Park expansion in northeast Alberta adds almost 150,000 hectares of habitat protection for woodland caribou and wood bison

EDMONTON, AB – A significant expansion to the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Park, first established in 2019, was announced by the Government of Alberta. The proposed expansion has been tirelessly pursued by the Mikisew Cree First Nation, who have strong cultural ties to the area and the animals that depend on it. “Kitaskino Nuwenëné” is Cree and Dene for “our land” and reflects the intention of this protected area to safeguard Indigenous Peoples’ way of life.

CPAWS Northern Alberta applauds the Mikisew Cree First Nation’s dedication to moving forward this substantial addition to the park–adding nearly 150,000 hectares to the west of its existing borders. “It is a strong example of Indigenous-led conservation in Alberta,” says Dr. Kecia Kerr, Executive Director. “The Nation worked collaboratively with the government and industry players to figure out the best way to conserve the natural and cultural value of this area.” These discussions resulted in strong industry leadership from many companies that voluntarily surrendered their leases to protect this area.

The conservation benefits of Kitaskino Nuwenëné are not to be understated. It adds to the world’s largest contiguous piece of protected boreal forest, and ensures protection of critical habitat for many species at risk.

“The proposed expansion will contribute to protection of the Peace-Athabasca watershed, which sustains life for the entire region,” says Gillian Chow-Fraser, Boreal Program Manager. “And it protects critical habitat for imperiled woodland caribou, who desperately need intact habitat to survive, while building on habitat protection the park already affords for the globally-unique disease-free Ronald Lake wood bison herd.”

The expansion will also help protect Wood Buffalo National Park, as it joins a collection of other parks that surround the national parks borders. The ecological health of Wood Buffalo National Park is of international concern, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site status currently under the microscope. As requested by the UN body, Canada produced an Action Plan to put forward steps to reverse the trajectory of the park. Creating a buffer around its borders is one of these key actions. The Kitaskino Nuwenëné expansion will provide some much needed extra protection, and support Canada’s actions to save Wood Buffalo National Park’s World Heritage Site status.

The Government of Alberta will hold a public consultation for the proposed expansion until March 15, 2021. You can participate in the public consultation here.

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Contact:

Gillian Chow-Fraser, Boreal Program Manager
[email protected]paws.org