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6 Wednesday November 4 2015 ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT By CRAIG GILBERT Jonah Mitchell is no stranger to Fort Smith but 11 years removed from his last stint there ParksCanadasnewestsuperintendentisallears. In an exclusive sit-down with the Journal the superintendent of the Southwest NWT Field Unit shared some of the highlights of a career that has taken him literally from coast- to-coast described the special place Fort Smith has in his heart and his perspective on the challenges and opportunities before the three national parks now under his purview and the fourth that will be once it is created. Northern Journal Thanks for taking the time for the interview. Can you talk a bit about your connection to Fort Smith and why you keep returning Jonah Mitchell Something keeps bring- ing me back. My wife is from Smith we got married here and weve made lots of returns to introduce the kids to the North. They love it and are pretty keen to be here between sh- ing and getting out on the land and meeting their cousins. NJ What other positions have you held with Parks Canada JM In 1992 I started working with Parks Canada as a summer student in the re man- agement program. I returned in 1993 and worked in the Fort Chipewyan ofce. In 1998 I returned to the region for my rst full-time job as a park warden. I moved to Fort Smith in 2000 and worked here until 2004. In addition to Wood Buffalo National Park I have worked in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba Pacic Rim National Park in British Columbia Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia and Parks Can- adas National Ofce in Gatineau Quebec. I have worked in a number of roles. Most re- cently I was the director of Parks Canadas Law Enforcement Program. NJ What is your top priority now that you are back JM Ill be listening and learning rst. I left 11 years ago. While I know a lot about the region and have a network of connections I have lots more to learn. Naatsihchoh Nah- anni and Thaidene Nene are quite new to me. The openness and respectful engagement amongst the 11 Aboriginal groups and gov- ernments and Parks Canada is allowing us to continue to work together and build relation- ships. It is this legacy of growing cooperation that I look forward to continuing to build in the coming months and years. Sometimes going away for a while can pro- vide perspective on progress. I am honestly amazed at the changes in the Southwest NWT Field Unit. I arrived back in town just as grade 7 and 8 students from Fort Smith were head- ing into Sweetgrass Station in Wood Buffalo. Its a very successful cooperative program with motivated teachers at PWK High School that wasnt there before. NJ What do you consider your biggest accomplishments at Parks JM Every park has its own unique per- sonality and character based on its ecology history and relationships with local residents and visitors. While I have been involved with large reorganizational projects and have lead efforts to develop or revise national policy I am most proud of the small things. I remem- ber early in my career telling a family of new Canadians where and when they could see a great owl perched close to the road in the evening. Their excitement the next time I saw them was extremely rewarding because I helped build a connection with that family to one of our national parks. NJ What comes next on the road to es- tablishing Thaidene National Park east of Great Slave Lake JM It has been proposed for 40 years and therehasbeenmoremovementinthelasteight or nine months than in the previous 39 years. There is a lot of interest in this happening. Over the past few months Parks Canada has had ongoing consultations with Aborigi- nal groups and communities as well as third- party interests stakeholders and the public. We will complete and report on these con- sultations in the winter of 2016. Parks Canadas Jonah Mitchell returns to Smith The new superintendent of Parks Canada facilities in the Southwest NWT field office Jonah Mitchell is responsible for all three national parks in the territory. PhotocourtesyofJonahMitchell. Annual General Assembly Northwest Territory Mtis Nation JOIN US AT THE Hay River Community Hall in HAY RIVER November 17 21 2015 For more information please contact NWT Mtis Nation 25 Camsell Street Fort Smith NT 867 872-2770