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Yellowknife: March 01, 2004
Source: WWF- Canada
Former Northwest Territories Premier Stephen Kakfwi today released a report on his review of the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy (NWT-PAS), praising its use as a tool for communities in the north to find an effective long-term balance between the benefits of economic development, and the protection of culturally and environmentally significant lands.

In his report, entitled, A Review and Assessment of the NWT Protected Areas Strategy: Special focus on preparations for new hydrocarbon developments, Stephen Kakfwi discussed the results of his review of the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy which he conducted with support from World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF-Canada). The report, which summarizes his consultations, calls for the implementation of the Mackenzie Valley Five-Year Action Plan (2004-2009), and for the federal government to follow through with its commitment of $9 million to help fund the plan.

The Action Plan is an integral part of the NWT Protected Areas Strategy (NWT-PAS), a joint federal-territorial initiative which the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED) have been implementing since 1999 in partnership with representatives from all regional Aboriginal organizations, the oil and gas and mining industries, and environmental non-government organizations. The impetus for the five-year Action Plan is the increasing pace and scale of oil and gas development within the NWT and, in particular, along the Mackenzie Valley.

“These are times of great economic opportunity in the north,” says Kakfwi, “but not at any cost. We must be very careful to seize these opportunities without taking great risks and degrading the land, its renewable resources and the cultural traditions that have evolved over thousands of years.”

Kakfwi cites several examples of where the PAS has been successfully applied to advance Aboriginal priorities with respect to economic development AND protection of land. In the Deh Cho, a large site between Fort Simpson and Fort Providence, Edéhzhíe (The Horn Plateau), has been protected under the PAS while allowing for a pipeline corridor at its western margin, all with the full support of the communities.

The report notes that communities, NGOs and the GNWT have demonstrated their support of the PAS by making firm commitments to help fund and implement the Mackenzie Valley Action Plan. He concludes that it is time for the federal government to do the same. The reason, Kakfwi warns, is that time is running out. “The proponents of the proposed gas pipeline expect to file an application this year,” says Kakfwi. “They have been preparing and planning for the last three years and are very well-resourced. The communities need more resources to prepare effectively to deal with the huge changes about to happen, because these changes will impact the future of our grandchildren.”

For its part, World Wildlife Fund Canada is very supportive of the report and its findings, especially because it reflects the views of the communities. “When Stephen says in the report that PAS partners should lobby and promote responsible economic development within a sound environmental management framework in the NWT, he is speaking on behalf of northerners,” points out Bill Carpenter, WWF’s Regional Conservation Director in the NWT. “His knowledge of the territory and the goals of the communities in the NWT is second to none. There could not be a better champion for the PAS and the well-balanced approach.”

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