The government of Canada announced one of the biggest land conservation agreements in North American history, by ordering the protection of 25.5 million acres in the heart of the Canadian Boreal Forest, an area approximately equal in size to 11 Yellowstone National Parks. The government issued this land management move at an event hosted by the Canadian Boreal Initiative.
The lands to be protected include:
These government actions come as the result of long-standing park and wildlife area proposals and land rights settlement agreements with local aboriginal First Nations, assisted and supported by several environmental organizations, including the Pew Environment Group, the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Ducks Unlimited, and World Wildlife Fund. The land protection orders prevent any harm to the areas and will allow the government and First Nations to complete paperwork and planning for these new parks and conservation lands over the next several years.
The Canadian Boreal Forest is the largest intact forest remaining on the planet, rivaling the Amazon in size and ecological importance. It stores twice as much carbon per acre as tropical rainforests, preventing global warming from being even worse. Canada's Boreal teems with wildlife, including nesting grounds for billions of migratory songbirds and 40% of North America's waterfowl. Canada's Boreal is also home to some of the world's largest remaining populations of grizzly and polar bears, wolves, woodland and tundra caribou.
Part of the impetus for these actions is a vast conservation plan, the Canadian Boreal Conservation Framework, which is gathering significant momentum, including over 1500 scientists, 25 aboriginal Canadian First Nations, 100 corporations and most leading conservation groups in Canada. The Boreal Conservation Framework calls for permanently protecting at least 50% of the Canadian Boreal and applying strict environmental safeguards for development in any other areas.
The land protection decisions include:
1) East Arm of the Great Slave Lake National Park: 26,350 km2 or 6,500,000 acres protected (an additional 1.8 million acres was previously reserved for an earlier, smaller park proposal that was never acted on) for a total of 8.3 million acres.
Thaydene Nene, the Lands of the Ancestors, is the Dene name for the new national park in surrounding the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, NWT. The creation of the park is the result of years of work led by the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation and conservation organizations that have strongly supported their proposal. Though the decision to create this park was announced last summer, this action is the key step, legally protecting the lands from other claims and development. This new protected area will assure that the integrity of the Lutsel K'e Dene's culture and traditional territory – in Canada's Boreal Forest – and the tremendous fish and wildlife habitat of the area will be preserved.
2) Akaitcho Land Settlement Lands: 62,000 km2 or 15,320,000 acres protected.
As part of an aboriginal land settlement agreement the Akaitcho First Nation, which includes the village of Lutsel K'e, will be given control over these ecologically and culturally important lands and they will be conserved through a locally-managed land use planning process. The First Nations members have a high level of concern about proposed uranium and diamond mining activities in their traditional territory and will use this planning process to address environmental protection and sustainable development issues on a site-specific basis.
3) Ramparts River National Wildlife Area: 15,087 km2 or 3,700,000 acres protected.
The Ramparts National Wildlife Area will help maintain the culture and way of life of nearby Sahtu First Nation communities, and some of the most important wetlands and waterfowl habitat in Canada's vast Boreal Forest. Protecting this area of Canada's Boreal Forest will help maintain the biodiversity, cultural values, and ecological goods and services in an area under heavy pressure form the proposed Mackenzie Valley Gas pipeline and oil and gas exploration activities. The Ramparts Wildlife Area is just the first of many areas the Sahtu have identified for protection in the near future.
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