Land and Resource Management in the NWTLast updated: May 2013
The NWT Protected Areas Strategy (PAS) outlines a community-based process to establish a network of protected areas across the NWT. It recognizes the need to balance conservation and economic development, while respecting Aboriginal rights, third party interests, and land use planning processes.
The goals of the PAS are to identify and protect:
- Special natural and cultural areas in the NWT.
- Core representative areas within each of the 42 ecoregions of the NWT. An ecoregion is a relatively large area with a unique mix of plants, animals, climate, and environment.
The PAS complements and supports existing processes that govern resource and land management, including negotiations with Aboriginal people, land use planning, environmental assessment, and regulation of land and water uses.
More information can be found on the Land and Resource Management Information Sheet (pdf).
Land Management and Comprehensive Claim Agreements
There are four Comprehensive Claim agreements in the NWT (also referred to as land claims or modern treaties) that cover certain areas of the territory:
- the Inuvialuit Settlement Region;
- the Gwich'in Settlement Area;
- the Sahtu Settlement Area; and,
- an area for the Tłįchǫ Agreement that is comprised of the Monfwi Gogha Denitlee (traditional use) area and Wek'èezhìi (resource management) area.
For a map of the land claims can be found here.
In these areas, the federal and territorial governments and the land claim groups each have certain land and resource management responsibilities, and the land claim groups have title over their own parcels of land. Much of the environmental and regulatory responsibility rests with a system of management boards created by the modern treaties and established by the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA). The MVRMA sets out an integrated system of land and water management that addresses land use planning, land and water regulation, environmental assessment and environmental monitoring. The MVRMA does not apply to the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, but a similar system of land, water and environmental assessment is established through the land claim and federal legislation (such as the Territorial Waters Act).
Land use planning
A land use plan sets out rules for how certain geographic areas will be managed to provide for conservation, development, and use of lands, waters and other resources. This includes setting out what activities are allowed, or not, in specific areas (usually referred to as zoning). Land use plans are required in the Gwich'in and Sahtu settlement areas as a result of their comprehensive claims, and the process to complete their land use plans is set out in the MVRMA. These plans cover Aboriginal, Crown and Commissioner's land, but exclude National Parks, National Historic Sites and some municipal lands. A land use plan is also being developed for the Dehcho area as part of the negotiations process with the Dehcho Dene and Métis people. The development of land use plans in other areas of the NWT is not legally required through comprehensive claims or legislation, but can be pursued by governments and Aboriginal people if desired. For example, the Tłįchǫ people have developed a land use plan for their lands. Typically, land use plans are reviewed and revised periodically (every five years in the case of the Gwich'in, Sahtu, and Tłįchǫ plans). The Gwich'in Land Use Plan was approved in 2003 and is now being reviewed. The Sahtu land use plan is in its final stages of development. When the plan is completed it will be submitted for approval by the Sahtu Dene and Métis, the territorial government and the federal government.
Management in Protected Areas
Protected areas are managed under the legislation establishing them (e.g., National Parks Act, Canada Wildlife Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, Oceans Act, and Territorial Parks Act). The level of management varies depending on the type of protected area established. Management plans are usually developed once an area has been established, either as a requirement of legislation, or as a matter of good resource management practice. Management recommendations are made during the PAS process, but the final management plan and structure will ultimately be determined by the communities and sponsoring government agency that have established the protected area. Management plans are reviewed and revised periodically. For more information see the Protected Areas Management page.
Renewable Resource Boards
In the Gwich'in, Sahtu and Wek'èezhìi areas renewable resource boards were created by the comprehensive claim agreements. These boards provide recommendations and advice to governments about wildlife, wildlife habitat, harvesting management, forest and plant management, and, when required, they have authority to set harvesting quotas.
Environmental Assessment and the Regulatory Process
Protected areas alone are not enough to make sure the land, water and environment are taken care of in the NWT. The environmental assessment process and regulatory regime ensures that all lands are managed to help ensure the overall health of lands and waters is maintained.
Permits and licences authorizing the use of land and water are dealt with by land and water boards for the Gwich'in, Sahtu and Wek'èezhìi areas. These boards are part of the larger Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. The larger board issues the permits and licenses for all other areas of the NWT, except the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, or when the authorization involves an impact in more than one area. The NWT Water Board issues water licences in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, and land use permitting is undertaken by the federal government and the Inuvialuit.
The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB) is the body that undertakes environmental assessments for all areas of the NWT, except the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. In that area, a similar setup for screening and assessment is established which includes the Inuvialuit Environmental Screening Committee, the Inuvialuit Environmental Review Board and processes established through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).
In cases where impacts may occur across these management areas or into other provinces or territories, joint panels of the MVRMA, CEAA or other systems may be created for environmental assessment (e.g., the Joint Review Panel that assessed the Mackenzie Gas Project was established in this manner). Additionally, the National Energy Board has specific authorities to regulate and authorize the construction of pipelines and the operation of oil and gas production.