Conservation Network Planning


Primary tabs

What is a conservation network?

A conservation network includes protected areas and conservation areas at various scales that collectively contribute more effectively to maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and biodiversity and contributing to ecological, economic and social stability than individual sites could alone.

What are the key components of a conservation network?

  • protected areas
  • conservation areas
  • conservation network planning

What are protected areas?

Protected areas are the backbone or core of a conservation network as they are ecologically intact and have the highest level of protection, including prohibiting industrial development. Protected areas are permanent, resilient and are effectively managed and monitored.

What are conservation areas?

Conservation areas are also components of a conservation network and protect various natural and cultural values. They contribute to the conservation network by providing complementary but less restrictive protection than protected areas.

What is conservation network planning?

Conservation network planning includes the establishment and management of areas within a conservation network. It also involves the consideration of ecosystem processes and connectivity within the network as a whole.

Why is conservation network planning important?

Our northern ecosystems are diverse and especially sensitive. Our land, rich in biodiversity contributes to the high quality of life we all enjoy in the Northwest Territories (NWT). Our food security and traditional economy rely on continued biodiversity in the north.

The NWT is experiencing increasing pressure to develop northern resources. As this pressure is expected to continue, a conservation network that includes protected areas and conservation areas is important  because it helps to:

  • Make sure NWT culture, land, and water stay healthy for future generations.
  • Provide secure habitat for the species that live in the NWT.
  • Make sure responsible economic development proceeds within a sound environmental management framework.
  • The land, species, and people adapt and respond positively to the impacts of climate change.
  • Provide long-term opportunities for important traditional, recreational, and educational activities.
  • Support land use planning objectives for conservation and resource management.
  • Make sure the land continues to provide food, clean air and water, maintain natural cycles and biological diversity, and control climate and disease.
  • Support scientific research and monitoring studies.
  • Provide increased clarity for non-renewable resource development options.
  • Help manage the direct and cumulative impacts of development.
  • Serve the long-term interests of NWT residents and all Canadians.

What are we conserving, given that the NWT is vast and pristine?

Conservation network planning proactively  protects biodiversity and ecological integrity and contributes to creating the balance necessary to achieve the sustainability envisioned in the Northern Lands, Northern Leadership: the GNWT Land Use and Sustainability Framework (LUSF):

  •  Protection of biodiversity and ecological integrity is essential for the long-term maintenance of healthy ecosystems, resources and human well-being. The relatively intact biodiversity of the NWT provides an opportunity unavailable in most other regions in Canada: the ability to plan for a healthy future for the land, water, wildlife and people with all options still available to us.
  • As more activities are being considered, it is vital to use sound proven approaches for conservation network planning.  Conservation network planning is considered the most effective, efficient and proactive way to protect and maintain ecosystem diversity and health.
  • Conservation network planning uses science and traditional ecological knowledge to ensure important ecological and cultural resources are protected and biodiversity is not lost due to human activities. It is much more efficient and cost effective to responsibly conserve land now than it is to restore in the future.

How does conservation network planning support other commitments in the Mandate of the GNWT 2016-2019, such as implementing the Mineral Development Strategy?

Conservation network planning works together with the NWT Mineral Development Strategy (MDS) to achieve sustainability:

  • Pillar four of the MDS is promoting sustainability. 
  • The MDS recognizes that, to create the clarity and certainty that industry requires, GNWT needs to conclude and implement conservation network planning initiatives which identify areas of special ecological or cultural significance for consideration for the conservation network. 
  • The MDS Implementation Plan recommends that the ultimate extent of the conservation network in the NWT be defined, and indicates that GNWT is developing a plan for the network. 
  • Overarching direction for the GNWT on land management is detailed in LUSF.  The LUSF outlines the GNWT commitment to balanced land management decisions which consider ecological, cultural, social and economic values. 
  • The Mineral Development Strategy, Economic Opportunities Strategy, and conservation network planning are needed to achieve the vision of the LUSF.

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 percent terrestrial and 10 percent 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.