Updates on Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site

Overview of Parks Canada’s Responses to the World Heritage Committee

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In December of 2014, the Mikisew Cree First Nation submitted a petition to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee requesting inclusion of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site (WBNP) on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The petition cited a number of concerns related to impacts of current and planned hydroelectric dams, oil sands development, and climate change on the ecology and hydrology of the Peace-Athabasca Delta that could negatively impact the site’s world heritage values (technically called its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)).

After considering the petition, the World Heritage Committee issued a decision in July of 2015 requesting that Canada host a Reactive Monitoring Mission and undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to assess the potential cumulative impacts of all developments (hydroelectric dams, oil sands, and mining) on the site’s world heritage values. The pace, scale and complexity of development in the region, and its potential impact on the park, and the Peace-Athabasca Delta (the PAD) in particular, were noted with concern by the Committee.

From 25 September to 4 October 2016, Parks Canada, as the federal agency responsible for implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Canada and manager of Wood Buffalo National Park, hosted a joint Reactive Monitoring Mission (RMM) of the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). To better understand and discuss the impacts of upstream developments on the park’s world heritage values, mission delegates met with representatives from Indigenous communities associated with WBNP, officials from federal, territorial, and provincial governments, scientists, industry representatives, and non-government organizations. The mission report, including 17 recommendations, was released on March 10, 2017.  The RMM Report is available from the World Heritage Centre.

State of Conservation Report

Parks Canada’s most recent State of Conservation Report was submitted on 31 March, 2017. The next one is due 1 December, 2018. The State of Conservation Report is available from the World Heritage Centre. 

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

In late 2016 Parks Canada awarded a contract to a consortium of external contractors to prepare the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) requested by the World Heritage Committee. The SEA was completed in May 2018. More information is available here.

41st Session of the World Heritage Committee - Kraków, Poland, 2-12 July 2017

The World Heritage Committee meets once a year, and consists of representatives from 21 of the State Parties to the Convention elected by their General Assembly. The Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from State Parties. The Committee has the final say on whether a property is added to the World Heritage List.

At the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in Kraków, Poland, 2-12 July 2017, the World Heritage Committee adopted a decision on the State of Conservation of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site. The July 2017 decision includes requests related to the development of an Action Plan that will reflect the findings of the SEA, coordinate with other planning processes, and involve affected Indigenous groups and stakeholders.

More information on development of the Action Plan is available here.