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Ottawa – Environmental groups today welcomed the announcement by Environment Minister John Baird that lands comprising the headwaters of the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories have been temporarily protected to enable the creation of a new national park, to be called Nááts’ihch’oh [pronounced naah-tseen-CHO].
This new park, to be established in collaboration with local Aboriginal peoples of the Sahtu region, will protect a critical part of the South Nahanni Watershed — a globally renowned wilderness area — and will complement on-going work to expand Nahanni National Park Reserve in the adjacent Dehcho region.
Nááts’ihch’oh covers 20% of the South Nahanni Watershed and includes key calving grounds for woodland caribou, as well as important habitat for grizzly bears — both species at risk which need large intact ecosystems to survive.
“We congratulate the Sahtu Dene and Métis for joining forces with the federal and territorial governments and the Dehcho First Nations to fulfill a shared vision of protecting the South Nahanni Watershed,” says Jennifer Morin, Interim Executive Director of CPAWS NWT Chapter.
Last August, CPAWS welcomed Prime Minister Harper’s announcement of interim protection for the 80% of the Nahanni Watershed within the Dehcho region, downstream from the lands protected today, for the purposes of expanding Nahanni National Park Reserve.
“Next, we look forward to the federal government quickly announcing final expanded boundaries for Nahanni National Park Reserve that will protect the Watershed,” notes Ms. Morin. “This will be a globally significant announcement, which is science based, championed by Aboriginal organizations, and overwhelmingly supported by northerners and
Canadians from across the country.”
CPAWS has been leading a public campaign for many years to protect the entire South Nahanni Watershed by expanding Nahanni National Park Reserve and protecting the adjacent headwaters.
In total, over the past year, the federal government has committed to protecting over 140,000 km2 of land in the NWT that has long been identified by local Aboriginal communities and conservation groups as requiring protected status.
CPAWS is working towards a goal of keeping at least half of Canada’s public lands and waters permanently wild.