Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada
Greater Nahanni Ecosystem
A Proposal to Expand Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada: Taking Care of Naha Dehé.
Winding River © Parks Canada
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 pending the completion of the Dehcho Process, which is the self-governance process for the Dehcho First Nations.
Nahanni's protection as a park reserve followed a major public debate over the future of the Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River) as a free-flowing wilderness river. The debate directly influenced park boundary decisions so that the importance of protecting the river from a proposed hydroelectric development at Nailicho (Virginia Falls) was emphasized more than respecting the entire intact watershed or wildlife habitat considerations.
Since 1984, Parks Canada has been on record as wanting 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 ecological integrity of the Park Reserve.
The Government of Canada's Action Plan to Protect Canada's Natural Heritage, announced in October 2002, includes the goal of expanding Nahanni National Park Reserve.
What about the rest of the watershed?
Map showing park boundary and Greater Nahanni Ecosystem. © Parks Canada / 2003
The Greater Nahanni Ecosystem consists of the entire Naha Dehé Ts'e Tu Zhánili (South Nahanni River watershed) and an area to the north of First Canyon known as the Nahanni Karst. All the water in the Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River) fell at one time or another within the river's watershed.
Since the park covers only one-seventh of the lower portion of the watershed, most of the water in the Naha Dehé comes from outside the park. Pollution occurring upstream of the park can be carried downstream into the park and the Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River).
Mine site upstream from Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River) © Parks Canada / 2001 / NNPR
Within the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem, land may be managed for a variety of resource objectives including oil and gas exploration and extraction, big-game hunting, mining and timber production. Collectively, these land uses could have an impact on critical habitat for wildlife. Many scientists believe that Nahanni National Park Reserve is not large enough to sustain viable populations of animals including grizzly bears, woodland caribou, Dall's sheep and mountain goat, to protect water quality, or to ensure the ecological health of the landscape.
Nahanni National Park Reserve will continue to work with Dehcho First Nations and other land managers towards its ecological vision for Naha Dehé, a vision that includes the entire watershed.
The Dehcho Process and the Nahanni Expansion Working Group
Ragged Range - an area being considered by the Naha Dehé Consensus Team for park expansion © Parks Canada / 2001 / NNPR
Parks Canada is working through the Dehcho First Nations land-use and self-governance process called the Dehcho Process to achieve a national park that maintains ecological integrity and is representative of the Mackenzie Mountains.
In June 2000 the Dehcho First Nations and Canada established the Naha Dehé Consensus Team. The Naha Dehé Consensus Team had four main tasks including:
- prepare an Ecological Integrity Statement,
review the Park Management Plan,
- prepare an Interim Park Management Arrangement, and
- prepare a Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Park Expansion.
In June 2003, Parks Canada and Dehcho First Nations completed these tasks and formed a group to work on issues from the Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Park Expansion. The Nahanni Expansion Working Group was formed in February 2004, with two members appointed by Dehcho First Nations (Jonas Antoine and Laura Pitkanen) and two by Parks Canada (David Murray and Steve Catto).
Through the Nahanni Expansion Working Group, Parks Canada and Dehcho First Nations are working in partnership to study and recommend a final boundary for Nahanni National Park Reserve within the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem.
Map showing park boundary, Greater Nahanni Ecosystem and lands withdrawn through the Dehcho Process © Parks Canada / 2003
Parks Canada originally identified 3 areas for expansion: the Tlogotsho Plateau, the Ragged Range and the karst lands. Now the area of interest includes the entire watershed of the South Nahanni River and the karst lands. Lands have been set aside through an interim land withdrawal order under the Dehcho Process. While the majority of the area of interest is in the Dehcho Region, the upper watershed is in the Sahtu Region. Parks Canada is also working to incorporate the upper watershed lands into the park reserve in accordance with the Sahtu Final Agreement and the Sahtu Preliminary Draft Land Use Plan.
Upper Naha Dehé (South Nahanni River) - an area being considered by the Naha Dehé Consensus Team for park expansion © Parks Canada / 2001 / NNPR
The Nahanni Expansion Working Group will complete its feasibility study toward the addition of identified lands by September 2006, it will agree to an expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve by September 2007 and will agree to move Nahanni National Park Reserve to full National Park status under the Canada National Parks Act at the conclusion of the Dehcho Process.
The Naha Dehé Consensus Team will continue to develop guidelines for land use and cooperatively manage the operations of the park 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 Federal Government of Canada, and First Nations.
An Ecological Vision for Naha Dehé (excerpt from Park Management Plan)
Naha Dehé will protect a wilderness watershed in the Mackenzie Mountains where natural processes such as fires and floods will remain the dominant forces shaping the park's ecosystem. Special features of the park, including waterfalls, hotsprings, glaciers, plateaux, canyons, karst landscapes and cultural/spiritual sites will be preserved. Naturally-occurring plant communities will thrive and native animal species, including woodland caribou and grizzly bears, will be sustained at viable population levels.
Dene are inseparable from the land. Traditional subsistence harvesting will continue to be an integral and sustainable part of the ecosystem and will occur in accordance with Dene law and principles. Naha Dehé will continue to be revered as a place of mystery, spirituality and healing.
Naha Dehé will be a model of cooperative management with First Nations of the Dehcho where ecological and cultural integrity is protected, visitor access and enjoyment is encouraged within the limits of ecological integrity and wilderness experience, and messages of natural and cultural heritage are communicated with excellence. Naha Dehé will also serve as a national long-term ecological research and monitoring site, and will promote excellence in the conduct of science and cooperative resource protection.
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