One of Our Own: Jess Fortner's Canol Trail Clean Up Experience

News Type: 
Blog Entries

Jess Fortner is the Department of ITI’s Manager of Tourism and Parks in the Sahtu Region.

This season’s second successful cleanup of a portion of the Canol Trail offers a great example of why he loves his job.

“It’s the interesting and diverse workload – and the warm community that works together to get the job done,” Jess says.

The Canol Trail was once the path of a pipeline constructed during World War II by the United States and Canada to supply oil from Norman Wells, NWT to Allied Forces stationed in the Pacific.  After the war, the project was abandoned and many elements were left behind including kilometers of communications wire that poses an entanglement risk for wildlife and a hazard to people. 

With funding from the Government of Canada and the help of the GNWT’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, the Doi T’oh Territorial Park Corporation has been working to cut and consolidated the telephone wire for removal.

Participants in this capacity building program removed 116 km of wire from the Canol Trail in the summer of 2015.  This year an additional 128 kilometers was completed on the toughest and roughest part of the Trail.

“We had a crew of 16 working in the mountains for nine weeks. They performed over 200 helicopter slings, flew over 20 Twin Otter charters, and covered over 144 km of tough and often treacherous terrain on ATVs,” Jess says.  

While it reinforced the worthiness of the project, Jess says it was difficult to witness caribou and moose whose antler racks had been entangled in the wire.

But there were many highlights. “This group of proud, hardworking young people got to visit their ancestral hunting grounds, some for the first time, and had the opportunity to partake in some profound cultural teaching between older and younger workers while in the mountains on the job,” he said.

Increasingly, travellers are looking to the North to visit national parks, enjoy scenery and wildlife and participate in outdoor activities. The Canol Trail, with its added historical significance, has become a popular destination for hikers and adventurers.

Now, with only 96 km of wire remaining for cleanup, Jess estimates it can be completed in one more season.

“None of this would have been possible without everyone working together. If this project has taught me anything it is that we [federal, territorial and local government and small businesses] can cooperate in a spirit of harmony towards a common objective.”