Wildlife Area Regulations – establishment of the Edéhzhíe National Wildlife Area

Key findings from the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) conducted for the Regulations Amending the Wildlife Area Regulations and the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations (Regulations).

These Regulations establish the Edéhzhíe National Wildlife Area (NWA) in the Northwest Territories under the authority of the Canada Wildlife Act (CWA). In 2018, the Dehcho First Nations, in partnership with the Government of Canada, announced the establishment of the Edéhzhíe Dehcho Protected Area, under Dehcho Dene law, the first Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area, which is an important step toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. While designation of the Edéhzhíe Dehcho Protected Area encourages Dehcho Dene presence on the land and continuance of language, harvesting, and other aspects of Dehcho Dene culture, it does not provide the regulatory framework and enforcement tools to protect the wildlife and wildlife habitat present on the land. As such, the Edéhzhíe Establishment Agreement, signed by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Grand Chief of the Dehcho Dene, indicated a commitment to also establish the area as an NWA under the Wildlife Area Regulations (WAR).

The Edéhzhíe Dehcho Protected Area is 14,218 square kilometres, located in the traditional Dehcho territory in the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories. Ecologically and physically unique, its lands, waters, and wildlife are integral to the Dehcho Dene culture, language, and way of life. Edéhzhíe provides important habitat for boreal woodland caribou, wood bison and migratory birds. In designating Edéhzhíe as a Protected Area and NWA, the Dehcho First Nations and the Government of Canada are working together to protect the area’s ecological integrity from impacts of future development and ensure that the Dehcho Dene way of life is maintained for present and future generations.

The Edéhzhíe Management Board (EMB) determined that all activities in the Edéhzhíe NWA are prohibited unless authorized under a permit recommended by the EMB, or unless the individual is exercising section 35 rights under the Constitution Act, 1982. The Edéhzhíe NWA has therefore been added to subsection 3.3 (1) of the WAR.

The designation of the Edéhzhíe NWA will provide economic and social benefits to the Dehcho First Nations communities through co-management and impact and benefit agreements. Focusing the management of activities in the Edéhzhíe NWA on conservation will ensure that economic initiatives that may occur will not compromise the conservation or protection of wildlife or wildlife habitat in the area.

The Dehcho First Nations and the Government of Canada will co-manage the Edéhzhíe Dehcho Protected Area under the 2018 Edéhzhíe Establishment Agreement.

The environmental outcomes expected to result from the Regulations are positive and contribute to the implementation of the following 2019-2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy goals and targets and United Nations’ 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Sustainably Managed Lands and Forests

The Regulations contribute to the target of protecting 25% of terrestrial and inland water areas by 2025, and of maintaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of Canada’s NWAs and biodiversity overall.

Healthy Wildlife Populations

By providing long-term protection of species at risk critical habitat, the Regulations contribute to the recovery of a variety of species at risk. By protecting critical habitats for species at risk, they also contribute to SDG 15 - Life on Land.

Effective Action on Climate Change

An expanded and strengthened protected areas network contributes to the larger Government of Canada strategy to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Protected areas play a critical role in mitigating and adapting to climate change by enhancing the ability of nearby areas to recover from disturbances, helping maintain genetic diversity, and providing safe refuge for species that are at risk of climate change impacts. As such, the Regulations also contribute to SDG 13 - Climate Action.

Connecting Canadians with Nature

The designation of the Edéhzhíe NWA enables working with Indigenous Peoples to protect and conserve lands and waters, including through the employment of Guardians in each of the surrounding four communities. It facilitates opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to connect with and manage traditionally used lands and waters. As such, the designation of the Edéhzhíe NWA also contributes to SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals.

With assistance and advice from the EMB, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Dehcho First Nations will develop and implement a management plan for Edéhzhíe to help guide management, enforcement, conservation and research efforts. The specific objectives and management actions to achieve the long-term vision and conservation goals for the Edéhzhíe NWA will be outlined in this plan.

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