As proponents behind the Thaidene Nene National Park reserve continue to push for the establishment of a protection on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, it seems that some users are most concerned about what limitations the park may put on recreational activities in the area.
At a public consultation meeting held Dec. 9, Parks Canada asked for feedback from the public on their plans for establishing and managing the park, in addition to consulting the audience on boundaries proposed this past summer. The future of hunting and travel laws, as well as the use of guns in the park was a major concern for many present.
“We engaged in this process from day one with the desire to protect a large chunk of our traditional territory from industrial development and Parks Canada’s legislation is the best legislation in the world for that,” said Steven Nitah, chief negotiator for Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation (LKDFN). “Unfortunately it comes with other policies that don’t always jive with what we desire. I think there’s a new day and sunny ways are here. I think for parks and protected areas in northern Canada the policies and the regulations that are applied and that are available within the National Parks Act I believe can be plucked and picked to meet the needs of northerners.”
He said everyone should use the land as they have in the past.
“Dene law states that if you’re on the land you have to have the ability to protect yourself, so guns and animals that help in that protection is something that we encourage and we represent at the negotiating table.”
Proponents also addressed questions regarding the potential tourism opportunities for the park, of which there are many, Nitah said, including opportunities for studying the impacts of climate change within the park, the establishment of a conservation economy for those living in Lutsel K’e, as well as a renewed cultural tourism industry.
“All of these questions have been noted by Parks and put on the official record,” Nitah said.
In January the GNWT began developing a matrix of protected area designations and northern tools for the 33,600 square-kilometre Thaidene Nene land withdrawal area, including the East Arm and Artillery Lake regions. Following meetings between the GNWT, Parks Canada, LKDFN, the NWT Metis Nation and other indigenous groups, it was determined that a national park reserve would make up 14,000 square-kilometres of that matrix.
On July 29, the federal government announced a proposed boundary for the national park reserve, launching formal consultations on the boundary.
A second meeting is set to take place in Hay River some time in January.
Those who could not make the meetings are encouraged to voice their opinions by heading to www.secure2.convio.net/cpaws/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=343.