Government of Canada, Indigenous Groups and Partners Finalize Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site

News release

Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre


February 1, 2019                              Ottawa, Ontario                     Parks Canada Agency

The Government of Canada is working with Canadians to ensure the ongoing protection of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.

Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, announced that the Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site has been completed and submitted to the World Heritage Centre.

The Government of Canada is taking more than 140 actions with partners through its Action Plan, responding to all the recommendations of the World Heritage Centre. The actions include:

·  building stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples by enhancing the cooperative management of Wood Buffalo National Park;

·  evaluating protection opportunities outside the park boundaries to preserve ecosystems within and beyond the national park ;

·  increasing monitoring of ecosystems and biodiversity in the Peace Athabasca Delta by creating an accessible information hub of scientific and Indigenous knowledge ; and,

·  establishing a committee of federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous representatives to study and report on water management in the Peace Athabasca Delta system.

To protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site, the Government of Canada developed an Action Plan with Indigenous peoples, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

By working together to preserve Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site, we can secure its future for generations to come.

Key themes within the Action Plan and selected specific actions include: 

Strengthening Partnerships with Indigenous peoples

·  Investment in Wood Buffalo National Park to strengthen collaboration with its Indigenous partners through cooperative management.

·  Increase scientific capacity in Wood Buffalo National Park, including aquatic science, bison management, and environmental impact analysis.

·  Increase opportunities for Indigenous peoples in Wood Buffalo National Park through employment and procurement processes.

Environmental Assessment

·  Amendment of the Joint Review Panel Agreement for the Frontier project in 2017 to mandate the Panel to consider and report on the potential environmental and cumulative effects of the project on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Wood Buffalo National Park, including the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Completed evaluation of potential effects on the OUV of the park is being considered by the Joint Review Panel in its assessment of the project.

·  Commitment to ensure that all current and future environmental assessment reviews conducted pursuant to federal legislation consider the specific and cumulative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park.

Conservation Connectivity

·  Recent formal establishment of Wildland Provincial Parks on the east and southern sides of Wood Buffalo National Park as part of the Lower Athabasca Land Use Plan.

·  Actions to advance establishment of the proposed Biodiversity Stewardship Area on the southern boundary of park that will provide increased protection to Wood Buffalo National Park and elements of its Outstanding Universal Value.

·  Actions to develop a needs assessment for an ecological functional network of protected areas, and consider options for effective buffer zones.


Tailings Ponds Risk Assessment

·  Commitment to a systematic tailings risk assessment by collaborating with Indigenous peoples and industry to develop a landscape model  considering tailings reclamation, hydrology, withdrawals, climate change, seepage, and cumulative effects.

·  Ongoing work being undertaken by the Province of Alberta to support tailings ponds management. 

Environmental Flows and Hydrology

·  Establishment of a Federal-Provincial-Territorial-Indigenous committee to provide recommendations to governments on hydrology and water management. 

·  Enhanced modelling of flows on the Peace, Athabasca and Slave Rivers, including identification of areas and conditions where changes to water quantity can support outcomes for ecological and hydrological integrity and the exercise of Aboriginal and treaty rights.

·  Enhancement of monitoring indicators of water quantity for Wood Buffalo National Park and the Peace Athabasca Delta to support an adaptive management approach.

·  Actions that could enhance spring flooding in the Peace Athabasca Delta and actions to identify strategic short and long-term water management control structures.

·  Development of an environmental flows assessment models to improve understanding of localized effects of past, on-going, and projected climate changes to inform future management options.

·  Establishment of a knowledge-hub to make the Peace Athabasca Delta information and data from both science and Indigenous knowledge sources more easily accessible.  

Monitoring and Science

·  Commitment to develop an integrated monitoring program for the Peace Athabasca Delta building on existing programs, including leveraging opportunities under the jointly led Canada – Alberta Oil Sands Monitoring Program.

·  Creation of a knowledge-hub to support improved dissemination and communication of science and monitoring of the health of the Peace Athabasca Delta.   

Wildlife Habitat Conservation

Actions focused on Wood Bison and Whooping Crane (which are elements of Wood Buffalo National Park Outstanding Universal Value) will be implemented under the respective Species at Risk Recovery Strategies.

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Quotes

"Thanks to the hard work and commitment of governments and Indigenous peoples, Canada has submitted its Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site. This is an important step to ensure that this unique place will be protected for future generations. Our government’s commitment is real and through collective action with our provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, we will secure the future of Wood Buffalo."

The Honourable Catherine McKenna,
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

Quick facts

  • Canada will be receiving the World Heritage Committee’s response to the Action Plan during the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan from June 30 to July 10, 2019.

  • Through Budget 2018, the Government of Canada advanced this collective effort to protect Wood Buffalo National Park by investing $27.5 million to support the development of the Action Plan and its early implementation, so that this World Heritage Site will always be a treasured place with Outstanding Universal Value.

  • In July 2017, the World Heritage Committee requested that Canada take steps to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site. The Government of Canada welcomed the World Heritage Committee’s recommendations as an important call to action.

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Associated links

Contacts

Sabrina Kim
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-938-9413
sabrina.kim2@canada.ca

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency
855-862-1812
pc.medias-media.pc@canada.ca

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