Edmonton Journal Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2003
A Northwest Territories aboriginal group will sign a huge land deal
today, setting the stage for oil and gas development in the southern
Mackenzie Valley and expansion of one of the country's most famous
bit flabbergasted that this has happened as quickly as it has,"
said Michael Nadli, grand chief of the Dehcho Nation, which made
news last year when it threatened to block the proposed $4-billion
Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline.
deal is unprecedented in its scope. It will pave the way for orderly
development in the Dehcho region and set up a large network of
square kilometres will no longer be available for mineral exploration
and the land will become part of a system of interconnected protected
areas extending from Wood Buffalo National Park in the southeast
to Nahanni National Park along the Yukon border.
little over 50 per cent of the 210,000 square kilometres of Dehcho territory will remain open to oil, gas and mining development
subject to terms and conditions set out by the aboriginal group.
The land deal
will be in effect for five years or until the Dehcho land claim
is settled, and a mineral inventory is conducted.
represents 10 chiefs and 4,000 Dene living in the southern Mackenzie
Valley, sees expansion of Nahanni National Park, a United Nations
World Heritage site, as a cornerstone to the protection of land
and water the Dehcho use to hunt, fish and trap.
Part of the
land being withdrawn from exploration includes territory that's
adjacent to the national park, which is often described as "Canada's
Yellowstone" because of the spectacular canyon system through
which the South Nahanni River flows.
A draft agreement
to expand Nahanni National Park is already in place, and requires
only the signature of Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. The agreement
is open-ended and could triple the size of the 4,828-square-kilometre
The key goal,
says Nadli, will be to protect all the watersheds flowing through
the park into Dehcho regions downstream.
only one of the rivers flowing through Nahanni National Park is
protected. The rest are vulnerable to energy and mining developments
which have been going on in earnest in the surrounding areas.
Environmental groups across the country are elated with the news
about the land deal.
nothing short of phenomenal," said Monte Hummel, president
of the World Wildlife Fund of Canada.
the Dehcho and the federal government deserve high praise for doing
this. It's a huge conservation initiative that addresses the issue
of future development in the North."
the Dehcho are setting aside for protection is twice the size of
Vancouver Island," notes Alison Woodley of the Canadian Parks
and Wilderness Society.
not only sets up the protection that Nahanni needs, it also puts
in place one of the biggest interconnected protected areas outside
of the national and provincial park system."
The land withdrawal
is also good news for a consortium of companies hoping to build
the Mackenzie Valley pipeline from the Beaufort Sea to Alberta.
the Dehcho had been threatening to block the pipeline to force
the federal government to expedite the land claim and negotiate
a resource revenue sharing agreement.
deal does not address all the demands of the Dehcho, the aboriginal
group now has the royalty revenue sharing agreement they have been
- - -
BY THE NUMBERS
Interim measures area -- 208,385 square kilometres
land being withdrawn from exploration -- 70,718 square kilometres
National Park -- 4,828 square kilometres
Protected area -- 25,233 square kilometres, lands withdrawn last
area to be protected -- 100,879 square kilometres
fact box "By the Numbers", which has been appended to
2003 Edmonton Journal