Places We Protect

Northwest Territories


Thelon River in Canada’s Far Northern Territory
Thelon River Thelon River in Canada’s Far Northern Territory © Ami Vitale

Helping First Nation leaders blend cutting-edge conservation science with traditional knowledge to create one of the largest protected areas in the country.

A sparsely populated region of sub-arctic forests and tundra, the Northwest Territories define remoteness. Few places on Earth have fewer people and more wild, uncharted territory.

Home to more than thirty Aboriginal communities that have lived here for thousands of years, the Northwest Territories is exploring ways to sustainably manage increasing demands for energy and minerals harvested from its remote lands and waters.

Through our work in the Northwest Territories we are helping to create one of the largest protected areas in Canada and a precedent-setting model for co-management between First Nations, federal and territorial governments. Thaidene Nene, or “Land of the Ancestors," is a 6.5-million-acre area that sits within the transition zone between Canada’s Boreal Forest and Arctic tundra. It's an extraordinarily rich habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, birds and fish, and some of the world’s last free-ranging herds of barren-ground caribou. The canyons, rivers and waterfalls are also culturally sacred for Lutsel K’e, holding ancient wisdom and providing sustenance in accordance with their traditional practices.

Northwest Territories
The Nature Conservancy and its Canadian affiliate, TNC Canada, works with First Nation leaders in Northwest Territories to blend cutting-edge conservation science with traditional knowledge to create one of the largest protected areas in the country.


Increasing demand for natural resources such as diamonds and uranium is driving new development while modern technologies have improved the ability to mine them from remote locations.


The Nature Conservancy blends cutting-edge conservation science, mapping and planning with Indigenous knowledge passed down through generations in the Northwest Territories.

We find collaborative ways to protect nature, while respecting local communities, and the realities of development.


  • The community of Lustel K’e has been working to establish a protected area in their homeland for more than 40 years. Our Canadian affiliate, Nature United, supports this effort to recognize the Thaidene Nene “Land of the Ancestors” protected area. These negotiations represent a new model for park management and Indigenous-led conservation in Canada.Recently, governments and the Lutsel K'e Dene came to an agreement on proposed boundaries for the protected area. To secure the area’s permanent protection, the Lutsel K’e First Nation is partnering with TNC Canada and others to finalize the national park reserve by spring of 2016.
  • Through the SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) program, Lutsel K’e youth are gaining the knowledge and experience they need to sustainably manage the "Land of the Ancestors." Every summer, young interns document and monitor area wildlife, explore and participate in the maintenance of cultural sites within the proposed park boundaries, and share cultural knowledge by providing interpretive tours for tourists. We also lend conservation expertise and capacity to enrich Ni hat’ni offerings with additional opportunities for local youth to explore the ties between their culture and the environment. These young leaders are the park’s future managers, rangers and tour guides.
  • The Lutsel K’e First Nation is establishing a $30 million trust fund for the community’s investments in park management, operations, staff training and tourism. The Nature Conservancy is supporting fundraising efforts toward this goal.

Support Our Work in the Northwest Territories

The dream of the Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve is a step closer to reality. Your support will help us continue working with Lutsel K’e to protect 6.5 million acres.