Important first step taken to establish new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area around Great Bear Lake
December 17, 2022 – Montréal, Quebec
Indigenous peoples have been stewards and managers of the land, water, and ice, and leaders in nature conservation since time immemorial. The governments of Canada, the provinces, and the territories are working together with Indigenous peoples to increase the amount of nature protected from coast to coast to coast.
Today, at COP15, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change; the Honourable Shane Thompson, Northwest Territories Minister of Environment and Natural Resources; and Danny Gaudet, Ɂek’wahtı̨dǝ́ (Chief), Délı̨nę Got'ı̨nę Government, signed a letter of intent to support the establishment of the Sahtú K’aowe Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area around Great Bear Lake (Tsá Tué) in the Northwest Territories.
Tsá Tué is the eighth largest lake in the world, and it is culturally significant for the Dene peoples and ecologically valuable for Canada. The lake straddles the Arctic Circle and is surrounded by boreal forest. The lake is larger than 31,000 km2, which represents approximately 0.3 percent of Canada’s land mass, and is one of the most ecologically intact ecosystems in the world. The Tsá Tué watershed provides important habitat for iconic Canadian species, like muskox, moose, and caribou, among others.
This project supports Indigenous-led conservation and could make a significant contribution toward Canada’s conservation targets. The lake is seen as sacred by the people of Délı̨nę, who view it as a living being.
This is just one of example of how the Government of Canada is working with Indigenous partners to help conserve nature and address biodiversity loss, as the world convenes in Montréal for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. COP15 presents an opportunity for Canada to show its leadership in taking action to conserve nature and halt biodiversity loss around the world.
“Tsá Tué, or Great Bear Lake, is culturally important to the Dene peoples and ecologically significant to Canada and the rest of the world. Supporting Indigenous-led conservation initiatives through strong partnerships such as this one makes meaningful contributions to targets in Canada. By continuing to work together, we all benefit, and it’s the only way we can achieve our collective conservation goals.”
– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“Indigenous-led conservation is positive for people, biodiversity, and the environment. Our government is pleased to support the Délı̨nę Got'ı̨nę Government as they continue to steward and conserve Tsá Tué, which is critical to the social, cultural, and economic well-being of their people.”
– Shane Thompson, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories
“The health of Tsá Tué (Great Bear Lake) is directly connected to the health of my people’s minds, bodies, and souls. Water unites and connects all things. The establishment of the Sahtú K’aowe IPCA allows the people of Délı̨nę to reclaim our role as stewards of the lake. The recognition and support of our partners, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and Canada, is a crucial step toward recognition of the expertise of Indigenous peoples to preserve Canadian biodiversity.”
– Danny Gaudet, Ɂek’wahtı̨dǝ́ (Chief), Délı̨nę Got'ı̨nę Government
Some or all of the Sahtú K’aowe Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area could be recognized as contributing toward Canada's protected area commitments as part of the Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) initiative underway in the Northwest Territories.
Beginning in 2023–24, the Government of Canada will provide up to $800 million over seven years to support up to four PFP Indigenous-led conservation initiatives. Once completed, these projects could protect up to an additional one million square kilometres.
Other historic Government of Canada investments in Indigenous-led conservation include:
- $118 million in Budget 2018, to support Indigenous-led conservation initiatives including Indigenous Guardians and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas
- $454 million in Budget 2021 to support a host of Indigenous-led conservation initiatives, such as Indigenous-Led Area-Based Conservation, Indigenous Guardians, conservation on Inuit Owned Lands, and Indigenous Partnerships for Species at Risk
To date, these investments have resulted in more than 170 community-based First Nation, Métis and Inuit Guardians initiatives and 139 Indigenous partnerships to protect species at risk.
United Nations data suggests that land for which Indigenous peoples are stewards comprise around 20 percent of the Earth’s territory and contain as much as 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity
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