WWF-Canada Supports Northerners’ Wishes to Protect Land First



Posted on 21 February 2006  | 

Inuvik, NWT - WWF-Canada testified today at the Joint Review Panel (JRP) Public Hearings for the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP) in Inuvik. WWF-Canada provided firm support for the calls of many northerners to protect an adequate network of special cultural and wildlife areas prior to completing any major pipeline development project.

The hearings are to assess the long-term impacts, both positive and negative, of this project, and establish key conditions under which any pipeline might be approved and built. At the start of such a major hydrocarbon ‘basin-opening’ pipeline project, the main concern shared by northerners and WWF-Canada is that the long-term interests of the people, and the natural ecosystems and wildlife will be protected. The gas, oil and mineral rush in Canada’s north is now on, driven by escalating prices and energy security issues. The JRP has to help the nation decide how to effectively and openly balance both long-term and short-term interests and public commitments, which are at stake.

“In Canada, WWF has worked for over 30 years in support of northern communities. In fact, I testified at the Berger Inquiry in the mid 1970s, said Monte Hummel, President Emeritus of WWF-Canada. “Many of the points made by northerners and Justice Berger then are still relevant today. We must sequence conservation first before large-scale development of this kind; it is imperative to the livelihoods of northerners, as well as to wildlife species and their habitats”.

WWF-Canada is calling on the JRP to support and recommend several key points in it’s impact assessment work in 2006, and in it’s final report to the National Energy Board, including:

• Conduct a full Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Mackenzie Valley and Beaufort Sea
• Complete comprehensive land use planning and long-term conservation measures before further decisions on industrial allocations
• Fully implement the multi-partner, community-based NWT Protected Areas Strategy Action Plan to 2010
• Establish benchmark reference areas to assist with impacts monitoring and mitigation measures
• Protect a robust network of connected natural areas to help people and wildlife adapt to impacts of rapid climate change in this sensitive region
• Establish and sustain full environmental monitoring and infrastructure clean-up initiatives including via sufficient posted bonds
• Utilise fully the existing NWT Cumulative Effects Assessment and Management framework
• Initiate immediately the development of a national sustainable energy strategy

If implemented, these measures will ensure that the integrity of the land and distinctive cultural traditions will be safeguarded for future generations. This area is home to Aboriginal people, but their lands are also home to some huge natural populations of caribou, polar and grizzly bears, migratory birds and one of the largest un-dammed rivers in the world. The Mackenzie River basin is an integral part of the Canadian landscape and history, no matter where in Canada you reside.

"Northern people do not want a pipeline at any cost – we do want to avoid the mistakes made elsewhere in the world. This is our homeland, and will be home for our grandchildren. We need a full network of protected areas in the 16 key ecoregions that will be affected by the Mackenzie Gas Project and related and subsequent developments before any pipeline construction is completed. These special cultural and ecological areas will help mitigate the inevitable long-term impacts that our land will experience", stated Stephen Kakfwi, former Premier of the NWT, and advocate for the NWT Protected Areas Strategy.

For many years, WWF-Canada has maintained a full-time office in the NWT to provide substantial financial, technical and political support to many northern community conservation projects on wildlife species, toxic chemicals, climate change, traditional knowledge and resource mapping, especially for community-initiated protected areas. WWF-Canada remains a strong partner in the community-based NWT Protected Areas Strategy that aims to protect a full network of natural areas for future generations, ahead of major industrial development and while the opportunity still remains.

Community-supported initiatives, combined with high quality land and resource use planning and leading-edge environmental assessment and mitigation measures, provide Canada with world-class conservation opportunities, which are still relatively intact. WWF-Canada has worked with the Mackenzie Gas Project team, and with many other companies in Canada and worldwide, to help forge better all round solutions to energy development issue. For industry, and for society in general, collaborative solutions provide greater certainty, by avoiding unnecessary future conflicts and risks.

"Having chaired the U.S. Congress-initiated review of 35 years of northern Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil and gas developments, a very similar situation to that facing the NWT, I can safely say that we have learned many important lessons about the benefits and costs of such inevitable cumulative oil and gas developments upon opening of a new basin and pipeline,” says Professor Emeritus Gordon Orians, who is testifying on behalf of WWF-Canada. “Managing the inevitable cumulative impacts is key - helping to reduce or eliminate damage that would otherwise certainly occur. I am pleased to be able to help the Joint Review Panel select the best credible and comprehensive approach to their environmental assessment work, based on our Alaskan experiences".

WWF-Canada is the first charity in Canada to qualify for the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), as part of an organizational commitment throughout its work. Following a successful audit by the National Quality Institute (NQI) the CCAB will be recognizing WWF-Canada’s achievement at its annual gala dinner on February 21, 2006.

Note to Editors:
1) WWF-Canada’s opening statement and full written intervention are available at http://www.wwf.ca and at http://www.ngps.nt.ca/jrphearings_e.html .
2) Related maps, reports and position statements are also available at http://www.wwf.ca

For further information:
Dr. Peter Ewins, WWF-Canada, In Inuvik at JRP Hearings
tel: +416-574-1016

Stephen Kakfwi
tel: +867-765-8353

Wendy Douglas, Manager, Communications, WWF-Canada
tel: +416-484-7726

Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), a key species in the Mackenzie Valley.
© WWF-Canon / KLEIN & HUBERT Enlarge

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