As Thaidene Nene National Park inches closer to completion, Parks Canada is defending its development from NWT business organizations.
In letters to Parks Canada, the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines and Chamber of Commerce expressed concern over the lack of prospective development in protected areas, and the process behind the park’s creation.
In its response to the Chambers’ concerns, Parks Canada wrote that Lutsel K’e, and gateway communities Fort Resolution and Yellowknife would benefit from increased foot traffic and tourism.
It would also increase Indigenous residents’ involvement in managing the land and “supports a permanent, sustainable local conservation economy,” it stated.
NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines Executive Director Tom Hoefer told News/North there should be a comparison between returns on the park’s conservation-tourism model and resource extraction.
“Imagine a pinprick of 13 square kilometres within 27,000 square kilometres. That’s $15 billion in value,” he said. “There’s been no analysis to compare that.”
A May 6 letter from the Chamber of Commerce similarly expressed concern that the protected land signaled NWT wasn’t “friendly to, nor open for business.”
In its response, Parks Canada also defended Thaidene Nene’s prospects outside of its economic benefits.
“In establishing national parks, values other than resource development potential are weighed during public consultation,” Parks Canada stated. “These values include the protection of ecological integrity for the benefit, education and enjoyment of all Canadians, to be made use of so as to leave the lands unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The organizations’ concerns follow the North Slave Metis Alliance’s criticism of Parks Canada after it “mistakenly excluded” the Alliance’s name in Thaidene Nene’s April 5 development description. While a May 16 version corrected the mistake, the Alliance said the original exclusion suggested “a failure to consider and mitigate any impact on NSMA members’ rights,” which include caribou harvesting in the area.
Chamber of Mines Executive Director Tom Hoefer, while saying he’s not opposed to conservation, argued large portions of NWT already fell under protection. Land is often closed off, he claimed, because advocates think “we are a big area. We can take big chunks of this and who cares? It won’t make a big difference.”
He pointed to Premier Bob McLeod’s recent statements insisting that 50 per cent of the land was closed to industry.
A 2014 territorial government report states that number is closer to 13.8 per cent, including core protected areas and conservation areas.
Hoefer added, however, that without economic corridors running through the park, it would be difficult to develop projects in the southeastern-north end of the territory.
“It’s very difficult to get in there if you found a mine,” he said about the park’s placement.
Parks Canada responded, citing then-Chief Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation Felix Lockhart’s 2017 letter to Northern News Services.
In the letter, Lockhart stated that a corridor running through the national park reserve from Reliance would disturb “the most important, sacred cultural and heritage places for Dene and Northerners.”
He wrote that he would support a corridor that started at Lutsel K’e and took advantage of the nearby airport while being closer Yellowknife and Hay River.