Image: Boreal forest valley
Ducks Unlimited Canada
This valley near Fort Good Hope, Canada, is inside the protected areas announced Tuesday.
updated 11/21/2007 4:19:02 PM ET 2007-11-21T21:19:02

Canada will set aside 25.5 million acres of land in the north for use as two new conservation areas, a move aimed at staving off potential oil and other resource exploration in some regions.

The two protected areas in the Northwest territories will be among the largest in Canadian history, said federal Environment Minister John Baird.

The land — which is within Canada's boreal forest and covers as much land as 11 Yellowstone National Parks — is teeming with wildlife like bears, wolves, waterfowl and migratory songbirds.

The East Arm of Great Slave Lake will become a 8.3 million acre national park, while 15 million acres between the park and an existing wildlife refuge will be designated a conservation area managed by native groups.

Further northwest, 3.7 million acres of land near the Mackenzie River will be reserved for a national wildlife area.

Both areas are ecologically sensitive, but have been targeted by some resource companies due to the possibility of oil, gas and uranium deposits.

Baird said the government is "withdrawing massive areas from industrial development to protect some of the most impressive ecological and cultural wonders in the North for generations to come."

Steve Kallick, the Boreal Conservation Director of the Pew Environment Group, commended the government for taking major conservation action to rebalance the effects of global warming.

"This is one of the largest conservation actions in North American history," Kallick said.

"Canada's boreal forest is one of the most important ecosystems on the planet and its been neglected recently by conservationists, and it's been under tremendous pressure from resource development."

Activists describe Canada's boreal forest as the largest intact forest remaining on the planet.

Kallick said the government was careful not to interfere with large industrial projects.

The new conservation areas will not affect a planned pipeline down the MacKenzie River that will deliver gas to the United States. Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips Co., Shell Canada and ExxonMobil Corp. — are partners in the project, along with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, set up to represents First Nations' interests.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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