Phase 1 – What should the management plan focus on?

Update December 30, 2009:

This discussion topic received a lot of interest and many participants left detailed comments.  Several participants supported maintaining water quality as an important priority, including monitoring impacts from developments outside park boundaries. Detailed objectives, targets and actions for water quality issues are outlined in the draft management plan under the Key Strategy: Water for Life. Many comments also referred to the importance of rigorous and comprehensive ecological monitoring, as well as the value in working with other scientists and experts to conduct research in the park. The objectives, targets and actions for scientific work are detailed in Key Strategy: Taking Care of Naha Dehé, as well as in the Area Management Approach for the Expansion Area. Proposed objectives include incorporating both science and traditional knowledge in the protection of the parks ecosystems and improving understanding through cooperative research and partnerships. This topic also generated discussion on increasing park visitation. Parks Canada’s target to increase visitation is designed to build Canadians’ connection and appreciation of Nahanni, while maintaining ecological integrity. Nahanni is not looking at changing the carrying capacity of river use, but is aiming to extend the reach of visitor experience opportunities, particularly through assessing new potential in the expansion area. Proposed actions and targets related to visitor experience are included in the Key Strategy: Naha Dehé, A gift to be Shared and in the Area Management Approaches for Gahnįhthah (Rabbitkettle Area), Naįlįcho (Virginia Falls) and the Expansion Area.

Original question (posted November 24, 2009):

The new plan is intended to define where efforts should be focused over the next five years.  The following are key issues and challenges currently facing the park.  Do you have suggestions, additions or comments?
-Maintaining Water Quality
-Incorporating Traditional Dene Names
-Maintaining and Increasing Visitation
-Infrastructure Supporting the Visitor Experience
-Expanding Outreach Education
-Establishing Monitoring Programs
-Declining Northern Mountain Caribou Populations
-Management direction for the expanded area

This discussion topic is closed. You can still review the discussion but it will no longer accept comments or votes.

Tom N Comment 1

12:56pm, 30 November 2009

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Water quality is important to me.

Moose Comment 1.1

3:38pm, 10 December 2009

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Monitoring is one of the management goals – it relates to water quality but other things as well. Monitoring science doesn’t seem to be getting much attention… and as a scientist I find this lack of detail/interest … scary.

Managers need to use science to guide management decisions. Who is going to do this science? Are Parks Canada personnel being trained and supervised by professional researchers with PhDs? Is this science going to be monitoring that uses testable hypotheses that will generate data that addresses specific management needs? OR… is this going to be simplistic … say… let’s ask a few wardens to go pick some interesting flowers and catch some butterflies and we’ll simply say that these plants and butterflies were found in the park (end of story). If monitoring is going to take place will the public and scientific community have access to the raw data? Will the data be worth collecting? Will research that the park personnel propose to do be subjected to outside review prior to this research going forward?

If water is a management concern… will water data be collected by professional geoscientists … or are we going to place our trust in amateur scientists to collect and interpret the occasional grab sample (as was the case with Stan Koebel at Walkerton)? So far as I can tell, Parks Canada western Region doesn’t have a single geoscientist in its ranks … it has plenty of biologists but not one geoscientist… So, is it any wonder then that Parks is being challenged by critics regarding water management at Lake Louise… etc. In a place such as Nahanni where landforms and geological features are absolutely stunning …. and world class… why is there no professional geoscientist on staff? Why is there not someone who is formally trained in karst hydrology, groundwater, glaciers, lakes, surface hydrology, water quality, ores, mining?

I have done research in the Greater Nahanni watershed and can vouch for the fact that research is really expensive and challenging in this wilderness setting. The Park is very research friendly … staff are very appreciative of the need for research and they do what they can to help researchers. However, I suggest to you that greater attention needs to be given to what sort of scientific facts the Park needs so it can a) properly assess the impact of human activity, b) track and attempt to understand ecosystem changes and c) generate data from a pristine landscape that can be used as a scientific benchmark (e.g., contribute glacier change data to the IPCC, monitor timberline changes, etc.). Science in Nahanni is/should be more than caribou and water quality studies… what are the scientific priorities for the Nahanni management team and how will these priorities be communicated with the scientific community?

Unfortunately, I know that Canada’s best researchers are not Parks Canada employees. We should see some acknowledgement of this fact in the planning document and let’s see the proposed solution that Park managers put forward… Do they want to invite/attract/pay for the sort of research scientists that this region needs? Will they form partnerships with government agencies, universities? Will these be in the form of subsidized research grants/contracts to address specific concerns? How will they do this? The management plan should identify the broad goals, the key steps (short and long term objectives), the budgetary needs, the personnel needs, the logistical needs/challenges… the focus/scope of the monitoring program.

Yes, water quality is important to me… and I want data I can trust.

Doug – Parks Canada Comment 1.1.1

Conservation Biologist

10:45am, 18 December 2009

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Thank you for your comments on the Nahanni planning program – you are obviously very interested in, and knowledgeable about the park. The information provided at this stage of the process outlines the broad topic areas, and not the specifics of the management plan; a draft plan will be made available in the coming weeks, and may address your concerns.


Allow me to assure you that although there may be a “lack of detail” at this stage, there certainly is no lack of interest in monitoring. Of the seven Key Issues identified during the process leading to preparation of the park management plan, three of these are directly focussed on ecological monitoring, including the general issue of Establishing Monitoring Programs, and the more specific areas of Maintaining Water Quality and Declining Caribou Populations. The park vision includes reference to maintaining wilderness, natural processes, and plant & animal communities.


If you would like more detail on monitoring programs in the park, we have recently completed a State of the Park Report for Nahanni (fall 2009), which includes analysis of existing ecological monitoring programs, and assigns condition to these measures based on management or statistical thresholds. The measures are then compiled to provide an overall condition (Red, Yellow or Green for Poor, Fair or Good, respectively) for each indicator (i.e. ecosystem) in the park. Some programs are carried out by Parks Canada staff, some are carried out in cooperation with other agencies such as Environment Canada, and some programs have been carried out by independent researchers in academic or non-government organizations. The suite of monitoring programs is part of an overall Ecological Monitoring and Reporting Plan for Nahanni National Park Reserve. With respect to research projects, all applications for research, whether internal or external in origin, must go through the Parks Canada Research and Collection Permit System, which includes peer review.


You are correct in that we do not have staff specialists in many areas, and that is why our program relies heavily on partnerships. Glacier monitoring, for example, is undertaken in collaboration with the Glaciology group of Natural Resources Canada; we have excellent mapping and assessments of karst topography carried out by Dr. Derek Ford, professor emeritus of McMaster University; our grizzly bear research program was carried out by Dr. John Weaver of the Wildlife Conservation Society, a multi-national non-government research organization. Caribou research is undertaken in cooperation with Yukon and Northwest Territories governments, Aboriginal groups, and non-government organizations. Formalizing agreements with universities to further the amount and quality of research undertaken in the park is an area we also want to pursue.


The water quality and hydrology program in Nahanni was developed in cooperation with Environment Canada, both the Atmospheric and Hydrologic Services Division, and the Water Survey Division. EC staff continue to participate in the collection of samples, and coordinate the analysis and data management for the program. An extensive report on water quality including the past 10 years of data is in the final draft stage; we are awaiting final approval and printing by EC staff on that report, but the analysis has fed into the State of the Park Report mentioned earlier. If you would like a copy of this report, please send an email to and we will provide a pdf copy. In addition to ecological assessments, it also includes sections on cultural resource management, visitor experience, and Aboriginal perspectives, among others.

Moose Comment

12:19pm, 18 December 2009

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Bill Nye used to say… consider the following. With that in mind I’ll throw out the following ideas as food for thought… This is offered as constructive feedback – not as a negative/critical assault against Doug or other people or agencies.

1) Has anyone wondered who exactly sits around a table to set the science/monitoring priorities for this national park/reserve? Does/should the public know the names and scientific credentials of those people? The names of the planning panel for this exercise are known, but not the names of a nahanni science oversight group (if one exists)

2) What is the science/monitoring budget for Nahanni? Is that budget adequate? How will that budget be spent and how much more is needed to address the needs of an expanded park-reserve? Where is this part of the budget amount reported?

3) Is there a need for a national or park specific science advisory board to guide and monitor science in this and other parks/reserves? What has been learned by using this public advisory approach in Banff? Would an ad hoc or a formal Nahanni science board have more teeth and respect than it does in Banff?

4) Is staffing adequate for this park? Is a professional geoscientist position being proposed/funded? If not, why not?

5) We all know there are “issues” related to mining and possible “geo-hazards”… Will a formal mechanism/board be developed to ensure transparency in the discussions that should be ongoing between the public and industries and Park’s Canada?

6) Good science operates on a peer-review process. Detail is all important in science. However, there is a reason why government reports are called “grey literature”. Let’s get rid of the grey literature and while we are at it get rid of the silly red-green characterization that Parks uses to report on environmental health. Where are the raw data and the methodologies reported?

7) Post reports online… don’t ask us to write you and add to your office work when we could easily download pdfs IF they were posted to your web site. Make the park science worth something… test hypotheses… publish the methods, data and interpretations in peer reviewed sources.

8) Post research projects/questions/priority areas to the web so as to encourage/attract research (as is done in Ontario Parks). Ask for scientific input from the global scientific community …. Again, this can be done by an online posting. If this is a world class park … ask the world.

Just a few ideas… perhaps they belong in a different section?

Krista – Parks Canada Comment

Consultation Advisor

2:35pm, 23 December 2009

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Moose, some of your questions and suggestions are quite detailed and may be best explored in detail through one-on-one dialogue. If you would like, please drop us a line via e-mail ( with your contact info and Doug will be in touch in early January.

Jay Frederic Comment 1.2

10:51am, 29 January 2010

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Of course, water quality is of top importance. But one should realize that – as far as I have read – there are only relatively few areas along the South Nahanni corridor where even clean water is not fit to drink, probably due to its high silt contents.

Seen Alot Comment 2

12:36pm, 1 December 2009

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maintaining natural conditions devoid of human impacts as much as possible

rossco Comment 2.1

9:21am, 2 December 2009

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The issue of the Priarie Creek mine site has not been addressed in this forum. Road development into the site could impact the expanded area and water use at the mine must be carefully monitored to insure no downstream impact occurs on the Nahanni itself.

Chuck – Parks Canada Comment 2.1.1

NNPR Superintendent

3:12pm, 8 December 2009

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Parks Canada and Dehcho First Nations are working together with the Canadian Zinc Corporation and through the environmental impact assessment being conducted by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board to ensure no downstream impact occurs on the Nahanni.

The park does conduct water quality monitoring and is looking at enhancing the program as a result of park expansion.

boreal Comment 3

8:13pm, 1 December 2009

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I agree that the listed key issues and challenges are relevant, timely, and important. I recommend that each of them be evaluated through the filter of what approach would be best for the long-term health and sustainability of the park and all of its natural resources and values. I also recommend that the precautionary approach be used. As such, if there is or may be a resource conflict or uncertainty, it should be resolved by giving the benefit of any doubt to resource protection. Often when people intervene to “manage” resources, even with the best of intentions, we learn later that it was a mistake or at least had unanticipated negative consequences. History has generally shown that “nature knows best”, and that the least management is usually the best management – especially when dealing with intact or pristine ecosystems. In addition, there may be some tension between providing for increased visitation and associated infrastructure and protecting park resources and values. I recommend that some conservative thresholds be set to achieve this delicate balance, and that thorough monitoring of impacts and adaptive management occur. In other words, be proactive to make sure that the level of visitation and infrastructure remains sustainable and does not exceed any natural limits. For example, any infrastructure should be consolidated at major access points to limit the developed footprint, minimize habitat fragmentation, and make most efficient use of energy and water resources.

emaltin Comment 4

7:05am, 2 December 2009

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When I see “increased visitation”, I get very concerned. Maintaining water quality, ensuring that the ecological integrity is unimpaired should be taking precedence in management decisions. Increased visitation has caused decline of caribou in the Rockies, and if some of the roads into Maligne Lake and other areas supporting caribou populations had not been built….caribou populations would be in less peril…Nahanni should not expand infrastructure or in any way bring more visitors in places that may affect caribou or other sensitive wildlife species.

Bufflehead Comment 4.1

8:47am, 2 December 2009

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I agree that seeing “increased visitation” makes me very concerned. There are enough Parks in Canada that are overcrowded and the wilderness experience is dampened by large numbers of people on a hike and by people who do not have enough knowledge about no-trace camping.

I think Parks Canada needs to thoroughly explain why it feels the need to increase visitation. People are drawn to the park because of its remoteness, its wildness and because of the opportunities to see wildlife. If we want to be crowded by flocks of people we would go to Banff or Cape Breton. The Nahanni should be preserved first and foremost for its own intrinsic rights, with people coming in a distant second.

Chuck – Parks Canada Comment 4.2

NNPR Superintendent

3:22pm, 8 December 2009

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Parks Canada visitation has declined over the last several years, as have visitors to Nahanni. Visitation to Nahanni peaked in the mid-1990s around 1,200. Visitation to the original park over the last several years has been in the 800-1000 people per year range. Our visitation has not come close to established limits to ensure a wilderness experience; this is reinforced by findings from our visitor surveys and the State of the Park Report 2009. June and September, two great months to visit the park,hardly see any visitors at all.


Diversifying the visitor product, looking at shoulder seasons and the expansion lands, means there is potential to increase visitor numbers. We are not looking at changing our carrying capacity for river use.

Bufflehead Comment 4.2.1

8:31pm, 8 December 2009

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Perhaps visitation has declined because of the astronomical prices. Parks has become a playground for the elite who can afford $14/person/day plus $25-35 to camp in a campground. I think it is ridiculous that there are flush toilets and hot water inside parks – if you don’t like getting dirty, don’t go out in the woods.

Parks Canada is responsible for teaching people the importance of wilderness and conservation, but how can you properly do so when you take the experience of National and Provicial Parks away from te majority of Canadians?

Chuck – Parks Canada Comment 4.3

NNPR Superintendent

4:22pm, 8 December 2009

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Visitor infrastructure is not being considered in areas of important caribou habitat. Decreasing populations of Northern Mountain Caribou is an issue highlighted in the 2009 State of the Park report:


“The decline in numbers is the result of several factors. The expansion of Nahanni may address this issue in part, as more caribou habitat is now protected within the park. Activities outside park boundaries have an impact on declining caribou populations. Positive change can be affected through collaoration with others including the Governments of NWT and Yukon, Aboriginal partners, sport hunting outfitters and industry, through the development of regional management regimes and measure to ensure accountability. Parks Canada and its partners, including Dehcho First Nations, will continue to monitor caribou populations within the park boundaries.”

Jaycee Comment 4.4

6:14am, 14 February 2010

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This comment is extremely important. Sensitive areas where caribou populations exist should be left as is and visitors and infastructure should not be allowed in these critical areas at all.

2canoe2 Comment 5

7:49pm, 2 December 2009

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Increasing Visitation, I can’t support.

The Managment plan could focus on controling visitation.

Maintain the infrastructure is at the top of my list. Keep and maintain what is already there but move slowly on adding more or don’t add any.

Jay Frederic Comment 5.1

11:21am, 29 January 2010

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I think that one of the goals of NNPR must be to provide a fairly good, limited if relatively primitive infrastructure to accommodate visitors – after all it is a park for nature-loving Canadians and other citizens. Due to the river’s challenges to canoeists and backcountry travellers, this in itself will limit the number of would-be visitors, and many of the younger generation will also not easily be able to afford the fly-in cost.

For new would-be visitors, I am sure PC will provide instructive broschures before anyone will go on the daring canoe trip down the river, which will probably cause many of those interested think twice. And I agree that every visitor must be pre-registered well in advance of an intended trip – and must report at various check-in stations.

What alarms me most are those people with money who come to Nahanni country, charter a helicopter for 4 -6 hours, disturbing the entire park’s natural and cultural features, the park’s wildlife, and also disturb the travelling canoeists — and return home the next day with a ‘bounty’ of photos and film footage. Those people surely should not be the target of NNPR’s future promotions.

I believe that the expanded park – especially if the planned Sahtu portion is added – could well absorb up to, say, 1,500 canoeing and hiking visitors in the not much more than 2-months’ season. After all, this together will be the second largest NPR in Canada. Probably, though, the NNPR’s staff will have to be increased as well, which is vital for visitation and good for the area’s employment.


Jane Comment 6

7:16pm, 4 December 2009

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I visited the Nahanni in July and August and saw fewer people there than on other northern rivers. –in 3 weeks we saw less than 10 visitors. I think increased visitation is appropriate but must be within limits that ensure a quality experience –I do not want to spend 10 days paddling and hiking into an area to find that other people flew in –so increase ways for people to explore the area UNDER human power –this will limit the numbers

Bufflehead Comment 7

7:40pm, 4 December 2009

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Better education of no-trace camping and respect for other visitors is needed. Below are 2 examples:

1. We pulled up to a popular campsite and the stench of feces was overpowering. Not 10 feet from where we landed was a large pile of toilet paper and feces underneath a makeshift driftwood seat on the sandy shore.

2. While camping at The Gate, we chose to set up camp away from a larger, more established campsite in case of a larger group (there were only 2 of us). Indeed, a group of 6 in a raft pulled up, set up their kitchen beside our tent, strung their laundry over the entire beach and around our canoe and gear.

Also needed is a proper food cache at Britnell Creek similar to the one at Rabbitkettle or Kraus for those going to the Cirque of Unclimbables. It would also be advantageous to have a food cache at the Cirque – or ensuring people have bear resistant food containers with them.

paulg3 Comment 8

5:50pm, 6 December 2009

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The list of issues looks complete, but I would need to know more to have comments. What is the issue with water quality? With northern mountain caribou?

I’m fine with traditional names.

The general level of infrastructure seemed OK this summer. I would ask about toilets on the river given that everyone travels the same route – is that becoming an issue? Our experience was fine.

Chuck – Parks Canada Comment 8.1

NNPR Superintendent

4:39pm, 8 December 2009

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There is an issue with human waste in areas of concentrated use, such as Nailicho / Virigina Falls.

Likely this plan will introduce the need to assess and employ better technologies and practices for human waste management.

cpawsnwt Comment 9

3:50pm, 14 December 2009

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Water quality is extremely important: as the driver behind expanding NNPR to include (almost) the whole watershed, and because of probable impacts from industrial developments nearby. Parks Canada and others’ strong participation in environmental regulatory processes around proposed developments in the watershed is critical, as is planning for these impacts in the management plan (ie drawing on experts to develop comprehensive monitoring/mitigation plans).

Monitoring programs should definitely include water – quality and quantity. Also, addressing declining mountain caribou populations through inter-jurisdictional monitoring (and management) programs is critical: without knowing what’s happening with wildlife populations, it will be difficult to effectively manage them in the expanded park.

Monitoring programs shouldn’t stop at water and caribou; Parks scientists and other experts should be given the opportunity to develop research priorities based on factors such as the probable impacts of human use, climate change, and industrial development.

Traditional place names and culturally-related outreach programming are also important. Maintaining the focus on both ecological and cultural values should continue to be a priority of the Consensus Team.

Moose Comment 9.1

6:55am, 15 December 2009

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There are several issues at play with respect to water quality in Nahanni. The messy fact of the matter is that a “drainage accident” at a nearby mining operation could result in mining effluent entering the groundwater and/or surface water system. When I was last in the area I saw that tailings ponds at the Tungsten operation were full – this fact was also reporrted in the press. There is also a stream running less than 50 m from that tailings pond and this is a seismically active area (earthquakes). Putting two and two together I reach the conclusion that maybe parks and the NWT government or other branches of government should sit down and figure out what must be done to ensure that a) no “drainage accident” occurs, b) that a secondary berm is erected to ensure that any “drainage accident” is stopped before it does much damage, and/or c) that an emergency plan is developed to quickly stop and mitigate any “drainage accident” befroe it reaches the park.

the there is a mining operation that is upstreahas a tailings pond that is nearly full…. and sits There is the risk associated with

mr.enviro Comment 10

3:50pm, 16 December 2009

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I am concerned about what happens outside of the Park reserve boundaries, as this will influence the integrity of the reserve. ie: mining in an area near a river which flows into the park will impact on the water quality.

logging will impact on areas of the park adjacent to this activity thereby changing wildlife’s passage or cooridors used.

therefore in order to preserve the pristine quality of the park we need to look outside the box and take into account the influences in the adjacent land surrounding the reserve closely to identify factors that will impact on the whole.

RobinR Comment 11

7:08pm, 20 December 2009

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I strongly support the use of traditional Dene names. I find it a bit absurd that Nailicho is more widely known by a name (Virginia Falls) given by an American who wanted to honour his daughter.

Shane Hansen Comment 11.1

9:33am, 23 December 2009

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Water quality obviously isn’t important and always takes a back seat to resource extraction otherwise we would not have everything that makes up our daily lives.The park still has the option of a South Nahanni toxic waste site tour with built in infrastuture they can promote this to increase the visitor experience.They could also create an out reach program to promote and educate people and monitor the site for eternity instead of clean it up. Developement always will happen at major view points/attractions and will never be stopped just like all the parks in Canada. That is why the government wants to at least maintain or increase the visitations to justify the new infrastucture develeopment that is going to happen. It will really not matter what the general public says the South Nahanni will be developed.I have spent 10 seasons guiding hunters in the newly expanded park and there has never been many caribou in the park or expanded area since the late 70′s.Who said the caribou numbers are declining.What does the government want to manage in the expanded area?

Jay Frederic Comment 11.1.1

10:43am, 29 January 2010

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I surely hope that there will be no more hunting allowed in any parts of the NNPR, other than Dene subsistance hunting.

Nahanni Comment 12

3:11pm, 30 December 2009

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Maintaining and Increasing Visitation

Parks Canada should make this a priority for the New Nahanni.

Recreational aids such a trail maps produced by PC foster the imagination of those looking for outdoor recreation opportunities.