Land use planning in the NWT

The Department of Lands supports land use planning to guide decision-making about what activities should take place on public lands in the Northwest Territories. Land use planning allows us to better and more effectively manage our lands and resources. It helps create certainty for if, where, when and how development can take place.

The Land Use Planning Unit within the Land Use and Sustainability Division, Department of Lands, leads the territorial government's participation in the development, approval and periodic review of regional land use plans pursuant to Aboriginal land, resources and self-government agreements in the Northwest Territories.

The Government of the Northwest Territories considers land use planning as an important tool for balancing investment and development opportunities with responsible environmental management, conservation and community aspirations.

Land use plans - an overview

Land use plans define where certain activities can take place and determine the effect of human impacts on the landscape. They are also used to assign special areas of spiritual, ecological or cultural importance for protection, and areas designated for development.  

In addition, land use plans are used to establish regional zones and broad criteria to help evaluate and screen project proposals as part of regulatory permitting processes.

Zoning provisions identify the following:

  • areas that are well suited for industrial development.
  • areas that can support industrial development while respecting specific cultural or ecological values.
  • areas where, for cultural or ecological reasons, development is prohibited.

Land use plans are required in the Gwich'in and Sahtu settlement areas as a result of their comprehensive claims, and the process to complete their land use plans is set out in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act . Typically, land use plans are reviewed and revised (every five years in the case of the Gwich'in, Sahtu, and Tłįchǫ plans).

If you are a developer or a land user who will require permits, licences or other authorizations for land or water use, please refer to the relevant regional land use plan or community conservation plan as early as possible when developing your project plans. Use the following information and links for regional land use planning initiatives in the Northwest Territories as a starting point.

Land use plans by region in the NWT


Inuvialuit Settlement Region (Map)

Status: Non-legally binding community conservation plans in place.

Regional planning organization: N/A

Guiding agreement and legislation:


Gwich'in Settlement Region (Map)

Status: Nành' Geenjit Gwitr'it T'igwaa'in (Working for the Land): the Gwich'in Land Use Plan approved in 2003

Regional planning organization: Gwich'in Land Use Planning Board

Guiding agreement and legislation: 


Sahtu Settlement Region (Map)

Status: Sahtu Land Use Plan approved in 2013.

Regional planning organization: Sahtu Land Use Planning Board

Guiding agreement and legislation:


Tłįchǫ Lands (Map)

Status: Tłı̨chǫ Wenek'e (land use plan on Tłı̨chǫ Lands) approved in 2013.

Regional planning organization: Tłįchǫ ​Goverment - Department of Culture and Lands Protection

Guiding agreement and legislation:


Wek’èezhìi Management Area (Map)

Status: Working collaboratively with the Tłı̨chǫ Government and Canada to examine possible next steps in creating a Wek’èezhìi Area Land Use Plan for public lands.

Regional planning organization: N/A

Guiding agreement and legislation:


Dehcho Planning Region

Status: Draft Interim land use plan completed by the Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee in 2016 and submitted to the Main Table.

Regional planning organization: Dehcho Land Use Planning Committee 

Guiding agreement and legislation:


Regional planning for southeastern NWT 

Status: Working with Aboriginal governments and organizations to build capacity for land use planning in the area.

Regional planning organization: N/A

Guiding agreement and legislation:

  • N/A