Protecting the Sacred Headwaters of the Klappan Valley


The Klappan Valley is a remote area located 150 kilometres southeast of Dease Lake in northern B.C., and is the territorial land of the Tahltan Nation. Known as the Sacred Headwaters, the valley is the birthplace of three salmon-bearing rivers: the Skeena River, Nass River, and Stikine River, and also the valley’s namesake, Klappan River.

Tahltan oral history holds that the Sacred Headwaters are the place where the Earth was first created and where Tahltan culture began. The Klappan Valley holds many different values – spiritual, social, economic and environmental values, which are important to the Tahltan, the province and to all the peoples living in B.C. Because this area is so valuable, there is conflict, as different groups argue over which values are more important.

The region contains some of the richest coal potential in B.C., and mining operations have been a source of concern for decades. After many high-profile protests and court cases, the Province stopped all coalbed methane development and began talks to give the Tahltan Nation a greater role in resource development decision-making, including land-use planning.

Under the Klappan Plan, a land-use agreement signed in 2019, the Nation and B.C. government are working together in new ways to protect and manage the Sacred Headwaters, and respect the Nation’s rights in the Klappan Valley.

The agreement sets out plans for how the 620,000 hectares of the Klappan Valley can be used. It allows different uses in different zones. One area can have no major industrial development for at least 20 years. In another zone, any industrial development must reflect Tahltan cultural and archaeological values. And in a third area, industrial activities are allowed. No industrial development can happen in the Sacred Headwaters zone.

The Klappan Plan has created predictability and stability for the people living and working in the area, and for the companies operating there. And it has helped advance reconciliation between Tahltan Nation and the Province.