N.W.T. First Nations, federal gov't team up to protect 'breadbasket' of Dehcho region

Edehzhie will be jointly managed by both the Dehcho First Nations and the Canadian Wildlife Services. It will be both a Dehcho Protected Area and a National Wildlife Area.

The Edehzhie Protected Area is twice the size of Banff National Park

The Dehcho and Tlicho have always used Edehzhie as vital hunting, fishing and gathering grounds. (Government of the Northwest Territories)

Elders refer to it as the "breadbasket" of the Dehcho, now it's about to become an area co-managed by Dehcho First Nations and the federal government.

It took two decades of work, and even the threat of a lawsuit in 2010 to protect Edehzhie, which is more than 14,249 square kilometres of boreal forest and wetlands located in Dehcho territory in the southwest region of the Northwest Territories. 

​The Dehcho First Nations will sign papers this fall with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to finalize the agreement, which will establish Edehzhie as a National Wildlife Area under the Canada Wildlife Act. It has already been designated as a protected area under Dehcho law at the 2018 Annual Dehcho Assembly.

Jonas Antoine has been working to protect the area since 1990. He said he feels "very, very humble" to see the fruits of his labour realized.

"[It's] humbling that we have something that we can finally look at and say that you know, it's the work of the people," he said.

Dahti Tsetso is the resource manager for Dehcho First Nations. She says elders talk about the importance of Edehzhie in times past, as it's always been known to be abundant with wildlife and fish.

"The elders of this region have often referred to the area as the breadbasket of the Dehcho," she said.

According to Tsetso, traditional harvesting, such as hunting, fishing and berry picking, will not be affected by the new protections in the​ area. A management plan will determine how non-Indigenous people will be able to use the National Wildlife Area.

Details of the forthcoming Dehcho First Nations' management plan are still in the works. The next step will be to convene a management board, which will have five years to come up with a long-term management plan.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how activities in the park would be managed.
    Aug 08, 2018 2:52 PM CT