Strategic land use plans reflect the broad vision for land and water use in a relatively broad geographic planning area (e.g., a First Nations territory) including choices about any areas that should be off-limits to resource extraction; high level direction about what types of uses are appropriate where; and, resource management objectives for different species and values. Strategic land use planning can be contrasted with ‘operational planning’ that describes how specific projects and site-specific land use activities such as logging, mining or grazing will occur.
Developing strategic land use plans can be a powerful way for a First Nation to exercise its Aboriginal Title, and to ‘translate’ its laws and the wisdom of its Elders into maps and written rules that communicate its choices about land and water use to the Crown and third parties.
The Crown’s constitutional duties to accommodate First Nations when land and resource decisions are made create important leverage to enforce and implement First Nations’ plans, including necessary law reform. Provincial law and policy currently present barriers to respecting, implementing and enforcing the outcomes from First Nations’ land use planning processes. Law and policy reform is essential to remove these barriers and create a framework for land use planning that deals honourably with Aboriginal Title and Rights.