Bigger Than Yellowstone, Canada Park to Protect Cultures, Creatures

Hannah Hoag in Montreal, Canada
for National Geographic News
October 20, 2006

With the flourish of a pen and a fire ceremony, Canada's government and Indian groups agreed last week to create a vast national park in the Northwest Territories on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake (Northwest Territories map).

The plan cordons off an area of about 13,000 square miles (33,500 square kilometers)—almost four times the area of the United States' Yellowstone National Park (Yellowstone map).

Canadian environment minister Rona Ambrose visited the tiny Dene Indian community of Lutsel K'e, where she signed and celebrated a "memorandum of understanding" with Chief Adeline Jonasson.

(Related: " Canada's Huge New Preserve Protects Rare 'Spirit Bears'" [March 1, 2006].)

Tenth Largest Lake

Great Slave Lake is the fifth largest lake in North America and the tenth largest in the world. Scientists believe its eastern arm was created when the Churchill and the Slave geological regions drifted apart over millions of years.

The proposed park, which has yet to be named, connects evergreen-rich forests to rolling, mossy, treeless plains farther north.

"This is where you have a dramatic transition from the woodlands of the northern reaches of the boreal forest out onto the tundra," said Kevin McNamee, director of parks establishment for Parks Canada.

Conservation groups are applauding the announcement. "It is a crucible for wildlife," said Monte Hummel, president emeritus of the Toronto, Ontario-based nonprofit WWF-Canada.

Wildlife Haven

The cool deep waters of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake are stocked with trout, whitefish, and arctic grayling. Bald eagles and other birds of prey nest in towering cliffs, while nesting gulls, terns, and ducks occupy rocky islands.

The land to the north and east is home to moose, bears, foxes, wolves, wolverines, martins, minks, otters, and perhaps most important, caribou (caribou photos, video, and facts).

Continued on Next Page >>


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