clients throughout their hunting concessions was common practice.

Officials with the lands branch maintained no such approval was ever given or implied, either verbally or on paper.

And in the fall of 2006, they informed Bonnet Plume it either has to show authority to occupy the site, or the government would seek a court order to remove the buildings.

The issue of whether the McKinnons had permission has never been tested in court, though there have been a couple of preliminary arguments on related matters won by Bonnet Plume’s Vancouver lawyer.

Despite losing the two preliminary matters, Henderson maintained the lands branch would continue to seek removal of the four buildings.

Construction of the dining lodge and sleep cabins drew calls for action from the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, with concerns that construction had occurred on its traditional territory without any consultation with the first nation.

The Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon expressed its concern about the impact the development would have on the Bonnet Plume Canadian Heritage River management plan.

Nacho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn is out of the office this week and unavailable for comment.

Blaine Walden of the tourism association said this morning the group will be taking a look at the decision before commenting.

The McKinnons could not be reached this morning.

Prior to April 1, 2003, management authority for the Yukon’s lands and resources was a federal government responsibility.

Following transfer to the Yukon government, the government developed its big game outfitting land application policy in 2005.

Under the policy, outfitters are required to document use of their different sites, from sites for their main base camps to the more simplistic sites for tent camps.

Only one company has so far entered the process.

The application by Lone Wolf Outfitting sparked strong opposition when it was filed in 2007.

There were sharp concerns over the number of sites identified, as well as the location. Some argued the company was attempting to turn campsites used frequently by the general public into their own.

Henderson said the lands branch will be making a decision on the Lone Wolf application later this year.

CommentsAdd a comment

Arn Anderson

Mar 10, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Need free land? Come to the Yukon and squat because thats how we roll or errrr squat up here!

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