Unlocking the Economic Value of Reserve Lands through Land Management

Presenting organization: INAC & Williams Lake Indian Band


Leasing is the primary tool available to First Nations to unlock the economic value contained in reserve land. Leasing arrangements can be achieved in a few different ways. A First Nation can rely on INAC staff to negotiate and draft the lease terms for reserve lands that are specifically designated for leasing purposes. Through the Reserve Land Environmental Management Program (RLEMP), a trained Lands Manager working for the First Nation prepares the Lease documents for INAC to review and approve. Finally, some leases are negotiated directly between the First Nation and a Lessee through the First Nation Land Management Act (FNLM). This session will provide a basic understanding of how these three leasing regimes work and what the benefits and challenges for each may be.

What Participants will learn by attending?

  • Tools for First Nations to manage reserve land
  • The roles and responsibilities of an RLEMP Band
  • The value of land use planning
  • Lessons learned in transitioning from RLEMP to FNLM


Kirk Dressler, Economic Development Office, William Lake Indian Band

Willie Sellars, Special Projects Coordinator, William Lake Indian Band

Patrick Crowther, Special Initiatives Officer, Lands Modernization, INAC

Presenter Biographies

Kirk Dressler: Born and raised in British Columbia, Kirk is a graduate of Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia with degrees in Political Science and Law. A Practising member of the BC Bar, Kirk has spent the last 15 years working exclusively in the field of First Nations governance, policy and economic development. From 2000 to 2009, Kirk worked with Westbank First Nation (WFN), where he last served as Council Secretariat and General Legal Counsel.

Since 2009, Kirk has been working with the Williams Lake Indian Band to develop and implement an economic development strategy. Key components of that strategy include enhanced governance for Williams Lake Indian Band, strategic utilization of WLIB's land assets, and the pursuit of opportunities flowing from the use of natural resources in WLIB's traditional territory. Kirk has negotiated numerous agreements with mining and other companies, and is overseeing WLIB's transition to First Nations Land Management.

Willie Sellars: Willie was born and raised in Williams Lake, BC, and is a Member of the Williams Lake Indian Band ("WLIB" or "T’exelc") of the Secwepemc Nation. Elected onto WLIB council at the age of 24 in 2008, Willie was the youngest councillor in WLIB history. He is now serving his third term on WLIB Council.

Willie worked for a number of years as Wildland Firefighter for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations before returning to his community to assume the position of Special Projects Coordinator in the WLIB Economic Development Department. In his current capacity, Willie is responsible for overseeing a broad variety of projects and activities, including new business initiatives flowing from Impact Benefit Agreements, engagement with proponents in the traditional territory and community consultation for major WLIB projects such as the First Nations Land Management Initiative.

Willie enjoys hockey and other sports, and is currently a goaltender for the Senior AA, Williams Lake Stampeders of the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL).

Willie is also an accomplished author, who released his first children's book "Dipnetting with Dad" in the Spring of 2014. The book describes a personal account of a young Secwepemc boy and his fishing adventures with his Dad and Grandpa.

Patrick Crowther: Prior to joining INAC, Patrick worked in private practice as a civil litigation lawyer in the Vancouver area. Since joining INAC in 2007, Patrick worked as a Lands Management & Leasing Officer for approximately eight years and has been involved with many leasing projects including the recently opened Okanagan Correctional Centre in Oliver, BC. In May of 2016, Patrick transferred to the Lands Modernization team and is now working with First Nations that are interested in operating under the First Nation Land Management Act.

Patrick is also an ice-hockey referee and in May of 2015 he was selected to officiate games in Regina, Saskatchewan for the National Championship for the Canlan Cup.