Northern ecosystems are diverse and especially sensitive. 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.
The Government of the Northwest Territories set out its vision for land use and management in Northern Lands Northern Leadership - The GNWT Land Use and Sustainability Framework. Making sure land in the NWT remains healthy for future is a GNWT priority. This includes protection of biodiversity through establishment and management of protected areas and conservation areas, often referred to as conservation network planning.
The people of the NWT want a healthy land for future generations. The NWT has a rare opportunity to be a leader in conservation and apply lessons learned, across Canda and the world, to achieve sustainable resource management.
As more activities are considered, it is vital to use proven approaches for conservation, including species-specific approaches like species at risk programs and landscape approaches, such as conservation network planning. Conservation network planning is considered the most effective, efficient and proactive way to protect and maintain biodiversity and ecosystem health, and to make sure development in the NWT occurs in a truly sustainable manner. Conservation network planning maintains unique northern landscapes and provides more clarity and certainty for regulators, industry and residents of the NWT.
The latest research on climate change adaptation underlines the importance of conservation network planning in the face of a changing climate. The conservation network includes healthy populations of species and ecosystems that are more resilient to change.
Collaboration and coordination is cornerstone to the conservation network planning process. People in communities engaged in conservation initiatives have knowledge acquired through experience, observation, from the land or from spiritual teachings over centuries. Proposed areas include important ecological features, and also have a significant grounding in an Indigenous worldview. These areas represent the interconnectedness of people, culture and place over time and link the western concepts of culture and nature.
Moving forward with conservation network planning in the NWT
Conservation network planning is an integral part of the overall land management regime in the Northwest Territories (NWT).
It meets the priorities of 18th Legislative Assembly of the NWT, and along with other initiatives like regional land use planning, the Mineral Development Strategy and the Economic Opportunities Strategy, is a key aspect in achieving the vision of Northern Lands Northern Leadership - The GNWT Land Use and Sustainability Framework, the GNWT approach to balanced, sustainable land-use decisions.
The GNWT is collaboratively moving forward with implementing a northern approach to conservation network planning for the NWT to ensure biodiversity and ecosystem integrity is maintained into the future.
Healthy Land, Healthy People: GNWT Priorities for Advancement of Conservation Network Planning 2016-2021, is a five-year work plan that outlines the key tasks the GNWT will undertake in partnership with Aboriginal governments and other planning partners, to move forward conservation network planning.