UNESCO report on Wood Buffalo Park an urgent call for action

OTTAWA – Canada’s largest National Park is under imminent threat from Liberal and Conservative government neglect, NDP MP Wayne Stetski said today following the release of a damning UNESCO report on the state of Wood Buffalo National Park.

“UNESCO rejected the study that green-lighted the Site C Dam on the Peace River,” Stetski said. “They state clearly that Wood Buffalo is in danger from the industrial development along the Peace and Athabasca corridors.”

Stetski, the MP for Kootenay-Columbia and the NDP National Parks Critic, said UNESCO wanted to find out how Wood Buffalo National Park is impacted by existing hydro and oil sands developments and how the Site C Dam might affect it.

“What UNESCO found is disturbing,” Stetski said. “The environmental study that approved the Site C Dam ignored potential impacts to a World Heritage Site. The local knowledge available from First Nations and Métis residents in the area has not been seriously considered. And the hydro and oil sands projects are affecting the significant Peace-Athabasca Delta and the million birds that inhabit it.”

At almost 45,000 km2, Wood Buffalo is larger in area than Switzerland. It was established in 1922 to protect the world's largest herd of wood bison and is a critical nesting site of endangered whooping cranes.

“The federal government must move immediately to adopt UNESCO’s recommendations,” Stetski said. “These include a new science-based environmental assessment of Site C; an assessment of the impact of oil fields on fresh water resources in the region; improved year-round staffing at the park; and a genuine partnership with First Nations and Métis in the governance and management of the property.”

“Decades of inaction by Liberal and Conservative governments have put the park’s World Heritage designation in danger,” NDP Environment Critic Linda Duncan said. “The finding from this investigation shows just how poor a job the Federal Government has done not only to protect the integrity of the World Heritage Site designation but also to respect the rights of local First Nations.”

“Wood Buffalo National Park is a national asset and a global treasure,” Stetski said. “We must save it before it’s too late.”