Canada plans massive expansion of northern park

OTTAWA Tue Jun 9, 2009 7:50pm EDT

1 of 2. People walk on a cliff overlooking Ram Plateau in the Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories in this undated handout photo released June 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Beedell/Parks Canada Agency/Handout

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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada plans to expand one of its most prized parks to more than six times its current size in a move to help protect the habitats of grizzly bears, caribou and other species, the government said on Tuesday.

Ottawa unveiled legislation to increase the size of the Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories to more than 30,000 square km (11,600 square miles) -- an area two-thirds the size of Switzerland -- from the current 4,800 square km.

The South Nahanni River, which runs through the center of the park, is considered to be one of the top paddling rivers in the world. The original reserve was created in 1972 to protect the river from possible hydro-electric development.

The new park will be home to around 500 grizzly bears, two herds of woodland caribou as well as alpine species of sheep and goats. The new boundary includes the highest mountains and largest ice fields in the Northwest Territories.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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