The Canadian government has taken steps to protect and conserve Canada’s north by announcing the withdrawal of more than 10 million hectares (27 million acres) of land from development in the Northwest Territories (NWT). The conservation initiative, one of the largest in the country’s history, will protect an area that extends from near the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and around the Ramparts River and Wetlands.

The protected area would not affect the proposed path for the Mackenzie Gas Project, the long-proposed pipeline that could deliver natural gas from the Northwest Territories into Alberta.

“Conservation is a top priority for our government,” said Minister of the Environment John Baird. “In January, I made a number of commitments and we are delivering. Our government believes that our actions speak louder than words. In just the last 12 months, we have delivered real action on conservation. We are doing even more by withdrawing massive areas from industrial development to protect some of the most impressive ecological and cultural wonders in the North for generations to come.”

An interim land withdrawal also will protect about 62,000 square kilometers with the Akaitcho Dene First Nations, designed to prevent “mineral staking, sale or lease” during the course of negotiations between the aboriginal tribe and the federal government.

The Natural Areas Conservation Program, announced by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this year, is an “on-the-ground initiative” that takes action to preserve Canada’s environment and conserve its natural heritage for present and future generations. The program is expected to result in the long-term protection of up to half a million acres of ecologically sensitive land across southern Canada.

The announcement was made during a celebration with chiefs of the Akaitcho Dene First Nations, the chief of Fort Good Hope and representatives of the Metis Nation to support environmental protection efforts and ensure that Canada’s northern residents have more control over their destinies.

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