Dear Deh Cho resident:
Something serious is happening in the Deh Cho. I’m not thinking of the pipeline. It’s the campaign to expand the Nahanni park seven times its present size. The expanded reserve will include 80% of the mountainous regions of the Deh Cho – precisely the area with the highest potential for economic development.
This campaign is called “Nahanni Forever” and is being promoted by Parks Canada and environmental groups. If ordinary people in the communities do not start saying something about it, before you know it, we will have a huge part of our land made into a park.
Park expansion could damage the economic well-being of our children and our children’s children. It could severely limit the ability of a future Deh Cho government to provide services and to manage our land and resources. Worse, it could take away our hard-won rights to govern ourselves by handing control of over one-sixth of the Deh Cho to Parks Canada bureaucrats and their southern environmentalist friends.
Nahanni Park officials always give the impression that aboriginal people can use the lands but in reality they frown on anybody going into the Park. The goal of Parks is and always will be to preserve the environment and limit human use of the land. While a co-management agreement with the Deh Cho First Nations promises to protect traditional uses of Park land, the experience of other Aboriginal people with other Parks has shown that it is a constant struggle and that there is great pressure put on local people to limit their access and use.
The environment is important but it isn’t everything. As Ted Trindle used to say: “Those mountains are beautiful, but you can’t eat them.” Sustainable development means finding a balance between conservation and the economy. A huge National Park is not a balanced approach. Once a Park is created there can be no economic development and there can be no going back. Like diamonds, National Parks are forever.
There are other ways to approach this, including:
It’s about our future. What kind of future do you want for your children – many of whom have already started training to become engineers and geologists and pilots? Do you want to live by a huge park where every summer people from the south come and go with little benefit to us? Or do you want to see this resource-rich area kept for our future economic needs?
Read the enclosed brochure for more information. Talk to your friends and family. Talk to your chief or councilors and other community leaders. Go to meetings and make your views known. We have the right to express ourselves and to make decisions for ourselves. But a right means nothing if it isn’t used. Exercise your rights. Speak up.