The federal government is investing close to $54 million in northern Saskatchewan to fight youth crime, lessen the threat of wildfires and upgrade local roads.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning in Prince Albert by Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale.

The northern communities of Île-à-la-Crosse, Witchekan Lake and Pelican Lake First Nations will receive $1.2 million to assess vulnerability to youth gangs, youth violence and cyber-bullying.

“The communities themselves have led the way in identifying what they want to do and the Government of Canada is very pleased to support their efforts,” said Goodale.

A total of $40.2 million will also be put toward two wildfire mitigation projects.

The first pledges close to $20 million to helping SaskPower upgrade its distribution network and clear and maintain about 10,000 hectares of forested area to lessen the risk of wildfires.

The remaining money will go toward fuel mitigation on provincial Crown and municipal lands.

“The provincial Environment Ministry will match that funding in part, to conduct 141 forest fuel mitigation initiatives in the neighbourhood of 85 at-risk Saskatchewan communities,” says Goodale. “Most of them are in northern Saskatchewan. The projects will groom and clean-up nearly 1400 hectares of provincial Crown land and nearly 1,100 hectares of municipal land. Fires will be less likely to get started. They will be easier to manage, cause less damage and threaten fewer lives and livelihoods.”

The provincial government will be providing about $8.3 million, SaskPower $5.5 million and municipal governments $1.6 million to these initiatives.

Another $12.5 million will go toward upgrading more than 50 kilometres of Highway 55, east of Carrot River, which includes access to the communities of Red Earth and Shoal Lake Cree Nations.

“The roadway runs into serious flooding problems for which it was not sufficiently engineered and it is in very poor shape,” said Goodale. “That creates big problems for the Red Earth and Shoal Lake Cree Nations, as well as the forestry industry, local business, residents and others.”

The provincial government will be providing a matching investment.

(PHOTO: Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale making the announcement. Photo by Brendan Mayer.)