A landmark agreement made between local Indigenous communities, energy companies, and federal and provincial governments will protect more than 166,000 hectares of boreal forest.
The proposed Biodiversity Stewardship Area (BSA) is just south of Wood Buffalo National Park, with natural landscapes and watersheds and the province is conducting a 30-day consultation to designating it as a wildland provincial park.
The Mikisew Cree First Nation initially proposed the idea in response to a 2016 UNESCO report, and was supported by the Athabasca Chipewyan Cree First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation, Fort Chipewyan Métis, Fort McKay Métis, Fort McMurray Métis and the Athabasca Tribal Council.
“Moving the BSA forward is an important first step towards reconciliation,” said Mikisew Cree First Nation Chief Archie Waquan. “It shows that positive things can happen in Alberta when industry and government listen to First Nations.”
Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister responsible for Climate Change, agreed with Chief Waquan and called the collaboration incredible.
“Thanks to this BSA, we will help sustain wildlife for future generations and build on what is already the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world,” said Phillips.
Teck, Cenovus Energy and Imperial played a vital role in the agreement by releasing oilsands and mining leases.
“We respect the tremendous cultural and ecological importance of the boreal forest and of Wood Buffalo National Park. Teck is honoured to have worked closely with the Mikisew Cree First Nation to advocate in support of their vision for a unique new protected area,” said Kieron McFadyen, senior vice-president, Teck Resources Ltd.
The BSA will add more than 6.7 million hectares of contiguous boreal forest protected earlier this year through a similar agreement.