Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve
|Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve|
|Location||Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador
|Nearest city||Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador|
|Area||10,500 km2 (4,054 sq mi)|
|Governing body||Parks Canada|
Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve is a proposed national park in Canada, located in the Labrador region of Newfoundland and Labrador. It will cover an area of approximately 10,500 square kilometres (4,054 sq mi). Along with the Mealy Mountains, the park will protect a large portion of boreal forest, tundra and 50 kilometres of shoreline on the Labrador Sea. Once established, it will be the largest national park in Atlantic Canada. It is inhabited by a variety of wildlife, including the threatened Mealy Mountains woodland caribou herd. An agreement with the native peoples of the area, including the Inuit, Innu and NunatuKavut (formerly LabradorMétis, will allow them to continue to hunt, trap and fish in the protected area.
Parks Canada, the governing and administration body for the system, has developed a national systems plan identifying 39 different natural regions it aims to represent. In 2001, Parks Canada began conducting a feasibility study regarding whether a new park should be established in Labrador, which would represent the east coast boreal forest. A Steering Committee was formed, and they held a series of meetings near Lake Melville. One of the concerns brought up by the area residents was regarding the "traditional land uses by Labradorians," which include "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."
In May 2008, the committee concluded that a park was feasible. The park will start as a reserve due to land claims negotiations with native peoples in the area. A National Park Reserve is an area that has been set aside with the intention of becoming a national park, pending the settlement of native land claims. Until then, they are managed as national parks under the National Parks Act.
The park was announced on February 5, 2010 by then Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. At the same time, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that a proposed Provincial Waterway Park would also be created. It will be adjacent to Mealy Mountains and will protect the Eagle River watershed. Together, the two parks will protect approximately 13,000 square kilometres (5,019 sq mi). The park will be unique because it will allow for traditional Aboriginal activities not permitted in most other parks, such as hunting, trapping, fishing and cutting wood for personal use. However, further development of the land and mining will not be allowed. Larry Innes of The Canadian Boreal Initiative, who was part of the steering committee, said that "It’s a change in policy which really fits the context here. The big breakthrough here is that not only are they creating the largest protected area in Eastern North America. They’re doing so in a way that fits the uses that local people have put to the place."
Alex MacDonald of the conservation group Nature Canada said they had been lobbying for the establishment of the park. MacDonald said, "Protecting an area this large will maintain vast amounts of habitat — river habitats, aquatic ecosystems, the tundra habitat as well as boreal forest areas."
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