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Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to working with Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations on conservation in the Northwest Territories.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has spent the last three years implementing establishment agreements, drafting site-specific regulations, and establishing management boards for existing territorial protected areas, Thaidene Nene and Ts’ude Nilįné Tuyeta.
The network of protected and conserved areas in the NWT comes with many benefits: conservation areas protect ecologically and culturally important spaces; they help to maintain biodiversity, which is critically important for ecosystem health; and, they empower and employ communities.
Today, I would like to share some of the successes in implementing that network, and the work we will continue through the rest of this government.
Mr. Speaker, this past December, the Délı̨nę Got'ı̨nę Government affirmed alongside the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories their commitment to enhance the conservation and stewardship in the Great Bear Lake watershed. As part of that commitment, the Délı̨nę Got'ı̨nę Government announced their intention to create the Sahtu K’aowé Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. This will enhance and formally recognize the stewardship role the Sahtu Got’ı̨nę have had in the Great Bear Lake watershed within the Délı̨nę district for millennia. This project means active stewardship of the world’s eighth-largest lake and much of its watershed, and reflects meaningful steps forward for reconciliation.
Mr. Speaker, ensuring that we have a strong economy is essential to ensuring the people of the Northwest Territories in all communities have meaningful jobs and opportunities.
To this end, our government is working with Indigenous leadership who are bringing the public and philanthropic sectors together to explore options for long-term investment in the NWT conservation network that will also benefit our economy. This arrangement is known as project finance for permanence, a dedicated fund to support implementation of protected and conserved areas, support the economy, and empower Indigenous communities.
Last December, as the world came to Montreal to negotiate a new framework for preserving biodiversity, our government was there alongside Indigenous leaders and the federal government to promote investment in our territory’s conservation network. This includes support for community economic development and Indigenous led stewardship programs through a project finance for permanence in the Northwest Territories. We will continue to pursue this initiative and ensure the interests of all NWT residents are represented.
Mr. Speaker, advancing conservation starts with a good plan. To this end, we are near to finalizing a renewed work plan for advancing the conservation network. This plan has been built upon engagement with Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, stakeholders, and the public.
Mr. Speaker, there is much more work to be done to advance conservation in the NWT. This work includes advancing decision-making on the establishment of Candidate Protected Areas, supporting territorial protected area management boards, providing conservation network information to the public, and supporting Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship initiatives.
Alongside Indigenous leaders, we will seek long-term funding so that conservation can bring real benefits for communities that support social, cultural, and economic well-being of people across the NWT.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.