The Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation hopes to have an agreement in principle with Parks Canada by next March to outline its role in managing a proposed National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories.
The Thaidene Nene protected area includes canyons, waterfalls, forest, tundra and most of the east arm of Great Slave Lake. Lutsel K’e wants to be equal partners in managing the proposed 33,000-square-kilometre park. Its name means "land of our ancestors."
Steven Nitah, the band’s chief negotiator, said it would be different from other co-managed National Parks.
"We are not creating an advisory board that's going to advise the Minster of how to run Thaidene Nene. We are creating a management board that's going to make decisions and Parks Canada and the First Nation will be implementing those decisions," he said.
Nitah said they are asking the federal government to set up a trust fund with a lump sum payment to fund the park's operations. He said that could help the local economy.
"The interest can be used to manage Thaidene Nene, eventually Canada's contribution would stop but the interest would still be there," he said.
The park's boundaries have not been set yet. Nitah said the First Nation is waiting on a Mineral, Energy and Resource Assessment Report to find out where minerals are likely to be found before discussing the boundaries with industry and government.
"Lutsel K'e has some pretty hard areas they want to protect and that is not negotiable. But in other areas we are willing, and send an olive branch out to have that discussion," he said. Nitah added that the park would be accessible to everyone, but harvesting rights for non-aboriginal hunters have yet to be determined.
This week the First Nation is meeting with boaters and snowmobilers who use the area to discuss the proposed park and agreement.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there about what is actually going on. Boaters from Yellowknife won't be able to go there. That's not true at all," said Erica Janes, with the Northwest Territories chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.