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Canada’s Government Announces Protection for Arctic Wildlife Sanctuaries

August 22, 2008

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Aug. 22, 2008) – Canada’s Environment Minister John Baird, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. Acting President, James Eetoolook, today announced the establishment of three new National Wildlife Areas on and around Baffin Island, protecting local species and habitat including the bowhead whale.

The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the Nunavut Settlement Area, was negotiated between the Government of Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., three Regional Inuit Associations and the Nangmautaq Hunters and Trappers organization. The agreement allows for the creation of three new National Wildlife Areas on and around Baffin Island to protect local species and habitat. Under the agreement, Canada’s Government is committing $8.3 million.

“Prime Minister Harper and our Government are delivering real results that will benefit not only our environment in the Arctic, but the people who live there,” said Minister Baird. “This is a real demonstration of our commitment to protect our species and their incredible habitat in the North.”

The Niginganiq (nee geen ga nik) National Wildlife Area (Isabella Bay) is internationally recognized for providing key bowhead whale habitat, and the Akpait (ak pa eet) and Qaqulluit (ka koo loo eet) National Wildlife Areas near Qikiqtarjuaq (kick-ih-TAR-jew-ack) (Broughton Island) are known for housing significant populations of seabirds including one of Canada’s largest Thick-billed Murre colonies and Canada’s largest colony of Northern Fulmars. These areas also provide habitat for a number of marine animals including walruses, seals and polar bears.

“The establishment of new National Wildlife Areas around Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq will increase the ecotourism value of the region,” says Minister Chuck Strahl, Canada’s Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. “This will provide economic opportunities and enable residents to develop environmentally sustainable tourism businesses and create jobs.”

“Inuit began negotiations for the three National Wildlife Areas in addition to the two already established, and eight Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in Nunavut in 2001. Today’s historic signing with Minister Baird brings that work, along with the efforts to create the Niginganiq Wildlife Area, an internationally recognized bowhead whale sanctuary near Clyde River, to an end, and makes our years of struggles worthwhile. This is a big day for Inuit,” said Eetoolook. “The funding that comes along with this agreement will result in long-lasting economic benefits for Inuit in the affected areas.”

“Protecting the bowhead whales of Niginganiq has been a 26 year marathon effort”, said Mike Russill, CEO of WWF-Canada. “We are grateful to the people of Clyde River for their patience and persistence, and we thank the Government of Canada and Minister Baird for their dedication and commitment in pushing this finally over the finish line”.

The federal Government is firmly committed to the protection, improvement and conservation of our country’s natural legacy. Environment Canada works in collaboration with other federal departments, provinces and territories, Aboriginal organizations, non-governmental organizations and the public to preserve Canada’s environment and conserve its precious natural heritage for present and future generations.

BACKGROUNDER

Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement

On August 22, 2008, the Government of Canada announced the completion of an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement and $8.3 million in funding to support the Agreement’s plans for environmental conservation and economic development in Nunavut.

The agreement, negotiated between the Government of Canada, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and four regional Inuit associations, allows for the creation of three new National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) on Baffin Island to protect local species and habitat – including a population of bowhead whale that has been assessed as threatened in Canada.

The agreement also allows for co-management by Environment Canada and the Inuit of the three new, and ten existing protected areas in the Nunavut Settlement Area and expands economic and employment opportunities for affected communities.

AGREEMENT DETAILS

The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement fulfills the Government of Canada’s commitment under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement to address conservation area-related issues that could either provide benefits or have a negative impact on the Inuit.

Specifically, this agreement addresses obligations identified in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement associated with the eight existing Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBS), the two existing National Wildlife Areas and the three new proposed National Wildlife Areas administered by Environment Canada in the Nunavut Settlement Area. These include:

– Cultural Resources Inventories, which are Inuit oral history projects and archaeological projects, place studies and traditional ecological knowledge interviews, will be used in the development of interpretive materials for each protected area;

– the creation of an Inuit Tourism Providers Fund that Inuit may access for training related to environmentally friendly tourism services, for assistance in purchasing equipment, and to develop a tourism providers’ mentoring program;

– training young Inuit for careers in wildlife conservation through career mentoring and student employment;

– employing Inuit as field assistants in research and monitoring programs related to Environment Canada’s protected areas;

– compensation for accidental, defence, or illegal kills of Polar and Grizzly bears in Environment Canada’s protected areas by permit holders;

– training for Inuit from communities adjacent to new National Wildlife Areas on how to effectively conduct ecotourism businesses in the protected areas, and assistance in developing and marketing these businesses.

CONSERVATION BENEFITS

Co-management committees composed of both local and federal government members will be responsible for the management of each of the protected areas in the Nunavut Settlement Area. The committees will act as stewards of the area, with responsibilities to review permit applications and to develop the area management plan, among other duties.

One advantage to this system is the inclusion of critical Inuit traditional ecological knowledge in the development of any management plan. This is a significant step forward in terms of community-based management of natural resources and will result in more comprehensive management of these internationally significant areas.

ECONOMIC BENEFITS

By fostering new means of economic development, such as ecotourism, the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement will help to diversify the Inuit economy, confirm the ecotourism value of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas and assist Inuit to adapt to evolving socio-economic conditions.

Recent increases in Arctic cruise ship tourism, ecotourism, cultural tourism and adventure tourism present opportunities for Inuit to establish locally-owned and operated businesses whose potential clientele would have National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries as their destinations. Examples of services to be offered include guiding, outfitting, cultural interpretation and sculpture and art sales.

CULTURAL BENEFITS

The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement provides for the preparation of Cultural Resources Inventories. The inventories will support the development of interpretative materials and management plans for the 10 existing and three proposed protected areas in the Nunavut Settlement Area, and will identify Inuktitut place names for these areas. This initiative may include oral history studies, archaeological surveys, place name studies and traditional ecological knowledge interviews. The resulting information gathered is important for the effective co-management of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas.

The Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement also provides for the development of interpretative materials that can be used by local tourism providers. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. will ensure the proper balance of interpretative products throughout the 12 communities. Expected products include an Inuit Tourism Providers’ Guide, tourism audio and visual materials that explain the nature and value of the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas from an Inuit perspective, community and area-specific displays, Inuktitut place name identifiers, and literature for community tourism centres and other outlets.

BACKGROUNDER

THREE NEW NATIONAL WILDLIFE AREAS PROTECT KEY HABITAT IN NUNAVUT

Protecting our Northern species and their habitat is a priority for the Government of Canada. The recently signed Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement for Environment Canada protected areas allows for the creation of three new National Wildlife Areas on Baffin Island, which will protect another 4,534 km2, an area roughly 80 percent of the size of Prince Edward Island. With the creation of these new protected areas, more than 18.5 million hectares or almost 185 thousand square kilometers of land will be protected in Nunavut alone. This includes five National Wildlife Areas, eleven Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and four National Parks.

The Government of Canada will work together with local community members and Nunavummiut to ensure that both the community and the environment benefit from these proposed National Wildlife Areas.

Each new area on Baffin Island provides an opportunity to protect unique and important habitat.

Niginganiq National Wildlife Area (Isabella Bay) – 336,200 hectares

This area, proposed by the community of Clyde River, includes important summer habitat for a population of bowhead whales that has been assessed as threatened in Canada. The bowhead whale is a large and powerful marine mammal that can break through ice over 20 cm thick with the crown of its head. It can navigate and communicate under extensive ice fields using a sophisticated acoustic sense. While some of the population, including cows and calves, move westward through Lancaster Sound in late June and early July, others, mainly adults and large adolescents, remain off the east coast of Baffin Island for the summer and fall.

Akpait National Wildlife Area – 77,400 hectares

Akpait is an important area for a number of migratory birds including one of Canada’s largest Thick-billed Murre colonies. It is a nesting site for Black-legged Kittiwakes and a breeding ground for Glaucous Gulls and Black Guillemots. It is also home to polar bears, walruses and a variety of seal species. The land is divided into steep cliffs that rise dramatically to 915 metres above sea level and a complex series of steep rock pinnacles and ridges bordered by a high talus slope and beach.

Qaqulluit National Wildlife Area – 39,800 hectares

Qaqulluit showcases two rock towers, orange with lichen and topped with grassy plant life, and rising 430 metres above the ocean. The area is home to Canada’s largest colony of Northern Fulmars (birds), representing an estimated 22 percent of the total Canadian population. There are also marine animals including the walrus and ringed seal that use the waters of the National Wildlife Area.

National Wildlife Areas are established and protected under the Canada Wildlife Act. To be considered for designation, a site must contain nationally significant habitat for migratory birds, must support wildlife or ecosystems at risk, or must represent rare or unusual wildlife habitat.

Once an area has been designated as a National Wildlife Area, natural features integral to the site are protected from disturbance, and specific activities considered harmful to species or their habitats are prohibited. Management activities include monitoring wildlife, maintaining and improving wildlife habitat, conducting periodic inspections, enforcing regulations, maintaining facilities, and developing management plans. Wildlife research and interpretation may also take place in these areas, but require a permit and are carefully regulated and monitored.

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