CPAWS celebrates Canada’s nearly $60 million commitment to Wood Buffalo National Park
December 22, 2020
EDMONTON, AB – Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, has announced a $59.9 million funding commitment for the implementation of Wood Buffalo National Park’s Action Plan over the next three years. This funding is in addition to a previous federal investment of $27.5 million from 2018 for the park’s Action Plan, which was developed to address serious concerns with the ecological degradation of this World Heritage Site. CPAWS Northern Alberta welcomes this exciting announcement of continued investment in the future of Canada’s largest national park.
The ecological state of Wood Buffalo National Park has been in decline for a long time with many negative impacts linked to a host of upstream industrial activities on the Athabasca and Peace Rivers, which both flow directly into the park. For example, hydroelectric dams on the Peace River affect the quantity and flows of the water that reach Wood Buffalo, altering the park’s ecology on a large scale. Indigenous communities and environmental groups have urged the Canadian government to do more to change the trajectory of the park’s ecological health.
CPAWS Northern Alberta has been vocal about the need for substantial resources and support to address the scope of the threats facing Wood Buffalo National Park.
“We are breathing a small sigh of relief with this funding announcement,” says Gillian Chow-Fraser, Boreal Program Manager. “We are hopeful it is a sign that helping and healing Wood Buffalo National Park will remain a priority for the Government of Canada.”
Wood Buffalo’s Action Plan was developed by the Government of Canada and released in February of 2019. Progress has been made on a few actions, but overall implementation has been slow.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency with the Action Plan and this funding can be used to make sure the rubber is hitting the road,” says Chow-Fraser.
In particular, the funding will be used to strengthen collaboration with Indigenous partners, enhance research, monitoring and management of the Peace-Athabasca Delta using science and Indigenous knowledge, and improve water management mechanisms. The funding should also help make progress towards true co-management of the park with surrounding Indigenous communities, including collaborative decision-making and clear water governance structures.
This significant financial commitment buoys hope that the future for Wood Buffalo National Park is looking up. The CPAWS Northern Alberta team looks forward to seeing the new resources address stalled actions from the Action Plan, including a desperately needed risk assessment for tailings ponds and a plan for mitigating the negative industrial impacts that have been piling up from beyond the park’s borders.
Boreal Program Manager, CPAWS Northern Alberta
A State of Conservation Report will be provided to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in response to their request for an update report on the Action Plan. The World Heritage Committee meets in June/July, 2021, to decide if they will list Wood Buffalo as a World Heritage Site “in Danger” or not.
Read our joint letter to the UN asking for more action to address the concerns facing the park: Conservation of Wood Buffalo National Park of ‘significant concern’, local Indigenous communities and environmental organizations say more action is needed.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the biodiversity within them. Over the last 50+ years, CPAWS has played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory. Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.
CPAWS has chapters in almost every province and territory across Canada, and two chapters here in Alberta – a Southern Alberta chapter located in Calgary and a Northern Alberta chapter located in Edmonton. As a collaborative organization, CPAWS works closely with government of all levels, industry representatives, and communities to manage our impact on a shared landscape. We also advocate for the creation of parks and protected areas for the benefit of both current and future generations of Canadians.