File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS A bison is shown in Wood Buffalo National Park in a handout photo. Alberta is creating the world’s largest boreal forest preserve with the announcement of a series of new wildland parks in the province’s northeast. The five new or expanded areas adjoin Wood Buffalo National Park and add up to 13,000 square kilometres of forest, wetland, lakes and rivers.

New Alberta parks create world’s largest boreal forest preserve: government

EDMONTON — The Alberta government says it is creating the world’s largest boreal forest preserve with new wildland parks in the province’s northeast.

The five new or expanded areas adjoining Wood Buffalo National Park along the province’s northern boundary will add more than 13,000 square kilometres of forest, wetland, lakes and rivers.

Together, they will make up an uninterrupted zone of protected land more than twice the size of Vancouver Island — 67,000 square kilometres.

“These are beautiful and remote swaths of boreal forest,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said Tuesday. ”They are untouched, in many cases, by human activity.”

Three of the five parks — Kazan, Richardson and Dillon River — were previously proposed under the government’s land-use plan for the Lower Athabasca region. A fourth, Birch Mountains, was previously designated and is being expanded.

The fifth, Birch River, was made possible after Syncrude Canada paid $2.3 million for the area timber rights belonging to the Tallcree First Nation and donated them to the government through a deal with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Syncrude will receive conservation offsets, which means the donation can be counted as compensation for other areas the company has disturbed.

Spokesman Will Gibson said the offsets will be used as part of a mitigation program for the Mildred Lake oilsands mine expansion, although they don’t affect the company’s obligation to reclaim the land.

“The scope of the project really appeals to us,” said Gibson. “Creating the world’s largest boreal conservation area shows what’s achievable when we work together for a common goal.”

Oilsands agreements in the area were cancelled in 2012. The government subsequently spent $45 million to buy back oilsands and mineral leases.

The protected forests are home to bison, woodland caribou, lynx and bear. Millions of songbirds nest in their canopy.

Creating the zone protects nature and biodiversity as well as increases the province’s resilience against climate change, said Phillips. She said it also helps preserve Alberta’s water quality.

“In all those areas, conservation is critically important.”

Wildland parks are intended to protect landscapes and provide opportunities for backcountry recreation. Trails and unserviced campsites are provided in some areas and fishing and hunting is allowed.

Indigenous people will continue to be involved in the parks’ management. Phillips said the province will begin a guardian program, which could put First Nations and Métis people in charge of monitoring, maintenance, education and identification of sacred sites.

It would be similar to what the federal government has been doing in recent parks announcements, but be developed in Alberta, she said.

“It leads into a co-operative management approach to provide joint advice on how to manage those landscapes and to be the boots on the ground.”

Bill Loutitt of Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935 praised the arrangement.

“The government of Alberta’s commitment to work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to develop co-operative management plans provides a historic opportunity to have Indigenous knowledge and values influence land-use planning,” he said in a release.

The boreal forest is the vast band of green that stretches across the northern reaches of most of the provinces and into the northern territories. It is considered one of the last, large intact ecosystems on the planet.

The federal government is working toward protecting at least 17 per cent of the country by 2020.

— Follow @row1960 on Twitter

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Life and death: Mistake sent one family to funeral home, the other to hospital

Doctors told Jody Littlewolf that her daughter was brain dead and should… Continue reading

‘Still beautiful:’ Waterton Lakes National Park prepares for life after fire

WATERTON, Alta. — Parks Canada officials and businesses in Waterton say there… Continue reading

British royal family thanks those who celebrated wedding

LONDON — The royal family, blessed with fantastic weather and a buoyant… Continue reading

Cougar kills 1 mountain biker, injures 2nd near Seattle

NORTH BEND, Wash. — Two friends on a morning mountain bike ride… Continue reading

Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park announces closure

Citing mounting costs, Red Deer’s indoor trampoline park recently announced it was… Continue reading

Red Deer Silhouettes prepare for year-end show

Synchronized swimming team will perform its last show this season May 30

‘Like a warzone:’ People evacuated as fires burn through Manitoba city’s downtown

BRANDON, Man. — Leanne Marlow saw the flames engulf the building across… Continue reading

Canadians celebrate mix of pageantry, modern twists in royal wedding

As the freshly minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex embark on married… Continue reading

Maduro favoured as Venezuelans vote amid crisis

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to win a… Continue reading

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humour

SANTA FE, Texas — Hardworking. Funny. Loving. Grieving family and friends recalled… Continue reading

Record Everest climber returns, already planning next trip

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A veteran Sherpa guide who scaled Mount Everest for… Continue reading

WATCH: First Red Deer Market of the year

Hundreds came out to the first farmers market of 2018 Saturday

Canadian families among throngs of royal fans camping out for glimpse of newlyweds

WINDSOR, United Kingdom — Intense security measures, massive crowds, jet lag and… Continue reading

Swiss stun Canada, Sweden crushes US in ice hockey semis

COPENHAGEN — Switzerland stunned title favourite Canada 3-2 to reach only its… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month