MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada to announce vast new park

Published by MAC on 2007-11-22

Canada to announce vast new park

22nd November 2007

by New York Times

OTTAWA, Nov. 21 — The Canadian government plans to announce today that it will convert 25.5 million acres of northern woodland into a new national park and wildlife protection areas.

The result will be one of North America’s largest conservation areas, about 11.5 times the size of Yellowstone Park, and ease pressure from the mining and energy industries on an area that is important for wildlife, if sparsely populated by humans.

“This is the largest land withdrawal for protection ever in Canada,” said Monte Hummel, president of the World Wildlife Fund Canada. “This is real conservation history being made.”

Cabinet orders putting the plan into effect was published to little notice last week. A public announcement of the plan is expected shortly in Ottawa. The lands are within the boreal forest, a band of trees about 1,600 miles wide that sweeps across much of Canada and continues in northern Scotland, Scandinavia and Russia. About 77 percent of Canada’s forest is in the boreal band and its trees, mostly evergreens, are believed to play an important role in offsetting the rise in gases related to global warming created by burning fossil fuels. Large numbers of migratory birds and waterfowl make their summer home with the forest.

Under the plan, 8.5 million acres surrounding the Eastern Arm of Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories will become a national park. Another 15.3 million acres between the new park and an existing wildlife refuge will be designated as conservation land under the management of native groups Further to the northwest, near the Mackenzie River valley, 3.7 million acres will turned into a national wildlife area.

Mr. Hummel’s group, along with the Pew Charitable Trusts in the United States and other organizations, has been working with native governments in northern Canada to increase protection of the boreal forest since 2000. But a series of recent developments, Mr. Hummel said, accelerated the process over the past couple of years.

A consortium of energy companies including ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Shell are planning a pipeline down the Mackenzie River valley to deliver natural gas to the United States. Diamond mines have been opened in the Northwest Territories by several firms, including Tiffany and Company. Renewed interest in nuclear energy has also increased uranium exploration.

The new land protections will not disrupt existing industrial projects and mining exploration but it will place a moratorium on new projects. Mr. Hummel said that the plan also provides a corridor for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. “It keeps options for open that were fast disappearing,” Mr. Hummel said. “It gives everyone in the area breathing space to sit down and plan.”

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