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Environment and Conservation
February 5, 2010

Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador Commit
to Creating New National Park Reserve in the Mealy Mountains, Labrador
New National Park Reserve to Protect Important Boreal Forest Landscape

The Honourable Jim Prentice, Canada's Environment Minister and Minister Responsible for Parks Canada, and the Honourable Charlene Johnson, Newfoundland and Labrador's Minister of Environment and Conservation, today announced that they have agreed to take the necessary steps to establish a new national park reserve in the Mealy Mountains area of Labrador. The park reserve will protect roughly 10,700 square kilometres, which will make it the largest national park in eastern Canada. The Provincial Government also announced its intent to establish a waterway provincial park to protect the Eagle River, adjacent to the proposed national park reserve. Together, these areas will protect over 13,000 square kilometres.

"As we enter into the International Year of Biodiversity, we are further buoyed to working to establish a national park reserve to protect this spectacular boreal landscape for all time, for all Canadians," said Minister Prentice. "This part of Labrador is not only of ecological significance, it is also of great cultural importance and we are committed to moving forward in a way that recognizes and respects the traditional connections people have with the land."

"The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is pleased to dedicate an area of Labrador rich in natural and cultural heritage to the people of the province, the country, and indeed the world, to protect these special places for all time," said Minister Johnson. "This initiative demonstrates our understanding of the importance of our ecosystems and our commitment to biodiversity conservation. We are very happy to work toward establishing this national park in our province, and we are most thankful to the steering committee that helped make this a reality."

The boundary for the national park reserve has been established, along with a conceptual boundary for an adjacent waterway provincial park. The ministers accepted the consensus recommendations of the Steering Committee for the National Park Feasibility Study, and signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the next steps the two governments will take to establish the national park reserve, including the negotiation of a federal-provincial land transfer agreement.

Additionally, a waterway provincial park in the Eagle River watershed will encompass some 3,000 square kilometres of wilderness and include almost the entire length of the Eagle River from the headwaters to the sea.

Together, these parks in the Mealy Mountains, when established, will protect a stunning array of boreal ecosystems and wildlife, along with landscapes of great cultural significance.

Consultations with Aboriginal groups will continue throughout the national park reserve establishment process. As recommended by the steering committee for the feasibility study, traditional land use activities by Labradorians will be permitted to continue within the national park reserve, managed to emphasize ecological integrity and conservation measures.

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Media contacts:

Melony O'Neill
Director of Communications
NL Department of Environment and Conservation
709-729-2575, 709-689-0928
Frédéric Baril
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of the Environment
Media Relations
National Corporate Communications Branch
Parks Canada

Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve Values

Located in the East Coast Boreal Natural Region of Parks Canada's national parks system plan, the proposed Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve's roughly 10,700 square kilometres encompasses a stunning array of pristine landscapes, vegetation and wildlife. The proposed national park reserve would protect cultural landscapes of importance to Innu, Inuit, members of the Labrador Métis Nation and other people in the region.

The focal point of the proposed reserve is the Mealy Mountains themselves – the rugged mountains that give the area its name. Their glacially-rounded and bare rock summits, which overlook Lake Melville, reach to 1,100 metres.

Easterly from the mountain tundra of the Mealy Mountains is a dramatic transition to a lush forested landscape, which gently descends toward the coast until it meets the frigid waters of the Labrador Sea. This is a landscape of undisturbed watersheds and pristine wild rivers with breathtaking rapids and waterfalls.

The beautiful White Bear, North and English Rivers include both Atlantic salmon and trout, and their valleys will offer exceptional hiking opportunities to visitors. Where the proposed park reserve fronts the Labrador Sea, an extensive, 50-kilometre stretch of unbroken sandy beaches known as the Wunderstrand can be found. This spectacular beach is recorded in Viking sagas from the time of their voyages of exploration along the Atlantic Coast.

The proposed national park reserve would protect a significant portion of the range of the threatened Mealy Mountains caribou herd, including key habitat along the coast and on offshore islands which are considered essential for the survival of this herd.

Extensive landscapes of boreal forest, which are home to caribou, wolves, black bear, marten and fox, can be found both just north of Sandwich Bay as well as along the south shore of Lake Melville. Toward the south, extensive wetlands provide important habitat for migratory birds such as ducks and geese.

A national park reserve will provide outstanding opportunities for all Canadians to appreciate and enjoy this landscape, including outdoor recreational opportunities such as canoeing, back country camping, mountain trekking and hiking.

Establishing a national park reserve in the Mealy Mountains will protect a representative example of Canada's East Coast Boreal Region, achieving important progress towards the goal of creating a system of national parks that represents the rich diversity of Canada's landscapes. It will also contribute to Newfoundland and Labrador's objective of protecting examples of each of the province's ecoregions.

The Mealy Mountains Feasibility Study Process

The Mealy Mountains National Park Feasibility Study was launched in March 2001 to examine the feasibility of establishing a new national park in the Mealy Mountains area of Labrador.

A steering committee was formed to guide the study and to ensure that a comprehensive, community-based planning process was undertaken. The steering committee first met in April 2002, and included representatives from Parks Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Innu Nation, the Nunatsiavut Government, the Labrador Métis Nation, the Southeastern Aurora Development Corporation, the Central Labrador Economic Development Board, and the Combined Councils of Labrador.

In March 2003, the steering committee held its first round of community meetings in the Lake Melville area where it was met with widespread interest and encouragement in the idea of a national park. The continuation of traditional land uses by Labradorians within a national park began to emerge as the most significant public concern.

In March 2006, a second round of community meetings in the Lake Melville region focussed on discussion of a potential national park boundary and an approach to managing traditional activities by Labradorians within a national park. There was overwhelming community endorsement for both the proposed boundaries, and the suggested approach to managing traditional activities by Labradorians.

After continued deliberations by the steering committee, it reached a consensus in May 2008 that the national park reserve was feasible, and a proposed national park reserve boundary was recommended to ministers. The strength of this recommendation stems from its roots in both the composition of the steering committee and in the co-operation of Aboriginal groups and local communities in the feasibility study. From the very start of the feasibility study, all members of the steering committee remained strongly committed to the need to protect these lands and the peoples' connections to them for future generations.

As there are unresolved Aboriginal claims to the area that the Federal Government has accepted for negotiation, a national park reserve would be established. When the outstanding claims have been settled and agreements reached that provide for the park's establishment, the reserve can move to national park status.

Consultations with Aboriginal groups will continue throughout the establishment process.

Traditional Land Use Within the Proposed Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve

The issue of overwhelming interest and concern raised by Labradorians throughout the feasibility study was that their traditional land use activities should be allowed to continue within the national park reserve without a sunset clause. Such traditional land uses include, among others, the continuing use of personal cabins, boil-ups (lunch and picnic fires), cutting wood for personal use, gathering medicinal and healing herbs, berry picking, fishing, and hunting, trapping and snaring small game.

When the feasibility study was launched by federal and provincial ministers in March 2001, they stated that "The governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador recognize the importance of traditional uses of the land and resources in this area, and are committed to working with the public to find an approach that will result in the establishment of an internationally recognized national park, and the continuation of these traditional uses of the land in the coastal region of a national park by all Labradorians."

The steering committee undertook a review of the traditional land uses of the study area and concluded that traditional land uses by Labradorians should be permitted to continue within the national park reserve in a sustainable manner. A Parks Canada review concluded that it would be possible for certain traditional land uses to continue within the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve.

The steering committee proposed that traditional land uses would be managed within a framework that emphasizes ecological integrity, conservation measures and limits, best practices, monitoring and reporting, as well as eligibility. Traditional land uses would be managed by sound conservation principles that emphasize the fact that they are being carried out in a national park reserve, and that they are continuing as an expression of established practices and the Labrador lifestyle.

These traditional land uses would only be permitted in the traditional use areas, and although the existing footprint would be accepted, no new developments would be permitted within the national park reserve. The management framework would be developed and implemented co-operatively, and would be available for residents of the surrounding communities – Sandwich Bay, Rigolet, North West River, Sheshatshiu, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Mud Lake.

Certainty regarding the continuation of traditional land uses by Aboriginal peoples will be addressed through their respective Land Claim Agreements.

Proposed Eagle River Waterway Park

Located in central Labrador, the proposed waterway provincial park encompasses almost the entire length of the spectacular Eagle River (approximately 140 kilometres long) and a significant portion of its headwaters. The total area of the waterway park will be approximately 3,000 square kilometres. The waterway provincial park will protect a natural and cultural landscape that is important to all Labradorians.

The Eagle River is an important and highly productive waterway for Atlantic salmon and is also well known for its abundant and relatively large brook trout. The proposed waterway provincial park also includes important areas of summer and winter range for the threatened Mealy Mountains woodland caribou herd.

Establishing a national park reserve in the Mealy Mountains and a waterway provincial park along the Eagle River will contribute to Newfoundland and Labrador's objective of protecting examples of each of the province's natural regions. There are a total of 10 ecological regions described for Labrador (Meades 1990). The waterway provincial park will contain examples of two different natural regions or landscapes in Labrador. The Eagle River Plateau region features extensive string bog wetlands interspersed with string hummocks of black spruce and is an important area for waterfowl. The Mid-Boreal Forest region is composed largely of balsam fir, black spruce and white birch forests.

The Eagle River and a portion of its headwaters will be contained primarily within the proposed waterway provincial park with small sections in the national park reserve. This will provide important (although not complete) watershed protection for a river system in Labrador. Currently, there are no river systems in southern Labrador with protected area status.

The Eagle River is well known for its outstanding angling and canoeing opportunities. The waterway provincial park will provide opportunities for all Canadians to appreciate and enjoy this spectacular landscape and support a growing outdoor tourism industry in Labrador.

At over 13,000 square kilometres, the national park reserve and waterway provincial park will form the largest contiguous protected area in the province. When established, these two areas will raise the percentage of land protected in the province from 4.6 per cent to eight per cent.

2010 02 05                     11:25 a.m.

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