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Saving our heritage

NWT attends circumpolar conference

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 28/01) - Delegates from the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy are calling their recent trip to Anchorage, Alaska for the Circumpolar North Wilderness Seminar a learning experience for all those who attended.

The three delegates, constituting a triumvirate of federal, territorial, and aboriginal jurisdictions, attended the seminar May 15-16 to discuss international efforts in protecting the North's remaining wilderness areas.

"They key thing that came out in the Circumpolar North Conference is that wilderness includes people," said Angela Stadel, Protected Areas Secretariat with the Department of Indian and Norther Affairs.

"People have lived in these areas for a long time and continue use them actively. There's quite a different perspective from visitors to the North who see it as uninhabited and a place of solitude."

Besides all three territories, the other nations represented at the conference included Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the United States.

Stadel said some of the issues discussed at the conference had to do with how people living in wilderness spaces cope with globalization and the growing demand for oil and energy.

A prime example would be the U.S. Administration's plans to develop oil fields lying beneath the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The main focus of the NWT delegates' presentation at the conference was Sahyoue and Edacho, the two western peninsulas on Great Bear Lake.

These two areas in the Sahtu region, also known as Grizzly Bear Mountain and Scented Grass Hills were commemorated as Canadian Heritage sites in 1999.

Raymond Taniton, Protected Areas Strategy committee chairperson, is a resident of Deline, which is nestled in between the two great peninsulas.

He wants to ensure that these areas remain protected from development, while opening the areas to the eco-tourism industry.

"We would like to show the public the importance of the sites (Sahyoue and Edacho)," Taniton said. "Each area has its own stories and legends."

Taniton said over the next five years, the NWT Protected Areas Strategy will develop a conservation and presentation plan for the two heritage sites, so that both the Sahtu and the world can continue enjoying and learning about them for many years to come.

"If a person from the other side of the world wants to come and visit their will be a facility where they can learn about these areas."