Tsá Tué Biosphere Reserve



       Region/Province/ or State

Northwest Territories

       Web Address

       Date designated 2016
        Size (hectares)


       Distinguishing Features

encompasses Great Bear Lake, the last large pristine arctic lake, and part of its watershed

       Main Industries (in terms of employment)

fishery, mining, tourism

The only community on Great Bear Lake is the small Dene community of Délı̨nę, located near the mouth of the Great Bear River, which flows out of Great Bear Lake into the Mackenzie River. Délı̨nę has a population of about 600, the great majority of whom are Sahtuto’ine Dene, the “Bear Lake People”. Great Bear Lake and the Great Bear Lake watershed are the homeland of the Sahtuto’ine and part of an intact wilderness forming the foundation of Sahtuto’ine cosmology, history and traditional law, of the transmission of the culture from the elders to the younger generation, and of Délı̨nę’s renewable resource economy.

Délı̨nę is a traditional First Nation community in many ways. As such, Délı̨nę respects its elders and honors its spiritual leaders, especially Louis Ayah (1857-1940), known as Eht’se Ayah.  Ayah was a prophet and among many of his prophecies was the prediction that Great Bear Lake would be the last source of clean water on the planet and the lake would become crowded with boats.

This prophecy, coupled with Délı̨nę’s experience with uranium mining at Port Radium, the pending clean-up of the contaminated sites of Terra Mine and Sawmill Bay, the growing effects of climate change, all resulted in a commitment in the UNESCO nomination document to develop an integrated research and monitoring program for the biosphere.


Why establish a biosphere reserve?

Biosphere reserves have three major functions:

  • contribute to the conservation of ecosystems, species and genetic variation;
  • foster sustainable development; and
  • build local capacity for research, monitoring, education and training activities related to the promotion of conservation and sustainable development.

The designation recognizes, endorses and promotes existing management tools, all of which provide the context for sustainable development in the Délı̨nę region, at the international level. It will not alter or affect them in any way, nor will it impose new obligations on governments. UNESCO does not direct activities within a biosphere reserve but instead encourages others to network with and learn from leading international examples of sustainable development recognized through this designation.

How was Tsá Tué created?

Délı̨nę Got’ınę, the Indigenous people of Délı̨nę, have been advocating for the careful stewardship of Great Bear Lake and its watershed for decades, and have served as Indigenous protectors of the land since time immemorial. The International Biosphere Reserve designation acknowledges key steps taken by the community over the years to ensure the proper management of the watershed using a number of “northern tools,” including:

  • Sahtú Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1993);
  • Great Bear Lake Watershed Management Plan (2005);
  • Sahtú Land Use Plan (2013);
  • Délı̨nę Final Self-Government Agreement (2014).

In the spring of 2013, the community began the nomination process for international biosphere reserve designation, bringing together Elders, advisors, leaders and land-users to develop an application, which was formally submitted in September 2015. The nomination to establish the Tsá Túé International Biosphere Reserve received formal ratification by UNESCO on March 19, 2016 in Lima, Peru. Tsá Tué is now the largest international biosphere reserve in North America and the first in Canada to be located North of 60.

Where is it?

Tsá Túé is located in the Sahtú region of the Northwest Territories of Canada surrounding the Great Bear Lake watershed and the community of Délı̨nę. Délı̨nę, located on the southwest shore of Great Bear Lake, is home to approximately 600 people, 90 per cent of whom are Indigenous. The total area of the Tsá Túé Biosphere Reserve area is approximately 9,331,300 hectares, 2,008,200 hectares of which are in the core protected area. The core area includes the Saoyú-Ɂehdacho National Historic Site of Canada, which links together a network of traditional spiritual sites considered essential to the cultural well-being of the community of Délı̨nę and is managed cooperatively between Délı̨nę Land Corporation, the Délı̨nę Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę (Délı̨nę Renewable Resources Council) and Parks Canada. It also includes Conservation Zones and Special Management Zones established pursuant to the Sahtú Land Use Plan within the Délı̨nę District. Great Bear Lake is 3,200,000 hectares in area, making it the eighth largest lake in the world.


Reference: http://tsatue.ca/about-us/