The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Aboriginals worried about national park once NWT gains power

  • Print

YELLOWKNIFE - Some northern aboriginals are worried an agreement to transfer province-like powers to the Northwest Territories threatens plans for a long-desired national park.

The federal government promised in 2010 that a vast area on the east arm of Great Slave Lake was firmly on its way to becoming Thaidene Nene National Park. It's a wild and wildlife-rich area the local Lutsel K'e Dene consider sacred.

But they fear that a deal signed Monday that will transfer control of the territory's lands and resources to Yellowknife from Ottawa puts the future of that park in doubt.

"It's a cause of great concern if there's no commitment on the government of the Northwest Territories to respect the withdrawn area," said Steve Nitah, head negotiator for the Lutsel K'e.

In 2007, Ottawa set aside about 3.3 million hectares of land in the area from mineral exploration while it negotiated with the Lutsel K'e about how to protect the land. The talks resulted three years later in an agreement to work toward establishing a national park.

Lutsel K'e negotiators point out that the land protection expires at the end of March 2014, the day before the territorial government is expected to assume control over federal lands in the N.W.T.

They say that if the protection is not renewed, land in the area will open to prospecting and mineral claims. And, they add, a list of federal negotiations the territory has promised to continue does not include talks on creating Thaidene Nene.

"It's a little discomfiting not to see that agreement included on that list of agreements the N.W.T. is bound to honour," said Larry Innes, lawyer for the Lutsel K'e.

Thaidene Nene is known to have deposits of uranium, gold and rare earth metals. It's also considered a prime corridor for potential hydro power exports.

The territorial government has expressed its eagerness for both resource and hydro development.

A study analyzing the region's mineral wealth has been commissioned, but hasn't yet been released by Parks Canada.

Territorial Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger said his government will follow through on the federal promise — in some form.

"We have the ability to set up parks, conservation areas, critical habitat areas, those type of things," he said. "There may be new things we have to create after devolution.

"We're going to work through that process."

The government will look at the results of the mineral survey and use them to shape talks on the area's final boundaries, he said.

"We're always striving for the balance between the protection of the environment and economic and resource development and there's lots of competing needs out there, competing agendas."

The Lutsel K'e Dene are also part of the Akaitcho land-claim negotiations.

The effort to create a national park on Great Slave Lake goes back to the 1960s.

Thaidene Nene, which means "land of our ancestors," is an area of spectacular shoreline and islands. Dramatic waterfalls and canyons occur along the rivers flowing into the lake.

The land bridges the northern boreal forest and barren-ground tundra. It is home to moose, caribou, wolves, wolverines and owls.

The Lutsel K'e have in the past used regional regulatory agencies to block attempts at mineral development. But the powers of those boards have recently changed under recent federal legislation seeking to streamline the northern permitting process.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Humans of the Holidays (in Winnipeg)

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009
  • Geese fly in the morning light over Selkirk Ave Wednesday morning- Day 22– June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

With the Canadian junior team off to such a great start, will you be watching the World junior hockey championship?

View Results

Ads by Google