The Dehcho First Nations will sign papers this fall with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to finalize the agreement, which will establish Edéhzhíe as a National Wildlife Area under the Canada Wildlife Act. It has already been designated as a protected area under Dehcho law at the 2018 Annual Dehcho Assembly.
The Edéhzhíe Protected Area of 14,200 km² of boreal forest and wetlands is in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories. Edéhzhíe has great ecological and cultural significance to the communities of Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Behchokǫ̀, Jean Marie River, Whatì and Wrigley.
The Horn Plateau, a prominent landform in Edéhzhíe, contains the source waters of the Willowlake, Horn and Rabbitskin Rivers. Traditional knowledge identifies the Horn Plateau as a place that could be relied upon during times of food scarcity in the Mackenzie Valley. Mills Lake and the lower Horn River areas are important harvesting areas for surrounding communities.
Edéhzhíe hosts numerous cultural sites, trails and harvesting areas, and has traditionally been used for hunting, fishing, trapping and other activities. Mills Lake is a key northern wetland on the Central and Mississippi continental flyways for migratory birds.
Traditional harvesting, such as hunting, fishing and berry picking will not be affected by the new protections in the area. A management plan will determine how non-Indigenous people will be able to use the National Wildlife Area.