Conservation Network Planning

What is a conservation network?

A conservation network includes protected areas and conservation areas at various sizes that collectively contribute to ecological, economic and social stability more effectively than individual sites could alone. A conservation network ensures the landscape is connected and provides corridors and reproductive areas for wildlife, aiding species migration and adaptation. As human-caused disturbances increase, intact areas become even more important.

Why is conservation network planning important?

In the Northwest Territories (NWT), the land and water are lifelines for Indigenous cultures and the wellbeing of all people. Often, the most biologically diverse areas are also the most culturally rich, providing long-term opportunities for the development of a diversified economy through tourism opportunities, important cultural, recreational and educational activities, and other incomes derived through land-based activities. A conservation network is an effective and equitable way to ensure NWT’s cultures, land and water stay healthy for future generations.

Ecological resilience to climate change depends on the conservation of a wide diversity of habitats across a range of landscapes. Protected areas are considered one of the most effective, efficient and proactive ways to support people and protect land and biodiversity in a changing climate.

The variety of plants, animals and other living things in a particular area is known as biodiversity. Biodiversity maintains Indigenous food systems and supports access to a traditional economy, thereby sustaining Indigenous culture and strengthening social systems within communities. Just as healthy communities can provide strong leadership in response to climate change, protected areas can also support both Indigenous wellbeing and reconciliation commitments to Indigenous peoples.

Conservation network planning in the NWT

Northern ecosystems are diverse and particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. The land, rich in biodiversity, contributes to the high quality of life enjoyed in the NWT. Food security and traditional economy rely on continued biodiversity in the north.

The relatively intact biodiversity of the NWT provides a rare chance, unavailable in most other regions in Canada or the world, to proactively plan for a healthy future for the land, water, wildlife and people. It is much more efficient and cost effective to responsibly conserve land now than it is to restore land in the future.

Making sure land in the NWT remains healthy into the future is a Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) priority. This includes protection of biodiversity through the establishment and management of protected areas and conservation areas, often referred to as conservation network planning.

The GNWT set out its vision for land use and management in Northern Lands Northern Leadership - The GNWT Land Use and Sustainability Framework. The people of the NWT want a healthy land for current and future generations. The NWT has a rare opportunity to be a leader in conservation and apply lessons learned, across Canada and the world, to achieve sustainable resource management.

Conservation network planning is an integral part of the overall territorial land management regime that meets the priorities of 18th Legislative Assembly of the NWT. 

New Protected Areas Legislation

New NWT legislation for protected areas is being created in partnership with Indigenous governments, which will include shared governance, management and monitoring of protected areas.

The new legislation is expected to be tabled in 2018. The GNWT will continue to recognize and respect Aboriginal and treaty rights, including requirements of land, resources and self-government agreements, within the conservation network.

Healthy Land, Healthy People

In the fall of 2016, the GNWT released Healthy Land, Healthy People: GNWT Priorities for Advancement of Conservation Network Planning 2016-2021, which sets out priorities for how the GNWT will move forward over the next five years to make sure land in the NWT remains healthy for future generations in partnership with Indigenous governments and other planning partners.

Healthy Land, Healthy People includes two overarching priorities:

Priority 1: Conclude the planning and decision making processes for the eight existing candidate protected areas

Priority 2: Develop a renewed strategy for conservation network planning in partnership with Indigenous governments and other partners

How does the NWT fit into national conservation network planning processes?

The NWT’s conservation network contributes to national and global biodiversity targets for protected areas:

  • The 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada are based on global targets set by the international Convention on Biological Diversity. These include the target of at least 17% terrestrial and 10% marine protected by 2020.
  • The target also speaks to the need for areas to: include areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services; be effectively and equitably managed; be ecologically representative and well-connected; and be integrated into the wider landscape and seascapes.
  • There is currently no well-defined national or international process to define the entire conservation network, particularly conservation areas. Instead, the focus has been on protected areas.

Additional resources