What is the largest protected area you know? Is it Baxter State Park? Yellowstone?
Are you sitting down? Thaidene Nene, a new Canadian national park reserve, is more than 25 times larger than Baxter and more than twice the size of Yellowstone. At more than six million acres, Thaidene Nene is one of the largest land protection actions in recent history.
Thaidene Nene encompasses the vast landscape along the eastern side of one of the world’s largest lakes, Great Slave Lake, in the Northwest Territories. It is a gift from the tiny First Nation community of Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation. Last year, Jeff met Florence, a member of the Łutsël K’é Dene, when she traveled to Maine to visit Hog Island, the National Audubon camp in Bremen. We blogged previously about her visit and her work to make Thaidene Nene a reality.
Thanks to an agreement between Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation and Parks Canada, the Deninu K’ue First Nation, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and the Northwest Territories government, Thaidene Nene will now be protected forever.
Thaidene Nene means, in the Indigenous language, “land of the ancestors,” acknowledging the thousands of years that the Indigenous people of this region survived and thrived on the land as they do now.
Listen to a sound recording from Thaidene Nene: https://soundcloud.com/birdwells/boreal-chickadee-and-other-sounds-from-thaidene-nene-july9-2016s4a01511-041902
The Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation worked for many years with both the Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government to enshrine Thaidene Nene as an interconnected protected area consisting of a national park reserve, a territorial park, and a specially managed wildlife conservation area. The announcement and signing ceremony now makes those designations official, along with the First Nation’s designation under Indigenous law of the area as an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. In an exciting new model, the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation will be managing Thaidene Nene in equal partnership with both the federal and territorial governments.
These newly protected lands support ten million or more breeding birds, most of which migrate south to winter from southern Canada and the U.S. south to southern South America.
Some of those birds migrate through or winter right here in Maine.
Within Thaidene Nene, the shores and cliffs overlooking the East Arm of Great Slave Lake hold the nests of Ospreys, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons. Small islands and lakes throughout the region host nesting Common and Red-throated Loons, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Arctic Terns, and occasional Parasitic Jaegers. The vast landscape of forests, wetlands, shrublands, and peatlands across the millions of acres of Thaidene Nene ring each summer with the songs of breeding Olive-sided Flycatchers, Hermit Thrushes, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Blackpoll Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, Palm Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, Yellow Warblers, Common Redpolls, Rusty Blackbirds, and many more. Thousands of loons, grebes, sandpipers, ducks, geese, and swans flock here each spring and fall, making it an important region for waterbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl.
Listen to another sound recording from Thaidene Nene: https://soundcloud.com/birdwells/lincolns-sparrow-com-redpolls-gulls-thaidene-nene-nwt-s4a01511-20160720-042502
Thanks to the leadership of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, 10 million or more birds will never face the prospect of returning North in the spring from their wintering grounds thousands of miles distant, to find their habitats destroyed or degraded by industrial activities like mining and its spider web of related infrastructure.
Although Thaidene Nene may be physically located 2,000 miles from our state, perhaps you will think of it, with gratitude for this gift from Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, the next time you see one of the many bird species that consider both Thaidene Nene and Maine home.