Largest protection of boreal forest in the world grows even bigger through Indigenous leadership
February 2, 2022
ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᐊᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton), AB – The designation of an expansion of the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Park in northern Alberta has been finalized by the Government of Alberta. The expansion includes almost 152,000 hectares of newly protected boreal forest, wetlands, and critical habitat for at-risk woodland caribou and wood bison. CPAWS Northern Alberta celebrates the leadership of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in identifying this area for conservation and working collaboratively with industry and the provincial government to achieve this protection. The Mikisew Cree First Nation have been working since 2016 to secure support for Kitaskino.
The size of the park now totals just over 314,000 hectares. The park expansion, which went through public consultation during February-March of last year, contributes to the largest connected collection of protected areas in the boreal forest in the world.
“This park, and its growing size, is a reflection of the dedication and leadership of Indigenous communities in conservation,” says Kecia Kerr, Executive Director with CPAWS Northern Alberta. “This collaborative approach to conservation helped companies voluntarily give up their leases to make this permanent protection happen.”
In the initial public consultation on the proposed expansion last year, there was a noticeable hole in the westward expansion belonging to Burgess Canadian Resources, an oil sands leaseholder. After the initial release of the expansion plan, the company voluntarily relinquished their leases to protect this area.
“The rubber will hit the road when the cooperative management plans for the park are implemented,” hints Gillian Chow-Fraser, Boreal Program Manager with CPAWS Northern Alberta. “We look forward to true co-management of the area with shared governance between the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the province.”
Kitaskino joins a collection of other parks that surround Wood Buffalo’s borders, which will provide much needed extra protections for this endangered national park. The ecological health of Wood Buffalo National Park is of international concern, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site status currently under the microscope. Creating a buffer around its borders is one of the key actions outlined in Canada’s Action Plan to reverse the trajectory of the Park’s environmental state.
“Kitaskino Nuwenëné” is Cree and Dene for “our land” and reflects the intention of this protected area to safeguard Indigenous Peoples’ way of life. It was established in 2019.
Map: Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland area in bright green, hatched green area is the expansion area for the park, Wood Buffalo National park in grey. Map from Alberta Environment and Parks.
- Mikisew Cree First Nation history on protection of this area
- Park expansion in northeast Alberta adds almost 150,000 hectares of habitat protection for woodland caribou and wood bison (2021)
- CPAWS elated with the establishment of Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park (2019)