Federal blessing

NNSL (Oct 11/99) - The NWT's protected areas strategy, a way of balancing the interests of conservation and industry, received federal approval last week.

Three years in the making, the strategy establishes a delicate balance between government, conservation organizations, aboriginal groups and the forestry and mining industries.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Robert Nault, gave the strategy the nod Sept. 30. NWT approval was given in April. Federal approval was required because the Government of Canada controls resource development in the NWT.

"Creating a system of protected areas is one way of ensuring that the biodiversity and cultural significance of the North will continue," said Nault in a press release announcing federal approval.

The strategy lays out a community-based process for identifying and establishing protected areas. Levels of protection range from no commercial activities at all, to limited development.

All candidate sites must be identified by community or regional organizations, who must consult with residents to identify, document and evaluate potential sites.

In addition to protecting areas with cultural or natural significance, the strategy provides a new level of certainty for industry.

Mining companies considering exploring areas will know beforehand the rules for establishing protected areas.