Canada's Nahanni, the World's First World Heritage Site, Gets Six-fold Expansion

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The Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) applauds the Government of Canada, the Dehcho First Nations, and the Government of the Northwest Territories for today's announcement that will expand Canada's world famous Nahanni National Park Reserve to six times its original size. All parties have signed off on the final boundaries that will protect nearly the entire watershed of the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories within the traditional territory of the Dehcho First Nations.

Nahanni National Park Reserve is especially known for its awe-inspiring Virginia Falls (Nailicho), which are twice as high as Niagara Falls. "This park expansion is a big day for conservation—but the fact that it was done in partnership with First Nations makes it all the more exciting," said Larry Innes, CBI's executive director. First established in 1972, Nahanni National Park Reserve became the first site recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1978 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"Today's announcement represents a balanced approach to protecting key lands while deciding how to responsibly develop others," added Larry Innes, "this is particularly relevant, given the heightened interest in Canada's North and increased awareness of the global importance of these unique ecosystems." CBI acknowledges the long-standing work of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to realize this expansion.

The expansion will permanently protect more than 30,000 km2—an area the size of Vancouver Island. The new boundaries will greatly increase secure habitat for wide-ranging and sensitive species like woodland caribou, grizzly bears, mountain goats, and Dall's sheep. Protecting this watershed and connecting it to other areas in the region will help ensure a healthy Boreal ecosystem for future generations.

The South Nahanni watershed is of cultural and traditional importance for Dene peoples. Parks Canada worked extensively with the Dehcho First Nations in bringing forward the new boundaries, and has committed to establishing a companion national park, to be called Naats'ihch'oh with the Sahtu First Nations to protect the balance of the region. Parks Canada is also engaged in consultations with neighbouring Kaska Dena in the Yukon about these initiatives.

The Nahanni National Park Reserve expansion is part of a suite of interrelated efforts being undertaken to identify and protect key ecological and cultural values. In the past four years, just over 12 million hectares (30 million acres) have been designated in the Northwest Territories for interim or final protection by the federal and territorial governments. CBI is a partner in the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy, and is actively supporting efforts by First Nations, conservation organizations, governments, and other interests to create a representative system of protected cultural and ecological areas within the region.

For background information, including b-roll and photos, visit to the International Boreal Conservation Campaign's website.

The Canadian Boreal Initiative brings together diverse partners to create new solutions for Boreal conservation and sustainable development. It acts as a catalyst for on-the-ground efforts across the Boreal forest region by governments, industry, First Nations, conservation groups, major retailers, financial institutions and scientists. CBI is a project of the Pew Environment Group.

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Suzanne Fraser

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