First key natural area protected in advance of Mackenzie pipeline developmentThree major national conservation organizations say last week's federal government decision to protect Edéhzhíe, a 25,000 square kilometre plateau in the NWT's Mackenzie Valley, from industrial development is an encouraging step forward for conservation in the North. First Nations requested protection for this huge area (almost the size of Vancouver Island), which is of regional cultural and international ecological significance. Today World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada), Ducks Unlimited Canada (DU), and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) praised the five-year interim protection plan.
"WWF congratulates the Deh Cho and Dogrib leaders and elders, and the federal and territorial governments, for their sustained partnership efforts to protect this magnificent pristine area," said Pete Ewins, WWF-Canada's Director of Arctic Conservation. "This is a very important indication that, via the community-based NWT Protected Areas Strategy, additional areas along the Mackenzie Valley can be reserved prior to new large-scale industrial development, such as building a major pipeline".
Edéhzhíe, located near Fort Simpson, to the west of Great Slave Lake, is an important First Nations' cultural and spiritual gathering place. The land is ecologically important - often referred to as a "giant sponge" by local residents because of its exceptional wetland values. There are provisions, as required, for a pipeline corridor at the western tip of Edéhzhíe. During the five-year period of interim protection from new industrial development more detailed assessments of mineral and energy potential will be completed. By 2007, all information will be reviewed and the site may then become permanently protected.
"The Deh Cho and Dogrib people have lived on this land for centuries" said Gary Stewart, DU's Manager of Conservation Programs for the western boreal region. "DU is fully appreciative of their conservation vision and traditional values attached to this important area that has provided for their people for years, and now it will continue to do so for future generations. We also recognize the leadership of the federal government, especially Environment Canada, toward bringing this great concept closer to reality. We are very pleased to be part of this significant effort that will protect the world-class wetlands found in this region."
The Mackenzie Valley contains one of the last remaining great river systems essentially in its natural state. In the face of possible development of a natural gas pipeline linking the Mackenzie Delta to Alberta, perhaps as early as 2008, many people are concerned that cultural and ecological values be safeguarded in advance. WWF-Canada, DU and CPAWS have worked for many years in the NWT, in support of community-based habitat conservation initiatives. The NWT Protected Areas Strategy is a community-driven process designed to protect special ecological and cultural areas, and to protect core representative areas within each eco-region.
"The federal government has taken an important decision, but its job doesn't end here" said Greg Yeoman, CPAWS' Conservation Director in the NWT. "Now we'd like to see the federal government take the lead on financing, which would be matched by other sources, to allow the identification and interim protection of a network of key natural areas throughout the Mackenzie Valley. A federal commitment of $4 million per year over the next three years is needed to implement this initiative."
Pete Ewins, WWF-Canada, tel: (416) 489-4567 ext. 286
Bill Carpenter, WWF-Canada, tel: (403) 997-6335
Susan Viets, WWF-Canada, tel: (416) 489-4567 ext. 253
Gary Stewart, Ducks Unlimited Canada, tel: (780) 489-8110
Bruce MacDonald, Ducks Unlimited Canada, tel: (867) 873-6744
Alison Woodley, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, tel: (613) 569-7226
Greg Yeoman, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, tel: (867) 873-9893