Larry Innes, Executive Director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative, joined other conservationists in celebrating today's announcement of plans to develop a new national park in the headwaters of the Nahanni.
Innes congratulated the Government of Canada, the people of Tulita and the territorial government for reaching this important milestone towards Canada's newest National Park. “We celebrate the importance of what the Tulita Dene and Metis communities have undertaken with the governments here today,” said Innes. “The proposal to establish the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve is truly a gift for future generations of Canadians and indeed, people around the world.”
Today's announcement grants interim protection for 7600 km2 (1.8 million acres) in the headwaters of the Nahanni River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The proposed new National Park will be called Nááts'ihch'oh, which means “stands like a porcupine” in the local Dene language. The new National Park will be larger than Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies or the Grand Canyon National Park in the United States, and encompasses spectacular wilderness and important habitat for the endangered mountain caribou.
Since January 2007, the federal governments, working with First Nations, the territorial government and local stakeholders through the NWT Protected Areas Strategy and regional land use planning initiatives, have designated 40 million acres for conservation in the Northwest Territories. Today's announcement compliments the Government of Canada's August 2007 announcement of plans to expand the existing Nahanni National Park to include the entire watershed. It is also one more step towards completing the NWT Protected Areas Strategy and Canada's national parks system.
“Canadians can be proud of the fact that our government has recognized the importance of protecting this entire region, and is taking steps today to establish not one but two of these world class conservation areas in the Nahanni region of the NWT”, stated Innes. “I think that future generations will come to consider the Nahanni National Park and the future Nááts'ihch'oh National Park in much the same way as we now look at Banff and Jasper.”
Communities within the Sahtu region, together with the, territorial and federal governments are also considering additional lands to complete a conservation network in the region through both the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy and through the Sahtu Land Use Plan. The goal is to balance conservation with proposed development in the region
Today's announcement was also well received by the international conservation community. Steve Kallick of the Pew Environment Group's International Boreal Conservation Campaign noted, “This year's conservation withdrawals in the Northwest Territories are some of the largest in North American history. These are globally significant commitments, and demonstrate that Canada's is taking action to protect the internationally important Boreal Forest.”