File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS An aerial view of Fort Chipewyan on the border of Wood Buffalo National Park is shown. Ottawa submitted a 96-page action plan to save the Wood Buffalo National Park to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization Friday to stave off having the park designated as “in danger” due to poor management practices.

More staff, artificial flooding among plans to save Wood Buffalo National Park

OTTAWA — The federal government intends to save the international heritage status of Canada’s largest national park by increasing staffing, better monitoring oil-sands tailings and artificially recreating spring flooding to rejuvenate the park’s waterways.

Ottawa submitted a 96-page action plan to save the Wood Buffalo National Park to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization Friday to stave off having the park designated as “in danger” due to poor management practices.

UNESCO warned Canada in 2017 that the park was in a bad state after receiving a complaint from the Mikisew Cree First Nation two years earlier.

Canada had until Friday to submit its response plan, which UNESCO will consider at its July meeting before deciding whether the park continues is marked as “in danger.” That could lead to it being delisted as a world heritage site altogether.

World-heritage status designates important cultural and natural locations around the world as being in need of proper conservation. There are more than 1,000 such sites worldwide, about 50 of which are currently listed as “in danger.”

Wood Buffalo National Park covers 45,000 square kilometres of forests, wetlands and grasslands that straddle the border of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. The park is home to the largest free-roaming wood-bison herd, the last breeding ground for whooping cranes and one of the largest inland river deltas in the world.

The Mikisew Cree say climate change, hydro dams and the oil sands are having catastrophic effects on the ecosystem in Wood Buffalo National Park, which received world-heritage status in 1983.

Mikisew spokeswoman Melody Lepine says the action plan as written is well-designed and if it is actually implemented it could help restore the ecosystem to its previous health.

The question mark, she said, is whether the government will put the resources in to implement it.

Last year’s federal budget included a $1.3-billion, five-year investment in national parks; $27.5 million of that has been earmarked for Wood Buffalo.

Lepine says she doesn’t know what the right amount of money is, but that $27.5 million doesn’t come anywhere close to what is needed.

“Just recently, I think, the government committed $250 million to protecting killer whales on the coast,” she said. “Our region is rich in resources and yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot of resources from the federal government to protect the Wood Buffalo National Park.”

Officials with Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada said Friday there are other sources of money that can go towards the park’s restoration, including a $50-million oil sands monitoring fund.

The impact of the oil sands located upstream of the park — and particularly the tailings left over once the bitumen is mined — has been one of the significant hurts to the park, research has shown.

Lepine is also concerned there are no hard timelines for accomplishing the items in the action plan.

Parks Canada has committed to a progress report in 2021, but officials say several items are already in motion and there is a commitment to implementation in Ottawa and among the provincial and territorial governments involved.

Alberta, for example, is working on establishing additional provincially protected areas around the national park’s borders. Work to collect relevant data on water flows through the park is also well underway, the officials said.

The action plan also includes conservation strategies for the bison herds and whooping cranes, and a requirement that environmental assessments of any future developments include possible impacts on the park.

Just Posted

Woman killed in collision west of Rocky Mountain House

A 42-year-old woman is dead after a two-vehicle collision in Clearwater County… Continue reading

Rough camper “tree house” found hidden in Red Deer woods

“This took a bit of work,” says man who discovered it

Central Alberta has one less peacekeeper with death of Nobel Prize-winning vet

The late Wayne Coubrough and Wayne Bevis helped diffuse tensions in the Middle East

TC Energy applauds Nebraska court victory over opponents of Keystone XL pipeline

CALGARY — One of the last major hurdles for the Keystone XL… Continue reading

Tribunal rules Edmonton pharmacist harmed integrity of profession

EDMONTON — An Edmonton pharmacist has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct… Continue reading

WATCH: Trailer stolen from Red Deer deli

A Red Deer business has contacted police after a trailer was stolen… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Thursday The Red Deer and District Garden Club hosts its annual Flower… Continue reading

Alberta loses extra-innings thriller at men’s baseball nationals

Alberta came up just short in their second game at the Baseball… Continue reading

G7 leaders should step up own climate plans to help the Amazon, Greenpeace says

OTTAWA — Some Canadian environment groups are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau… Continue reading

Third-party buys billboard to promote Bernier’s anti-mass immigration stance

OTTAWA — Billboards with Maxime Bernier’s face and a slogan advocating against… Continue reading

Ottawa ready to pass law forcing CN to restore rusting Quebec Bridge

Ottawa says its ready to take ownership of the aging Quebec Bridge… Continue reading

TC Energy applauds Nebraska court victory over opponents of Keystone XL pipeline

CALGARY — One of the last major hurdles for the Keystone XL… Continue reading

‘Our bigger enemy’: Trump escalates attack on Fed chief

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump launched a furious and highly personal attack… Continue reading

Ontario shipyard accuses feds of unfairly stacking deck in Davie’s favour

OTTAWA — An Ontario shipyard is accusing the federal government of trying… Continue reading

Most Read