An Action Plan to protect Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site

The Government of Canada and its partners are pleased to present the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site Action Plan. The goal of the Action Plan is to ensure the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park is maintained for generations to come. Implementation of the Action Plan is now underway.

Wood Buffalo National Park’s world heritage values

Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 based on the following elements of Outstanding Universal Value (or “world heritage values”):

  • The only remaining nesting ground of the endangered Whooping Crane
  • Extensive salt plains and gypsum karst topography
  • The Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest boreal, freshwater deltas
  • The great plains-boreal grassland ecosystem
  • Wolf - Wood Bison relationship
  • Great concentrations of migratory wildlife

Why is an Action Plan needed?

In July 2017, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee requested that Canada develop an Action Plan for WBNP by December 1, 2018 (later amended to February 1, 2019). This request followed a 2016 reactive monitoring mission (RMM) to the site, through which the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature determined that the pace and scale of development pressures outside the boundaries of the park (specifically hydro-electric and oil sands development) and climate change posed threats to its world heritage values.

For additional background on the World Heritage Committee and its interest in Wood Buffalo National Park, please refer to our overview page.

How was the Action Plan developed?

A cooperative, inter-jurisdictional and multi-dimensional approach is required to address concerns regarding the world heritage values of WBNP. Parks Canada coordinated development of the Action Plan in partnership with the governments of Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and British Columbia (through a Federal-Provincial-Territorial coordinating committee), and in collaboration with the 11 Indigenous partners of WBNP. Industry associations, non-governmental organizations and the general public were also engaged in the development of the plan. In addition, the Action Plan was informed by the findings of a Strategic Environmental Assessment.

For additional detail on Indigenous and stakeholder involvement please visit our page on the engagement process.

What’s in the Plan?

The Action Plan contains 142 actions, organized across 7 thematic areas, that are required to protect the world heritage values of WBNP. These actions vary in scope and include:

  • actions to strengthen relationships with Indigenous partners,
  • actions to enhance research, monitoring and management of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, using both science-based and Indigenous knowledge,
  • actions to increase protection of ecosystems within and beyond Wood Buffalo National Park, and
  • actions to support the recovery of the Whooping Crane and the Wood Bison.

More information about these actions can be found here.

What happens next?

Implementation of the Action Plan has already begun. Parks Canada continues to coordinate collaboration between federal, provincial and territorial governments (each of which have specific responsibilities for action within their jurisdiction and authority) and with Indigenous governments that have stewardship responsibilities for their traditional territories. Parks Canada will also be reporting back to the World Heritage Committee on implementation progress by December 1, 2020.

Some examples of early implementation include:

  • The Government of Alberta announced the establishment of new Wildland Provincial Parks adjacent to WBNP in 2018, and in 2019 the Government of Alberta, in collaboration with Indigenous communities and industry, announced the establishment of Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park, which protects approximately 160,000 hectares of additional land immediately south of WBNP. These protected areas provide significant buffers and landscape connectivity to WBNP, contributing to the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world.
  • In June 2019, the Government of Canada enacted new legislation to change the way major projects under federal jurisdiction are reviewed and approved, including projects that may have an impact on WBNP. In part, these changes will ensure decisions are informed by consultation with, and input from, Indigenous peoples and the public.
  • The Government of Canada is convening a Federal-Provincial-Territorial-Indigenous committee to implement the more than 75 hydrology-related monitoring and management actions required to meet ecological and traditional use objectives within the delta.
  • Parks Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of Alberta and Indigenous communities are initiating work to further develop and monitor indicators of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value, with an initial focus on the Peace-Athabasca Delta.
  • Parks Canada and Indigenous partners are proceeding with further development of the Cooperative Management Committee and bilateral engagement processes to improve the cooperative management of the site.

Need more information?

Newsletters related to the development of the SEA and Action Plan can be found here.

For additional information on the Action Plan, please contact pc.woodbuffaloinfo-infowoodbuffalo.pc@canada.ca.