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Tłı̨chǫ Government signs deal to plant one million trees

An air tanker flies over an area of forest threatened by a wildfire near Behchokǫ̀ on August 2, 2023. Photo: GNWT
An air tanker flies over an area of forest threatened by a wildfire near Behchokǫ̀ on August 2, 2023. Photo: GNWT

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A million trees will be planted on Tłı̨chǫ land over the next three years in a deal with a tree-planting company and a national non-profit.

Announcing the agreement on its website on Thursday, the Tłı̨chǫ Government said “the most ambitious reforestation project ever undertaken in the Northwest Territories” would create “significant” local work.

The deal “aims to restore vital boreal caribou habitat in the region and is an active response by the Tłı̨chǫ Government to the unprecedented forest fires this summer,” Thursday’s news release stated.

“The project represents a significant opportunity to combat climate change and support ecosystem restoration and economic development through green jobs.”

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According to the Tłı̨chǫ Government, work with non-profit Trees Canada and British Columbia-based Let’s Plant Trees Ltd will begin this fall, harvesting cones from local trees.

“The cones will be processed to extract their seeds, and the seeds will be grown into saplings over the next 18 months before being planted in the summers of 2025 and 2026,” the Tłı̨chǫ Government stated.

A budget for the project was not given. In June, the federal government said it would give the Tłı̨chǫ Government $150,000 for “regional reforestation projects.”

Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty was quoted as saying the work will “foster the healing of the land after devastating wildfires.”

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Tree Canada said it would “engage our network of committed partners to ensure stable funding and support for planting these one million trees over the next three years.”

David Tonken, of Let’s Plant Trees Ltd, was quoted as saying: “Over the next many years, we expect to develop proprietary expertise that the Tłı̨chǫ will be able to share with others whose land is similarly impacted by climate change.”

The Tłı̨chǫ Government said the work will be “guided to a large extent by Tłı̨chǫ Traditional Knowledge and is supported by Western science.”

“Following the devastating forest fires this summer, Firesmart planting will be a significant component of the project and help protect communities well into the future,” Thursday’s news release added.

Two Tłı̨chǫ communities, Behchokǫ̀ and Wekweètì, had to be evacuated this summer as wildfires drew near. Several homes in Behchokǫ̀ were destroyed and a large area of surrounding forest burned.