Wetlands are among the most important habitats across the North. The value wetlands provide people through ecological goods and services are many and include wildlife habitat, subsistence harvest opportunities, water filtration, water storage, carbon storage, spiritual and cultural needs, and aesthetic values. The importance of wetlands can be seen in the number of protected areas across the North that centre on wetlands (e.g. Old Crow Flats in the Yukon).
Since it is not feasible for all wetlands to be included in protected areas, wetlands are at risk of being negatively impacted by development and the subsequent loss of values affecting local people. A management framework for wetlands is necessary to help guide how proponents design developments and to provide a standard for regulators to assess the performance of a proposed development. While regional land use planning can decrease this risk to wetlands by limiting the amount of development and highlighting the importance of wetlands in the region, further augmentation of the direction provided by regional land use plans is usually necessary. A management framework is even more important in areas that have yet to undergo regional land use planning. Across much of the North, a wetland management framework either does not exist or current regulations and legislation are inadequate at sustaining wetlands in the face of increasing development. We will describe what a wetlands management framework should incorporate as well as the steps required to achieve and implement this directive.