Handshake Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna and Łutsël K'e Dene First Nation Chief Darryl Marlowe celebrate after signing agreements to establish Thaidene Nëné. © Pat Kane

Northwest Territories

Thaidene Nëné: History in the Making

In 2019, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation established one of Canada's largest protected areas—but the work didn't stop there.

For more than 10 years, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation has worked in partnership with Nature United and our global affiliate The Nature Conservancy to advance the Nation’s vision for their traditional homeland in the Northwest Territories: a 6.5 million-acre protected area called Thaidene Nëné.

In 2019, Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation signed Establishment Agreements with Parks Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories that marked a historic milestone for Thaidene Nëné. 

Celebrating Thaidene Nëné On August 21, 2019, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation signed Establishment Agreements with Parks Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories that mark a historic milestone for Thaidene Nëné.

Today, Łutsël K’é leads stewardship of this landscape, showing the world that the only path toward long-term conservation outcomes is the increased rights and authority of Indigenous peoples.

Together with the adjacent Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve and Territorial Protected Area and Wildlife Conservation Area protects an ecological system that spans more than 18 million acres—one of the largest terrestrial protected-area zones in North America.    

Global Scale

 A sweeping landscape of sub-arctic forests and tundra located in the Northwest Territories, Thaidene Nëné provides vital habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, birds, fish and some of the last free-ranging herds of barren-ground caribou.

Map showing the boundaries of Thaidene Nëné, a new national park in Canada
Thaidene Nëné Our decade-long partnership with the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation has included providing technical support to help map ecological and cultural values that informed the protected-area boundaries. © TNC

Thaidene Nëné is an intact ecosystem where development has not yet created roads, structures and activity that forever alter the intrinsic rhythm of nature. It features some of the cleanest freshwater in the world and is part of Canada’s carbon-rich boreal forest, which stretches 1.3 billion acres across the northern rim of North America.

It is a critical source of subsistence and cultural value for the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation. Thaidene Nëné is home to culturally significant places like the Lady of the Falls, where people of the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation go for healing and to pray. 

This unique combination of ecological and cultural integrity exist in Thaidene Nëné making it a globally-significant landscape.


Thaidene Nëné is the heart of the homeland and sacred place of the Łutsël K’é Denesoline, who rely on its lands and waters for their livelihoods and well-being. Thanks to a precedent-setting approach, Thaidene Nëné will be co-governed by the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation, federal, and provincial governments. 

The protected area is not just about conservation—it is also about promoting a viable economic future for  Łutsël K’é. Thaidene Nëné  will also foster sustainable economic growth by creating new stewardship jobs and encouraging eco-tourism to the region.

As part of our commitment to Indigenous leadership and investing in community-led youth initiatives, Nature United is proud to support the Ni Hat’Ni Dene Rangers —  Łutsël K’é's Indigenous guardian program. This program monitors ecological values, maintains cultural sites, communicates with tourists, transmits knowledge to younger generations, and more. 

In 2020, the Ni Hat’Ni Dene Rangers successfully completed a caribou monitoring season on the land, in conjunction with the release of the Caribou Stewardship Monitoring Plan (Yúnethé Xá Ɂetthën Hádi)—a community-led vision for the respectful management of this cultural keystone species.

Łutsël K’é' has been working to make Thaidene Nëné a reality for more than 50 years. Nature United, together with our global affiliate, have been a long-time partner in advancing the Łutsël K’é vision for their traditional territories. 

Our Role

Nature United and its global affiliate The Nature Conservancy have been long-time partners in advancing Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation's vision for their traditional territories, including raising $15 million to help establish the Thaidene Nëné Trust to support a precedent-setting model of Indigenous co-governance.

TDN Fund
© Nature United

How the TDN Fund Works

Just as the land is protected within Thaidene Nëné, the TDN Fund provides long-term protection for the initial $30M investment and any additional investments. Download an Infographic

× TDN Fund

This innovative model will provide long-term sustainable funding and will guarantee that the Łutsël K’é community has the resources to hire rangers, manage concessions and park activities and ensure the area is maintained for its ecological and cultural values.

By providing support for the Łutsël K’é community to map cultural and ecologically significant areas, Nature United helped  inform the boundaries of Thaidene Nëné.

Nature United has a deep commitment to supporting the leadership and authority of Indigenous peoples across Canada. In places like Thaidene Nëné and the Great Bear Rainforest, we work to advance sustainable economic development while protecting globally significant ecosystems.