The federal government and the Délı̨nę Got’įnę government moved one step closer to a deal on Saturday at the COP15 biodiversity conference in Montreal after signing a so-called letter of intent to “support the establishment” of a new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) in the Northwest Territories around Tsá Tué (Great Bear Lake) and its watershed.
The protected area sits on the eighth-largest freshwater lake in the world and is surrounded by boreal forest. Larger than 31,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of Belgium, the lake sits near the Arctic Circle.
“Our ancestors have been part of and cared for this place for countless generations,” Danny Gaudet, Ɂek’wahtı̨dǝ́ (Chief) of the Délı̨nę Got’įnę government, said at the press conference where the announcement was made.
“It’s something we’ve been told to keep alive because it will be a place of refuge for the future of people,” he added.
The three government representatives signed a letter of intent to establish an IPCA in the Great Bear Lake watershed. Further work on a final agreement will take months, Gaudet said.
What was announced for Indigenous-led initiatives?
For Canada, there's no path to us protecting at least 30 per cent of our lands and waters without the involvement of Indigenous Peoples, Guilbeault said in an interview with Canada’s National Observer.
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It’s why Trudeau and Guilbeault announced $800 million for four conservation areas. The money will fund project development in the Northern Shelf Bioregion in British Columbia, also called the Great Bear Sea, Ontario’s Hudson Bay Lowlands, Qikiqtani Region in Nunavut and the coastline of Western Hudson Bay and southwestern James Bay.
Preliminary estimates of protected area are expected to add between three and five per cent of protected land and eight to 10 per cent of waters, depending on negotiations with the provinces and territories.
The federal government also finalized the Seal River Watershed protected area near Churchill, Man. It is 97 per cent pristine and intact, said Stephanie Thorassie, executive director of the Seal River Watershed Alliance.
Ottawa also announced a $5.8-million kickstart investment for the creation of the Indigenous Guardian Network. The network will allow Indigenous guardian programs — which employ community members for land stewardship and conservation on a nation’s ancestral territories — to share knowledge, challenges and best practices.
Other conservation measure announcements
At COP15, the federal government said so-called "other effective area-based conservative measures" will be key to reaching its 30x30 targets to protect 30 per cent of lands and waters respectively by 2030.
Two area-based conservation measures in New Brunswick were also announced at COP15, including one from the private sector.
J.D. Irving, the New Brunswick company owned by the powerful Irving family, donated 10,000 hectares of Acadian forest, coastline and dunes that will be recognized as conserved land. The province added 277,900 hectares of protection towards its goal of protecting 10 per cent of its land and freshwater.
Some provinces and territories commit to conservation
Quebec has committed to a 30x30 goal to protect 30 per cent of lands by 2030. There is no nature agreement penned between Quebec and Canada. These agreements, between Ottawa and interested provincial and territorial governments, lay out plans for nature conservation and protection.
British Columbia committed to a 30x30 goal and added an ambitious 25x25 (25 per cent of lands and oceans protected by 2025) goal in the short term. The nature agreement is in negotiations and is expected soon.
Yukon committed to 25x25 by adding an extra six per cent to the 19 per cent it already pledged. The nature agreement signed between Yukon and Ottawa was the first in the country. Agreement between the federal government and provinces and territories would increase protection ambitions in each jurisdiction, Environment and Climate Change Canada said in an email.
Extension of the Natural Heritage Conservation Program
In the COP15 conference's second week, the federal government announced $90 million over three years to secure another 180,000 hectares of land to be protected and conserved. The program will be managed through conservation non-governmental organizations.
Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative