Fort McKay First Nation has been concerned about oil sands development encroaching on its Moose Lake reserves 174A and 174B since the early 2000s, prompting initial planning discussions with the Government of Alberta in 2002. In 2008, those discussions were suspended in favour of efforts to develop the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP).
Starting in 2009, Fort McKay participates in three years of consultations to develop LARP and requests special protection for the Moose Lake area. LARP is released in August 2012 with the suggestion to create four new parks in the region at an unspecified date in the future on lands in which industry has said it has no interest but LARP does not contain anything to protect Moose Lake.
Environment and Parks Minister Diana McQueen executes a Letter of Intent in October of 2012 in which Alberta commits to protecting Moose Lake. Premier Jim Prentice affirms Alberta’s commitment and signs another Letter of Intent in March 2015. His letter includes a commitment to complete and approve the Moose Lake Plan in one year.
In January 2016, the new Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, signs a Renewed Collaboration Agreement with Fort McKay to develop the Moose Lake Plan. Jointly appointed Co-Leads negotiate 45 recommendations to protect the ecological and cultural integrity of a 10 km zone surrounding Fort McKay’s Moose Lake reserves. Both parties commit that the plan will not sterilize bitumen at the same time it protects Treaty rights and traditional land uses.
Alberta accepts 43 of the recommendations but reserves its decision on two, the most important being the prohibition of large-scale infrastructure -- central processing facilities, work camps, aerodromes, landfills, etc. -- inside the 10 km zone.
Alberta releases the draft Moose Lake Access Management Plan in February 2018 for public consultation. The energy sector indicates concerns with interior habitat disturbance limits and reclamation standards; the forestry sector requests modest changes to harvest recommendations. Alberta and Fort McKay renew consultation with stakeholders to address their concerns.
In July, Alberta and Fort McKay share the proposed revisions to the Moose Lake Plan with oil sands companies for their review and further comment. Alberta and Fort McKay introduce further flexibility into the plan to address industry’s concerns.
In June of 2018, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) approves Prosper’s Rigel project, including placement of its central processing facility inside the 10 km zone without consideration of the fact Fort McKay and Alberta were still in negotiation to develop the Moose Lake Plan.
In July 2018, Fort McKay petitions the Alberta Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the AER decision. In December, the Court of Appeal approves Fort McKay’s request for a hearing, which is set for October 2019. Fort McKay First Nation appears before the Court of Appeal on October 29 to ask that AER’s approval of the Prosper Rigel Project be set aside. The court could take four to six months to render its decision.
Fort McKay asks the new Government of Alberta under Premier Jason Kenney to approve the current working draft of the Moose Lake Plan that includes revisions based on several months of consultation with the energy and forestry sectors, government, First Nations and Métis peoples, and which introduces additional flexibility to respond to stakeholder concerns.