WWF Supports Federal Commitments To Reserve Protected Areas in Advance of Northern Pipeline DevelopmentIn a wide-ranging interview published earlier this week*, federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, The Hon. Robert Nault, indicated federal support for identifying and reserving areas that are culturally and naturally significant in advance of pipeline development in Canada's territories, including in the Mackenzie Valley.
"I would see that the Protected Areas Strategy is one of our major priorities, simply because it is also the territorial governments' and First Nations' priorities," said Mr. Nault. "Last time I was in the NWT we talked about the strategy and how it will be developed and whether we can fast-track protection of some of those lands before pipeline development. We are having those conversations and I have assured some of the environmental groups that we see that as a very important step to take. We don't want to be caught after the fact. We have to be very proactive and we're prepared to move financially on that.
Later in the interview, Mr. Nault added, "…we are going to try to prioritize them to make sure that the areas we want protected will be protected before the process starts of new development initiatives like the pipeline." The Minister further indicated that based on his conversations with NWT Premier Stephen Kakfwi and Liberal MP for the Western Arctic Ethel Blondin-Andrew, "We all see this as a positive thing of protecting these areas and those sites. We are going to move forward."
Today, Monte Hummel, President of WWF-Canada, responded enthusiastically to the Minister's comments. "This is great news which supports the good work done by First Nations communities up and down the Mackenzie Valley to identify areas that are culturally and ecologically important to them. Sites proposed for protection by northern residents include outstanding wetlands and other naturally significant wildlife habitats. It is crucial that these areas be given at least interim protection before development proceeds."
Bill Carpenter, WWF-Canada's NWT Regional Conservation Director, said, " I am particularly pleased to hear that the federal Minister is prepared to put financial support behind his remarks, especially through the NWT Protected Areas Strategy, a co-operative effort by First Nations, conservation groups, industry, and the territorial and federal governments. Mr. Nault's statements nicely support those made this March by the NWT Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, the Hon. Jim Antoine, who said, ‘In the spirit of a balanced approach to development and conservation, I am reaffirming our government's commitment to establishing a network of representative protected areas in the Northwest Territories...after development, it is too late.' "
WWF has steadfastly advocated what it calls the "conservation first" principle, not just for the Mackenzie Valley but for all large scale industrial developments in Canada. This principle emphasizes the need to properly sequence conservation measures such as reserving protected areas while there still is the chance to do so.
* The Hill Times, Monday 19 August 2002, "We will eventually build both pipelines": Minister Robert Nault, by Paco Francoli (page N2)
Monte Hummel, President, WWF–Canada, at 416-489-4567 ext. 223
Bill Carpenter, NWT Regional Conservation Director, WWF-Canada, at 867-920-7999