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Canada Gets a New National Park; Protects One of World’s Best Wild Rivers

The Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve, near the Yukon-Northwest Territories border, in Canada, has been named the country’s 44th national park.
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The Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve, near the Yukon-Northwest Territories border, in Canada, has been named the country’s 44thnational park. An official announcement was made in late December.

The creation of the new park safeguards one of the world’s greatest wilderness rivers, the South Nahanni River watershed, and advances Canada as “an international leader of conservation.”

"Our Government is proud to protect Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve and build on our record of expanding Canada's national parks system,” the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, said in a news release. “Through this action, we ensure the preservation of this beautiful northern landscape for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations."

Those future generations will continue to thrive in a habitat that is conducive for all creatures, including mountain woodland caribou, grizzly bears, Dall’s sheep, mountain goats and Trumpeter swans. And visitors will have the opportunity to explore what has been preserved as a beautiful and ecologically significant area in the Northwest Territories.

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Back in 2012, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper revealed the park’s boundaries, he announced the signing of an Impact and Benefit Plan with the Sahtu Dene and Metis of the Tulita District. Its goal was to ensure that the Sahtu Dene and Metis peoples contributions would help impact the conservation of the park, an area that is not only culturally, but also spiritually significant to them.

The Nááts’ihch’oh National Park, spanning 4,895 square kilometres, is the 14th largest national park in Canada. It has also been valued for hunting and its spiritual importance by the Shutagot’ine (Mountain Dene) in the Tulita District, who say that the mountain from which the park takes its name is believed to have spiritual powers, according to Parks Canada.

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Although the park’s measurements when combined with its neighboring Nahanni National Park Reserve are quite large—at least 13,500 square miles—Frank Andrew, Grand Chief of the Sahtu Dene Council and Chief of the Tulita Dene Band Council, had hoped that the park would be a bit bigger. In 2012, Canadian Geographic reported that Andrew and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, wanted more land set aside for conservation and to leave less land open to potential resource extraction. But today, the two reserves cover 70 percent of the upper South Nahanni River watershed.

Under Harper’s leadership, the government has created at least four park reserves, and it expanded the Nahanni National Park in 2009. Currently, Canada manages 44 national parks—with a total area almost half the size of Alberta—167 national historic sites and four national marine conservation areas.