A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Wood Buffalo National Park was undertaken at the request of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee after the Mikisew Cree First Nation appealed to the World Heritage Committee to add the Park to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.
The SEA was released this week by Parks Canada and details a number of potential cumulative impacts to the park by upstream development pressures and climate change.
Outlining that the health of Park is already below where it needs to be and is getting worse, the SEA made the following findings:
- Desired outcomes for the world heritage values are not being met
- The ability of Indigenous groups, peoples and communities to practice their traditional way of life is being negatively impacted
- The Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest inland deltas, is in decline according to all available indicators.
- Upstream developments like dams and oil sands are negatively impacting migratory waterfowl and their habitat in the Park.
- Wood bison are not being adequately sustained in parts of the Park. The predator-prey relationship between wolves and wood bison is in uncertain condition.
- The negative changes to the Park are already having serious effects on Indigenous communities and “the urgency for Indigenous people to maintain their culture and ways of life cannot be understated.”
Local Indigenous groups are calling for action.
“This report adds to the mountain of evidence proving that Wood Buffalo National Park and communities like ours are hurting because of upstream developments and climate change,” said Chief Archie Waquan of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. “How many more reports like this one are needed before governments start taking real actions to correct the damage that has been done – and is still being done – to the Peace Athabasca Delta?”
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is looking for the government to address the issue.
“The rich territory that is now Wood Buffalo National Park helped the Dene people to survive in this region for thousands of years. The Peace Athabasca Delta is particularly important to us – the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are known as “the people of the willow” for this reason. Unless governments start addressing the threats to the Park, our children and future generations of Canadians will not benefit from the Park as we once did,” said Chief Adam.
President of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125 echoed Chief Waquan and Chief Adam.
“The Park is vital to everyone; to our people who hunt and trap there, and to the health of this land. It is in everyone’s interest to do what is necessary to protect it,” said President MacDonald.
The report recommends new adaptive management measures and concludes that “understanding the urgency of the situation must motivate all those involved to act now.”
The World Heritage Committee has requested that Canada prepare an Action Plan for the Park by December 1, 2018.