Conservation of Wood Buffalo National Park of ‘significant concern’, local Indigenous communities and environmental organizations say more action is needed

EDMONTON, AB – The ongoing precarious state of Wood Buffalo National Park was internationally recognized today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which stated in a report assessing all of its World Heritage Sites, that its conservation outlook is of “significant concern”. This assessment came only one day after the Government of Canada was due to submit a State of Conservation update report to the UN on the federal government’s implementation of the Wood Buffalo National Park Action Plan to recover the park. The Action Plan was announced nearly two years ago, but Indigenous communities and environmental organizations have consistently expressed concerns about the need for more resources and timely actions to reflect the scope and severity of threats. 

This is why a local group of Indigenous communities and environmental organizations have submitted a letter, in parallel to Canada’s report, detailing our on-the-ground perspective of key steps that we feel have not been fully addressed from the Action Plan, with many actions stalled despite their importance. 

“We share the same concern about the uncertain future of Wood Buffalo National Park as the IUCN,” says Gillian Chow-Fraser of CPAWS Northern Alberta. “An Action Plan is in place, but it does not seem to be a priority for governments, whose actions often undermine the plan.” From unilateral temporary suspensions of environmental monitoring in the oil sands, to the continued construction of hydropower dams, and a long list of approved oil sands projects, Wood Buffalo faces many unmitigated cumulative threats. 

The World Heritage Committee was asked to list Wood Buffalo National Park as a World Heritage Site “in Danger” in 2014. At the last international meeting, the Committee warned that Canada still faces potential for listing, and must provide an update on the status of the park on December 1, 2020. Being listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger would be the first step toward losing its World Heritage Site status altogether. 

“With the international community watching, we cannot afford for Wood Buffalo National Park to continue to fall through the cracks, as it has for so many decades,” says Melody Lepine, Director of Government and Industry Relations with Mikisew Cree First Nation. “A healthy Wood Buffalo National Park is a sign that we are responsibly managing the cumulative impacts on our landscapes, across provincial and territorial borders.” 

Media contacts:

Gillian Chow-Fraser
Boreal Program Manager, CPAWS Northern Alberta
[email protected]

Melody Lepine
Director, Mikisew Cree First Nation
[email protected]

Carolyn Campbell
Conservation Specialist, Alberta Wilderness Association
[email protected] 

Read the full letter to the Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre concerning Wood Buffalo National Park