Edéhzhíe Dehcho Protected Area becomes a National Wildlife Area with support of $10 million fund

News release

June 1, 2022 – Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

To mark the beginning of National Indigenous History Month, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, minister of Environment and Climate Change, today announced that the Government of Canada has designated Edéhzhíe as a National Wildlife Area, in addition to its status as a Dehcho Protected Area.

Edéhzhíe is a pristine area of the Northwest Territories that is important for the Dehcho First Nations people. It is a cultural sanctuary where the Dehcho Dene can return for spiritual nourishment, to reconnect and reconcile with the land. It is also a critical habitat for boreal caribou and wood bison, as well as an important bird area for waterfowl and other migratory birds.

This designation ensures that Edéhzhíe’s lands, waters and biodiversity are permanently protected through the provisions of the Canada Wildlife Act and the Wildlife Area Regulations. Furthermore, the Government of the Northwest Territories has protected Edéhzhíe from any future mineral, oil, or gas exploration or development. To support these protections, the Government of Canada has contributed $10 million towards the Edéhzhíe Trust Fund to provide long-term funding for management of the area led by Dehcho First Nations. Check out this great video to learn more about this success story.

Establishing Edéhzhíe as a National Wildlife Area fulfils a commitment Canada made to the Dehcho First Nations in 2018 and is a positive step towards reconciliation. Now Edéhzhíe will benefit from federal resources like protected area specialists and expertise in management planning. The Dehcho First Nations and Environment and Climate Change Canada will continue to manage Edéhzhíe together to protect its lands and wildlife for the purposes of conservation, research, and interpretation. Indigenous Peoples have been stewards of these lands since time immemorial, and now the Government of Canada is learning from their experience and supporting their leadership in conservation. The Edéhzhíe Trust Fund will support this important work in the long term, such as the vital Dehcho K’éhodi Stewardship and Guardians Program. The Edéhzhíe Guardians are the boots on the ground in Edéhzhíe, patrolling, running research projects, and mentoring youth in cultural activities. This funding will ensure that new generations from Dehcho communities continue to have opportunities to reconnect with—and conserve—their ancestral lands and traditional livelihoods.

These additional protections and the creation of the Edéhzhíe Trust Fund were supported by the hard work and collaboration of many partners, including the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Tłı̨chǫ Government, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and the Wyss Foundation, among others. This achievement demonstrates the extent of what can be accomplished for nature and the well-being of Canadians and Indigenous Peoples when everyone comes together to achieve common goals.


“Edéhzhíe was Canada’s first co-managed Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area, and designating these 14,000 square kilometres as a National Wildlife Area means that the Government of Canada is able to continue supporting research and conservation in the Dehcho Protected Area. The addition of $10 million to the Edéhzhíe Trust Fund supports the continued success of the Dehcho K’éhodi Stewardship and Guardians Program and other vital initiatives on the land. Together with Dehcho First Nations and partners, we are working to protect nature and taking steps towards reconciliation.”
– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Canada will continue to co-manage Edéhzhíe together with Dehcho First Nations to ensure this unique area remains a natural and cultural sanctuary. By supporting Indigenous leadership in conservation, we will make real progress towards our goals of protecting nature.”
– The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations

“Edéhzhíe is a very special part of the Northwest Territories, providing habitat for boreal caribou, migratory birds, and many other kinds of wildlife. By working together with Dehcho First Nations, Tłı̨chǫ First Nation, and other partners, this special place is now permanently protected for nature.”
– Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories

“Achieving the protection of Edéhzhíe is a decade-long dream. For Dehcho First Nations and our surrounding communities, this is a huge milestone, yet only a stepping stone for our Guardians. Protecting Edéhzhíe is a critical step towards ensuring our way of life can be maintained and shared between our membership as well as with the world. We are happy to have the collaboration of our government partners in this initiative to build capacity in our region for enhanced monitoring through educational and cultural programming which will positively enhance Dehcho well-being and renew interest towards reconciliation and commitments to implement the UNDRIP. Indigenous-led protected areas are nationally and internationally recognized as the cornerstone for Canadian conservation networks. Edéhzhíe is also known as the first and only currently established National Wildlife Area in the Northwest Territories. Together with our partners we hope to honor the words and intentions of our Elders and ancestors moving forward, who have blessed us with energy to keep Edéhzhíe protected as a sacred area since 1990.”
– Stanley Sanguez, Grand Chief of Dehcho First Nations

“Edéhzhíe continues to be a significant ecological space filled with beauty and invaluable resources deserving protection for our people today and the generations yet to come. It is our collective duty to monitor, protect, and preserve this natural space.”
– Jackson Lafferty, Grand Chief of Tłı̨chǫ First Nation

“Land, water, and wildlife hold deep cultural, spiritual, and ecological value to the people of the Northwest Territories. The Government of the Northwest Territories remains committed to continued collaboration with co-management partners for the stewardship and conservation of wildlife in Edéhzhíe.”
– Shane Thompson, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Northwest Territories

“The establishment of Edéhzhíe as a National Wildlife Area is valued as a place of connection, a migration route for waterfowl and wildlife, and is an area rich in history and culture, linking the Dehcho Dene to the land. The Edéhzhíe National Wildlife Area is an essential watershed and wetland area for all peoples. Its waters are the veins of the land, providing rich habitat and ecosystems in a time of climate change and pressures from development. We support the move to conserve this important area in the Northwest Territories.”
– Barrett Lenoir, Manager, Northwest Territories, National Boreal Program of Ducks Unlimited Canada

“By following the lead of the Dehcho First Nations, the Government of Canada and the Northwest Territories are demonstrating the future of land conservation, providing Indigenous communities and governments with the tools, resources, and trust to steward their territorial lands for the benefit of all. Formal establishment of the Edéhzhíe National Wildlife Area under Canada Wildlife Act is a testament to the leadership of the Dehcho First Nations, who have worked tirelessly to safeguard this portion of their territory and its unique wetlands which provide safe haven for an incredible diversity of wildlife. I want to congratulate everyone who has been involved in this effort.”

– Molly McUsic, President of the Wyss Foundation

Quick facts

  • In 2018, Edéhzhíe was established as the first co-managed Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area under Canada’s Nature Legacy, through a collaborative process between the Dehcho First Nations and the Government of Canada.

  • The Edéhzhíe Trust Fund was created from contributions from the federal government, Dehcho First Nations, and third party donors to earn income over time that will be used for the management of the National Wildlife Area.

  • The Government of Canada has made commitments to conserve 25 percent of Canada’s land and inland waters and 25 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and is working towards 30 percent of each by 2030. Edéhzhíe covers 14,218 square kilometres, over twice the size of Banff National Park, and contributes 0.15 percent towards Canada’s conservation goals.

  • Indigenous Peoples are recognized worldwide as the protectors of nature, with Indigenous Peoples’ territories containing as much as 80 percent of the world’s remaining forest biodiversity.

Associated links


Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

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