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Protecting the future

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 8, 2009

KA'A'GEE TU/KAKISA - The Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation in Kakisa is using all the tools at its disposal to protect what matters to them: the land and the animals on it.

One of these tools is the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy (PAS), said Chief Lloyd Chicot.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

The area the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation is interested in protecting through the Northwest Territories Protected Area Strategy covers approximately 9,600 square km. - map courtesy of Ducks Unlimited Canada

The First Nation has been working with the PAS for more than three years to identify the area they'd like to protect. By the end of the month the band will be ready to submit a proposal to find a sponsoring agency interested in using their legislation to protect the area.

"It looks positive," said Chicot.

The band undertook the PAS process as a way to provide a secure future for the community, he said. This future involves protecting the species in the area and the land where band members have traditionally harvested and continue to do so.

"We want to put things in place so in the long run the land and the animals in the area are protected," Chicot said.

The area of interest includes approximately 9,600 square km. The numbers, however, weren't as important as setting aside the right locations, said Chicot.

As part of the PAS process the band collected existing information on the area, which included learning from elders where the prime harvesting and trapping locations are. The area of interest the band has decided on includes Dog Face Lake in the southwest and abuts the Cameron Hills in the south. It also encompasses Kakisa Lake, Tathlina Lake and part of Beaver Lake in the north.

Beaver Lake was added at the request of the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe and the Katlodeeche First Nations, which are interested in its protection, said Chicot.

Much of the Kakisa area of interest is currently protected through the Dehcho Interim Measures Agreement which expires in Oct. 2010.

In addition to cultural values, the area also includes a number of important ecological values, said Jason Charlwood, a conservation specialist with Ducks Unlimited Canada, the lead organization guiding Kakisa through the PAS.

A number of species at risk - including woodland caribou, rusty blackbirds, and some rare plant species - are found in the area. Beaver Lake is also an important staging area for waterfowl with thousands stopping there during their spring and fall migrations, Charlwood said.

Having obtained support for protecting the area from both the community and the Dehcho First Nations, Kakisa will submit a proposal to a potential sponsoring agency by the end of the month.

The band has chosen the Canadian Wildlife Service, which is already the sponsoring agency for both the Sambaa K'e and Edehzhie candidate areas in the Deh Cho as well as one in the Gwich'in Settlement Area.

If they accept, the Canadian Wildlife Service will help the band work through the remaining steps of the PAS so the area can become a National Wildlife Area protected under the Canadian Wildlife Act, said Charlwood.

While they wait for a response, Chicot said the band will continue to keep its members up-to-date on the initiative.

"We're waiting to see where it will go," said Chicot.