Fort Hills Oilsands Venture Will Destroy An International Treasure

Alberta Wilderness Association
News Release: March 3, 2005

One of the world's most spectacular wetlands will be destroyed
if PetroCanada and UTS Energy Corp. go ahead with their plans
for oilsands development in the Fort Hills Area. AWA strongly
believes that the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex (MLWC)
is a priceless part of Canada's natural heritage and must be

"The proposed destruction of this internationally significant site
is totally unacceptable," says Dr. Richard Thomas, AWA's
representative for the area.

Located 90 km north of Fort McMurray, MLWC includes
McClelland Lake, twelve sinkholes, and a remarkably beautiful
and intricate, ancient patterned fen. The complex is home to
numerous rare plants (including five insectivorous species) and
is an important nesting and migratory stopover site for birds.
The endangered Whooping crane uses MLWC as a rest and
refueling stop.

At present a mere 0.1% (4.13 km2) of the 3,450 km2 oilsands
Surface Mineable Area (SMA) north of Fort McMurray is
protected, but only as a Natural Area. "McClelland Fen will
serve as the lightning rod that focuses world attention on
the ecological holocaust now taking place in the SMA of
northeast Alberta," says Thomas. Given the overall situation,
AWA feels that fully protecting the ecological integrity of
MLWC is crucial.

Under the EUB approved plan developed by TrueNorth Energy,
40% of the fen would be mined and 50% of MLWC would be
directly destroyed. TrueNorth Energy bowed out of the project
in 2003 but now PetroCanada has teamed up with UTS to
develop the site. Oilsands plants are huge consumers of natural
gas and fresh water, massive producers of greenhouse gases,
and postpone the development of sustainable, alternative
energy options. In terms of projected future world oil demands,
the amount of synthetic crude delivered by this project will be
relatively insignificant.

Under the original (1996) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for
the sub-region (which took four years to hammer out), the
McClelland Lake area was placed off-limits to mining. Under
pressure from the Klein cabinet, however, it only took the
Department of Sustainable Resource Development four months
to rush through an amendment to the IRP that permitted
mining to proceed. At the EUB hearing in 2002 some oilsands
executives suggested other companies would be interested
in finding some avenue, such as lease trading, to prevent
destruction of MLWC.

AWA wants the 164 km2 site to be given protection as a
provincial park, with the patterned fen (at its core) being
designated as an ecological reserve. "Protecting the
McClelland Lake Wetland Complex can be Alberta's 100th
birthday gift to the world," says Thomas. "This wonderful
place richly deserves World Heritage Site status.
AWA will continue to fight hard for its complete protection."

For further information, contact:
Dr. Richard Thomas, (780) 425-4310
Photos of MLWC are available at
or contact AWA (403) 283-2025, [email protected]