Actions to Ensure the Protection of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site
In July 2015, the World Heritage Committee issued a decision requesting that Canada invite a World Heritage Centre (WHC)/International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Reactive Monitoring Mission to Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site to evaluate its state of conservation. The Committee also requested that Canada undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to assess the potential cumulative impacts of all developments on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including hydroelectric dams, oil sands development, and mining.
Canada welcomed the Reactive Monitoring Mission and worked closely with the WHC, the IUCN, and Indigenous partners to plan the visit. The mission occurred between September 26 and October 4, 2016 in which representatives of the WHC and the IUCN met with federal, provincial and territorial governments; Indigenous communities; industry; and environmental non-government organizations.
The World Heritage Committee adopted a decision at the July 2017 Committee meeting requesting that Canada submit to the World Heritage Centre, by February 1, 2018, a report on the progress achieved with its implementation of the 2016 Reactive Monitoring Mission recommendations, and to submit by December 1, 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and an action plan to address the challenges to Wood Buffalo National Park. The material will be considered by the Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.
Working with partners and stakeholders, including Indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada is taking action to respond to the World Heritage Committee’s recommendations. We are confident that through this collaboration we can create a path forward and secure the future of Wood Buffalo National Park, so that it remains a treasured place with Outstanding Universal Value for generations to come.
Actions taken to date and currently underway include the following:
Strategic Environmental Assessment
In December 2016, Parks Canada contracted Independent Environmental Consultants (IEC) to undertake the Strategic Environmental Assessment requested by the World Heritage Committee.
In August 2017, the Strategic Environmental Assessment Draft Scoping Report was shared with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous partners, industry groups, and conservation organizations. It was also made available for public comment.
In June 2017, The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site was completed in fulfilment of the World Heritage Committee request to undertake such an assessment. The SEA identifies potential cumulative impacts to the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
In late 2017, a Federal-Provincial–Territorial Coordinating Committee was established to coordinate jurisdictional collaboration in the development of the action plan for Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
Indigenous communities which partner regularly with Wood Buffalo National Park are engaged in the development of the action plan, and also in related processes led by the provinces. The action plan is being developed through a range of processes on specific thematic areas led by relevant jurisdictional authorities.
The Government of Canada’s Budget 2018 proposes historic investments to protect Canada’s nature, parks, and wild spaces. Included in these investments in Canada’s Natural Legacy is a commitment to invest in the action plan that is being developed for Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.
Work on the action plan is well underway and the draft is anticipated to be completed by fall 2018 with the ongoing collaboration and input from partners and stakeholders.
Formal consultation on the Action plan will occur in late fall 2018, including through a public comment period with a final draft plan completed for approval in late fall 2018. The final action plan is scheduled to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by December 1, 2018.
In August 2017, together with the Alberta Energy Regulator, Canada announced an amendment to the Joint Review Panel Agreement for the proposed Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project. The amendment mandates the independent Joint Review Panel to specifically consider and report on the potential environmental and cumulative effects of the project on the Outstanding Universal Value of the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site, including the Peace Athabasca Delta (PAD). The amendment was developed in consultation with Indigenous communities.
The Joint Review Panel established to review the proposed Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project and conduct the assessment of the potential environmental effects of the project has determined that the proponent, Teck Resources Limited, has provided sufficient information for the Panel to hold a public hearing for the project in September 2018. Hearing dates and locations have not been determined.
In December of 2017, the Ministers of Alberta Environment and Parks and Environment and Climate Change Canada, signed a Memorandum of Understanding that renews each Government’s commitment to monitoring of oil sands development, including environmental monitoring within the Peace-Athabasca Delta region of WBNP. The agreement also recognized and affirmed treaty and Aboriginal rights of Indigenous people as per Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Under this agreement, Environment and Climate Change Canada will invest up to $2 million annually to assist local Indigenous communities – including some of those whose traditional territory includes Wood Buffalo National Park – to develop and implement community-based environmental monitoring projects.
Parks Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Alberta and Indigenous communities, among others, all conduct on-going science and monitoring work in the Peace-Athabasca Delta.
In February 2018, the Government of Canada proposed changes to environmental and regulatory processes, including project proposals that may have an impact on national parks. The changes will ensure decisions are informed by consultation with, and input from, Indigenous peoples and the public.
Currently, Environment and Climate Change Canada is convening a new multi-jurisdictional process to address the recommendations related to environmental flows and hydrology. Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada are working with technical advisors from government and Indigenous partners to develop the action plan content for this theme.
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