Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Wednesday that Ottawa would be moving ahead with the creation of the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve to preserve the “rich natural wonders and cultural heritage” of Canada’s north.
The reserve — which will be Canada’s 44th national park — is a stunning vista of mountains and meadowlands that is adjacent to the north end of the famed Nahanni National Park and will protect the headwaters of the South Nahanni River.
Instead, Ottawa has opted for a smaller park –— 4,840 square kilometres — with reduced protections for the land and wildlife. On a map, the chosen option has a chunk carved out of the park’s north end as well as a wide strip that bisects the west side — all areas of potential resource development.
Chief Frank Andrew, Tulita Dene band, is hoping that Ottawa may yet relent and expand the boundary.
“We’ll talk about that later on. We didn’t sign an agreement yet,” Andrew said.
“Then things started to shrink more and more. We would have preferred a bigger park for sure.”
During a speech, Andrew spoke movingly of a land recognized “not only for its majestic beauty but also for its special sacred power.
The proposed boundaries appear to leave vital caribou calving and breeding grounds, and source waters of the Nahanni River outside the park boundary, according to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
“Does there need to be additional protection outside of this national park. Could this national park have done the perfect job the first time,” said Kris Brekke, executive director of the organization’s chapter in the Northwest Territories, who was at the announcement.
Latourelle, chief executive officer of Parks Canada, said that striking that balance is a reality of how parks are developed.
“In the end we create a park that works for conservation and ensures economic development and that’s what we have done here,” he said.