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CPAWS welcomes permanent protection for Saoyú - ?ehdacho in NWT


With great excitement the Northwest Territories Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NWT) extends its congratulations to the community of Délįne on the recent announcement of permanent protection for Saoyú - ?ehdacho National Historic Site. Since 1991 the community has worked with determination to fulfill the wishes of their elders: that this important cultural landscape on the shores of Great Bear Lake be protected for all time.

“The community of Délįne, Parks Canada, the NWT Protected Areas Strategy - all should be recognized for their perseverance and hard work over a number of years,” says Erica Janes, Conservation Coordinator with CPAWS-NWT. 

“The community never gave up – and now they have a guarantee that their cultural values and a unique piece of Boreal forest will be protected for all time in Saoyú - ?ehdacho National Historic Site.”

“Our work to see Saoyú - ?ehdacho protected through the NWT Protected Areas Strategy would not have been possible without the commitment and support of CPAWS-NWT” says Raymond Taniton, Chief Negotiator for Délįne on Saoyú - ?ehdacho.  “We are happy to celebrate this victory with them.”

Cultural landscape in special Boreal zone

Saoyú and ?ehdacho are two large peninsulas in the southwestern corner of Great Bear Lake.  They are cultural landscapes, where place names and rich oral histories are tied directly to the land, making deep links between the history and culture of the residents of Délįne, and the ecological integrity of the land. Traditional land use, harvesting, and storytelling will continue to strengthen and enrich the community of Délįne and all Canadians in this now fully-protected National Historic Site.

Conservation groups and ecologists also recognize the importance of the area. Saoyú - ?ehdacho is located in a unique transition zone between taiga and tundra ecosystems. The area is important for species such as boreal woodland caribou, grizzly bears, wolverine, and peregrine falcons. The region is part of Canada’s Boreal forest, one of three intact forest ecosystems in the world. The Boreal acts as an important carbon sink to help minimize the impacts of climate change on the planet.

Steve Moore, the Biologist who undertook ecological assessments of Saoyú and ehdacho for the Protected Areas Strategy says “Saoyú - ?ehdacho contains significant biological diversity and a unique distribution of plant and animal species.  Both peninsulas exist at points where different ecosystems overlap, and contain biologically significant areas such as wetland complexes and tundra-type habitat.  Over 260 plant species and 100 animal species have been documented on these peninsulas, including a number of federal and territorial species of concern.

He adds that “Full protection of Saoyú - ?ehdacho will offer a safe harbour for the plants and animals that live there, as the boreal forest comes under increasing pressure from industrial development and climate change.”

With protection now assured the community of Délįne is looking forward to the next step.

Peter Menacho, President of the Délįne Land Corporation adds, “We are looking forward to developing and implementing the management plan and to strengthening our community by sharing our stories with each other on the land, as well as sharing them with NWT residents and all Canadians.”

CPAWS-NWT helped to establish the NWT Protected Areas Strategy and sits on the PAS Steering Committee.  The goal of the NWT PAS is to work with NWT communities to identify and protect areas of land and water with special natural and cultural values. It was implemented in 1999 with approval of the federal, territorial, and all eight Aboriginal governments.  CPAWS-NWT is part of a national non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting Canada’s wilderness.

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For more information contact:
Erica Janes – Conservation Coordinator
CPAWS-NWT
867-873-2837