Natural Resources in the Territories

The natural resources of Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut include wildlife, freshwater, minerals, oil and gas. Yukon and the Northwest territories also have vast forests.

Mackenzie River at Fort Good Hope
Aerial view of Mackenzie River.

Canada’s three territories cover almost 40 per cent of the country. Due to their subarctic and arctic climates and short summers, they have limited plant growth in many areas. The eastern parts contain tundra with permafrost. Some of the mountains in the North are permanently covered in ice. South of the treeline, particularly in Yukon and the Mackenzie River basin, grow vast, rich forests. Territorial parks and national parks conserve large forest areas.

Did you know?
In 2020, the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation won the Equator Prize from the United Nations for its decades of work creating the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve. The prize honours innovation in conservation and sustainable development led by Indigenous and local communities. Thaidene Nëné is a protected area of boreal forest, tundra and freshwater in the Northwest Territories. It covers more than 26,000 km2 around the east arm of Great Slave Lake. Created in 2019, the park reserve is co-managed by the Łutsël K’é Dene, the territorial government and Parks Canada. First Nations and Métis retain the right to hunt and fish on this land. Part of their traditional territory, it contains sacred places. (See also Dene.)

The territories support large populations of wildlife that are important sources of food and fur for local people, including Inuit and First Nation communities (see also  Country Food).

The unique environments of the territories also offer opportunities for recreation and valuable scientific research.

Igloolikmiut Hunters
The hunters make the trip to the small island of Qaisuut, about a half-day’s boat ride from town.

Much of the North’s mineral deposits (especially those containing gold and uranium) have been developed. Its geology suggests significant potential for exploitation of oil, gas and glacier-sourced freshwater.