K'asho Got'ine government could be on verge of creating new protected area in Sahtu

Negotiators representing the K’asho Got’ine government and the Northwest Territories government are close to finalizing an establishment agreement to protect Ts’ude Niline Tu’eyeta, or Ramparts River and Wetlands, outside Fort Good Hope.

Ts’ude Niline Tu’eyeta would protect 10,000 square kilometres in the Ramparts River and Wetlands

The Ramparts area of the Northwest Territories is home to towering limestone cliffs, wetlands and boreal forest. It could soon become a new protected area. (NWT Protected Areas Strategy)

If all goes well, the N.W.T. will be 10,000 square kilometres richer in protected land by this fall.

Negotiators representing the K'asho Got'ine government and the territorial government are close to finalizing an establishment agreement to protect Ts'ude Niline Tu'eyeta, or Ramparts River and Wetlands, outside Fort Good Hope.

"There are a few minor details left," said Stephen Kakfwi, one of the negotiators. "Hopefully within a month we'll finish off the outstanding details and if we are prepared and comfortable to recommend it, we will bring it to the community to have a series of discussions."

Kakfwi says those discussions should happen throughout the spring and summer, and if they go well, the K'asho Got'ine government will assemble to approve the plan.

Ts'ude Niline Tu'eyeta is a sacred place and harvesting area for Dene and Metis in Fort Good Hope.

"It's prime hunting, trapping, there's fish up there and beaver and moose and caribou," said Kakfwi. "It's in the foothills of the mountains and stretches to the Mackenzie River. It's an ecologically intact area, it has its own water source … it's a good piece of land."

Stephen Kakfwi is part of the negotiating team creating Ts'ude Niline Tu'eyeta protected area. (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)

According to Kakfwi, there has been a movement to protect Ts'ude Niline Tu'eyeta for decades, but up until now the circumstances just haven't been right to push for it.

Now, with Canada's commitment to protect 17 per cent of land across the country by 2020 — and money in the federal budget to fund it — and new territorial protected areas legislation coming down the pipe, Kakfwi believes the time is right.

According to the territorial government's website about the proposed Protected Areas Act, the government is "specifically" working with Indigenous governments to use this legislation for the establishment of Dinaga Wek'ehodi, which is near the north arm of Great Slave Lake, and Ts'ude Niline Tu'eyeta, as well as parts of Thaidene Nene.

On top of the territorial protection, Kakfwi says once the establishment agreement is brought forward the K'asho Got'ine government will designate Ts'ude Niline Tu'eyeta as an Indigenous protected area.

"Our own laws will cover that and the territorial government will also provide the legislation so that we can [manage it] together … with the K'asho Got'ine leading on it," he said.

That means Aboriginal and treaty rights people have under the Sahtu Final Agreement — such as hunting, trapping and fishing — will remain protected.

Kakfwi said people will be hired under the Indigenous Guardians Program to monitor it as well.

"People have said, 'It's our land, if we are going to protect it, it has to be protected in an enforceable way,'" he said.

"Guardians will be trained and hired and they will monitor and keep watch over that land on behalf of the K'asho Got'ine."

The proposed Protected Areas Act is expected to become law before the territorial election on Oct. 1.