Mr. Speaker, with more than 4, 338 interrelated species and counting, the state of biodiversity in the Northwest Territories provides us a rare chance unavailable in most other regions in Canada or the world—the ability to proactively plan a healthy future for land, water, wildlife and people. Our land, rich in biodiversity, contributes to the high quality of life we all enjoy in the NWT. Our food security and traditional economy rely on maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem integrity in the North. Making sure land in the NWT remains healthy for future generations is a priority of the Government of the Northwest Territories.
A key premise of devolution is that decisions influencing our economy and environment are best guided and managed by the people who live here. As such, the GNWT developed the Land Use and Sustainability Framework for lands management. This means making balanced, collaborative decisions respectful of Aboriginal and treaty rights in the context of sound environmental stewardship. To do this, we consider ecological, social, cultural and economic values in our decision-making to ensure maximum benefits to current and future generations.
We acknowledge the significant contributions of our regional and community partners through the Protected Areas Strategy. We have worked together to successfully define the natural capital of many special areas, initiate discussions on the management and monitoring of candidate areas, and in many instances, have begun the important collaborative decision-making phase of the establishment process.
We are proceeding with a made-in-the-North approach to conservation planning to ensure biodiversity and ecosystem integrity are maintained into the future. Devolution has provided an opportunity for the people of the NWT to create new conservation areas using ‘Northern Tools’, allowing for increased participation in and accountability for the management of these areas.
We have adapted conservation science methods used elsewhere in Canada and around the world to identify the NWT’s ecologically representative core areas and assess gaps. We will work with communities to outline mutual objectives for territorial designations, shared governance and management. Objectives that support balanced land management decisions made collaboratively by Northerners, and fit within a broad comprehensive conservation planning approach. One that includes land use planning, park and protected areas establishment, and ecological representation network planning. Collectively, these initiatives will ensure the progress of responsible economic development in the context of sound environmental stewardship.
As we proceed with our Northern approach to conservation planning, we will be looking for partners. Some of the most successful initiatives in the NWT, such as the transboundary water negotiations, the Species at Risk Conference of Management Authorities, or the new Wildlife Act, were only possible through collaboration. We know that in order to be successful, to create the best conservation network possible, true collaboration and partnerships must continue.
The timing is right to prepare for our future. It is important to take advantage of the science behind best practices, such as ecological representation for managing land use and creating core areas, and combine it with traditional knowledge from our Aboriginal partners. When we work together using the best information available, we ensure the development of a culturally, environmentally and economically sustainable Northwest Territories.
People of the NWT want a healthy land for their grandchildren. The NWT has a rare opportunity to be a leader in conservation, and apply lessons learned elsewhere in the world and across Canada to achieve sustainable resource management. It is far more efficient to preserve land now than try to restore land later. A new NWT conservation network not only maintains our unique northern landscapes, it also provides more clarity and certainty for developers, industry, residents of the NWT and beyond.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.