$20M in federal funding going toward wildfire prevention for 29 N.W.T. communities

The federal government is providing $20 million in funding to N.W.T. communities for wildfire prevention.

An additional $4.5 million will go toward recreational infrastructure projects in 9 communities

The trunks of burned trees jut out of ashy earth, black and leafless. In the distance, a mountain slopes upward against a white sky.
Burned trees line a section of Highway 1, 50 kilometres outside of Wrigley, N.W.T., on July 12, 2022. The federal government is providing N.W.T. communities with $20 million to help with vegetation mitigation to prevent wildfires. (Liny Lamberink/CBC)

The federal government is providing $20 million in funding to N.W.T. communities for wildfire prevention.

The funding was announced by Michael McLeod, the N.W.T. member of parliament, on Saturday at the Chateau Nova in Yellowknife for the N.W.T. Association of Communities annual general meeting. 

McLeod said the N.W.T. Association of Communities applied for the funding which would go toward vegetation management in 29 communities. This includes creating fire breaks and implementation of fire fuel reduction strategies for over 1,200 hectares of land, a press release said.

"Wildfires, droughts, coastal erosion and permafrost degradation is becoming more and more frequent and more severe," McLeod said.

"So we're furthering our investments in the infrastructure that builds healthy and strong communities. Reliable infrastructure is very important and is key to building more prosperous, resilient and sustainable communities."

Michael McLeod, left, the member of parliament for the N.W.T., Rebecca Alty, centre, Yellowknife's mayor and the president of the N.W.T. Association of Communities and Shane Thompson, the N.W.T. minister of municipal and community affairs. (Luke Carroll/CBC)

Rebecca Alty, Yellowknife's mayor and president of the N.W.T. Association of Communities, said at the event years of "chronic underfunding" made it difficult for community governments to implement wildfire prevention programs. 

"At the current rate, the program would've taken 83 years to complete," she said, adding thanks to the funding, the 29 communities can be protected within 10 years. 

"We've seen the devastation and the cost these past two years from flooding in the territory," Alty said. 

"We have too much at risk to not address wildfire mitigation."

An additional $4.5 million in federal funding will go toward infrastructure projects in nine communities. 

This includes $317,000 to Nahanni Butte for a modern stage for live performances. It will come complete with performance instruments and sound boxes for stage shows and recreational activities, a press release said. 

Nahanni Butte, N.W.T. on June 11, 2022. (Liny Lamberink/CBC)

Paulatuk is receiving $2.3 million for the design and construction of a 150-person capacity community hall for cultural gatherings.

Fort Smith is receiving over $700,000 for the renewal of the Slave River lookout platform as well as the development of the snowboard and sliding hill. The money will go toward installing a lift, lighting and a permanent storage building with public washrooms, a warming room and a community fire pit.

Gamèti is receiving $300,000 to expand the existing cultural camp. This includes constructing four tent pads, four five-person cabins, three kilometres of recreational trails and widening the existing cultural camp road and trail.

Tsiigehtchic is receiving $22,000 to rehabilitate and upgrade the current wellness camp by converting three existing canvas tent frames into solid wood built structures.