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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Premier of the Northwest Territories Caroline Cochrane in his office in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Dec. 9.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Two Indigenous governments in the Northwest Territories are working to establish a new Indigenous protected and conservation area.

Deninu Kue First Nation and the Fort Resolution Métis Government are planning to protect portions of their traditional territory in the Slave River Delta and Taltson River watershed.

They say the protections are crucial for food security and economic and cultural activities.

The groups have signed a $3.1-million contribution agreement with Environment and Climate Change Canada to establish the new area.

Ducks Unlimited Canada and the NWT chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society are supporting the effort.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau separately announced this week $800-million in funding over seven years for four large Indigenous-led conservation efforts across Canada.

They include protections for boreal forests, rivers and lands across the NWT, spearheaded by 30 Indigenous governments and organizations.

“Fresh water is needed for life. It is vital to our culture, social and ecological well-being of the Dene people living in the N.W.T.,” Deninu Kue First Nation Chief Louis Balsillie said in a statement. “We need to protect these ecosystems.”

“Water is like the blood in our veins, and the land is our body,” said Arthur Beck, president of the Fort Resolution Métis Government. “If you pollute or cut off water, the land will die. Water is the fundamental element of who we are, and we must all work together to protect and conserve it.”

The Indigenous governments said the area is an important habitat for moose, fish, fur-bearing mammals, and ducks and geese.

It’s also a “hot spot for migratory birds” and has extensive spawning areas for fish as well as peatlands and old-growth forests that contribute to carbon storage.

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