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Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada

Greater Nahanni Ecosystem

    Greater Nahanni Ecosystem
    Parks Canada

Park Establishment

Nahanni was set aside as a national park reserve in 1972, and was gazetted under the National Parks Act in 1976. The park will remain in "reserve" status until the Dehcho Process is completed. The Dehcho Process is the land, resource, and governance negotiations between the Dehcho First Nations, Government of the Northwest Territories, and Government of Canada.

Nahanni was protected as a park reserve after extensive public consultations about the future of Nahʔą Dehé (the South Nahanni River) as a free-flowing wilderness river. The debate directly influenced decisions about the park’s boundary. Protecting the river from a proposed hydroelectric development at Náįlįcho (Virginia Falls) was deemed a priority.

Greater Nahanni Ecosystem

The Greater Nahanni Ecosystem consists of the entire Nahʔą Dehé Ts’e Tu Zhánįlį (the South Nahanni River watershed) and an area north of the First Canyon known as the Nahanni Karst. All of the water in Nahʔą Dehé (Nahanni National Park Reserve) fell at one time or another within the river's watershed. The park’s original boundaries covered only one-seventh of the watershed’s lower portion. Most of Nahʔą Dehé’s water came from outside the park boundary. Competing land uses within the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem included mineral exploration, mining, and sport hunting. Together, they could have a cumulative impact on water quality and wildlife habitat. Research indicated that a larger park would protect habitat for large mammals such as grizzlies and caribou, protect water quality, and ensure the landscape’s ecological health.

Park Expansion

Since 1987, Parks Canada has wanted to increase the size of Nahanni National Park Reserve to better represent the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region in the National Parks System and to enhance the park reserve’s ecological integrity.

Nahanni National Park Reserve worked with Dehcho First Nations and other land managers to develop its ecological vision for Nahʔą Dehé that included the entire watershed.

The Deh Cho Process and the Nahanni Expansion Working Group

Parks Canada worked through the Dehcho Process to achieve a national park that maintains ecological integrity and is representative of the Mackenzie Mountains.

June 2000

The Dehcho First Nations and the Government of Canada established the Nahʔą Dehé Consensus Team.

October 2002

The Government of Canada's Action Plan to Protect Canada's Natural Heritage included the goal of expanding Nahanni National Park Reserve.

June 2003

The Nahʔą Dehé Consensus Team completed an Ecological Integrity Statement, reviewed the Park Management Plan, prepared an Interim Park Management Arrangement, and a Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Park Expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve.

February 2004

The Nahanni Expansion Working Group was formed to work on issues stemming from the Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Park Expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve.

Through this working group, Parks Canada and Dehcho First Nations worked together to study and recommend a final boundary for Nahanni National Park Reserve within the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem.

Parks Canada originally identified three areas for expansion: the Tlogotsho Plateau, the Ragged Range and the karst lands. Since the community of Nahanni Butte expressed interest in protecting the water, the area of interest grew to include the entire South Nahanni River watershed. While most of the area of interest is in the Dehcho Region, the upper watershed is in the Sahtu Region.

Lands were set aside through an interim land withdrawal order under the Dehcho Process. Parks Canada also worked to protect the upper watershed lands into the park reserve in accordance with the Sahtu Final Agreement and the Sahtu Preliminary Draft Land Use Plan.

September 2007

The Working Group completed its feasibility studies on conservation values and mineral & energy potential in the area of interest for expansion, and recommended a new, larger boundary for Nahanni National Park Reserve.

June 2009

Nahanni National Park Reserve was expanded by more than six times its original size, to 30,000 km2 thanks to efforts from Dehcho First Nations, CPAWS, the Canadian Boreal Initiative, the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and the Government of Canada.

August 2012

The establishment of Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve was announced.

Nahanni National Park Reserve is to assume full National Park status under the Canada National Parks Act at the conclusion of the Dehcho Process.

Cooperative Management Approach

The Nahʔą Dehé Consensus Team will continue to develop guidelines for land use and cooperatively manage the park’s operations until the Dehcho Process is completed, and a Dehcho Final Agreement determines the permanent forum for cooperative management.

Protected areas within the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem will also function as part of a larger Protected Areas Strategy developed by the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Government of Canada, and First Nations.

A Vision for Nahʔą Dehé

(Excerpt from park management plan)

Travelling through the land of the Nahʔą Dene, who have lived on this land since time immemorial, local legends excite the imagination. Dene culture, so intimately linked to the ecology of the Nahʔą Dehé, is respected in this place of mystery, spirituality, and healing. The life sustaining waters of Nahʔą Dehé flow freely, protected through the wisdom and guidance of the Dehcho elders. Traditional subsistence harvesting continues as an integral and sustainable part of the ecosystem, occurring in accordance with Dene laws, values and principles. Dene are inseparable from the land.

Nahʔą Dehé protects a wilderness watershed in the Mackenzie Mountains, where fires and floods shape the land, and naturally occurring plant and animal species thrive. The park is a model of cooperative management, where excellence in the conduct of science is promoted and cultural resources are treated with care. Communities, volunteers and stakeholders are involved in the stewardship of Nahʔą Dehé, ensuring respect for the land continues into future generations.

Flying into the park, range after range of rocky peaks, vast plateaux and canyons hundreds of metres deep unfold below the wings. Watchful eyes may catch a glimpse of a grizzly passing in the bush or Dall’s sheep leaping nimbly on rocky hillsides. A moment of solitude feeling the thundering power of Náįlįcho brings a humbling realization of size. World-class opportunities abound to experience wilderness and the natural and cultural heritage of Nahʔą Dehé.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nahʔą Dehé, touches and inspires people who may never dip their paddles in the waters of this Canadian Heritage River, climb through the granite rock walls or fly into this remote watershed. Nahʔą Dehé resonates in the hearts and minds of all Canadians and people of the world.