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Gold Medal

2011 Recipients - Parks Canada, the Dehcho First Nations and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

From left to right: Éric Hébert-Daly, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Hon. Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, Grand Chief Samuel Gargan, Dehcho First Nations, and RCGS President John Geiger.

Three organizations that worked together for years to realize the six-fold expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve will be honoured this fall with the Gold Medal from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society for geographical achievement on a grand scale.

In June 2009, Parliament voted unanimously to expand the Northwest Territories’ Nahanni National Park Reserve from 4,766 to 30,050 square kilometres, preserving an ecosystem nearly the size of Vancouver Island that lies in the traditional lands of the Dehcho First Nations. It was the culmination of a unique collaboration between Parks Canada, the Dehcho and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, which had campaigned for nearly 25 years to mobilize Canadians’ support for safeguarding this immense wilderness.

The extended park protects a large portion of the South Nahanni River watershed, which includes the Northwest Territories’ highest mountains and biggest glaciers, Canada’s deepest canyons and considerable populations of grizzly bears and woodland caribou. “To put it in perspective, it’s four times the size of Banff,” says Alan Latourelle, chief executive officer of Parks Canada. “It includes more than three times the number of grizzlies that you would find in all the Rocky Mountain national parks.”

The partnership “reflects a mutual recognition that by working together, this vast and expanded area might be better protected for future generations,” says Samuel Gargan, grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations. “Keeping this area as pristine as possible is a gift not only to Canada but to the rest of the world.”

— Monique Roy-Sole

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