Overview of Canada’s Responses to the World Heritage Committee Decisions regarding Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site

Wood Buffalo National Park

State of Conservation Reports by States Parties

The World Heritage List
2020 State of Conservation Report by States Parties (PDF 1.51M)

Mikisew Cree First Nation Petition to the World Heritage Committee

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 on the List of World Heritage in Danger (figure 2).

The petition cited a number of concerns related to impacts of industrial development and climate change on the ecology and hydrology of the Peace-Athabasca Delta that could negatively impact the site’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV, or world heritage values).

Figure 2: World Heritage Committee decisions and responses by Canada.
World Heritage Committee decisions and responses by Canada - Text version

Develop an Action Plan:
1.Meaningfully involve Indigenous groups
2.Be coherent with relevant planning schemes.
3.Reflects SEA results.
4.Address RMM recommendations.

*Deadline later extended to February 1, 2019.
1. Implement adequately funded Action Plan in timely manner.
2. Ensure SEA recommendations considered in future EIAs.
3. Conduct a systematic risk assessment of tailings ponds .
4. Submit updated State of Conservation report by 1 December 2020.

i) RMM visited WBNP, Sept 26 – Oct 4, 2016
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) report submitted May 2018.

Action Plan submitted February 1st, 2019.
Action Plan implementation underway

World Heritage Committee Decision - July, 2015

After considering the petition, the World Heritage Committee issued a decision in July, 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 World Heritage Site, and the Peace-Athabasca Delta (the PAD) in particular, were noted with concern by the Committee.

Reactive Monitoring Mission (RMM)

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 evaluate 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).

Strategic Environmental Assessment

In late 2016 Parks Canada awarded a contract to external consultants to prepare the SEA requested by the World Heritage Committee. The SEA was completed in May 2018. More information on the SEA is available here.

World Heritage Committee Decision – July, 2017

In 2017, the World Heritage Committee requested that Canada prepare an Action Plan to ensure the ongoing protection of WBNP, fully reflecting the results of the SEA and the recommendations of the RMM.

Action Plan

In response, Canada developed a comprehensive Action Plan in collaboration with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of the Northwest Territories, Indigenous partners and stakeholders. The plan was submitted in February 2019, and was underscored by the Government of Canada’s 2018 investment of $27.5 million in funding over 5 years to support the plan’s development and early implementation.

World Heritage Committee Decision – July 2019

On July 3rd, 2019 the World Heritage Committee adopted its latest decision on the state of conservation of Wood Buffalo National Park Heritage Site. The decision did not inscribe WBNP on the List of World Heritage in Danger, however, the Government of Canada recognizes that climate change and external development pressures are seriously impacting WBNP. The decision commends the actions that have been taken to strengthen the protection and management of WBNP including the historic $1.35 billion investment in 2018 by the government of Canada to protect its nature, parks, and wild spaces.

World Heritage Committee Decision – July 2021

On July 23, 2021 the World Heritage Committee adopted its latest decision on the state of conservation of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site. The Committee recognized the actions taken to date in response to the Reactive Monitoring Mission that the World Heritage Centre and IUCN undertook in Wood Buffalo National Park in 2016. The Committee has requested that Canada follow up on those actions with another state of conservation report and to work with them in organizing a future Reactive Monitoring Mission that would assess progress to date.

In response to this decision, the following statement was read into the record by Canada, represented by Christine Loth-Bown as Head of Delegation for Canada, at the World Heritage Committee meeting on July 24, 2021:

Intervention from the floor, WH 44 COM 7B.190, Wood Buffalo National Park

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

As this is the first time that Canada takes the floor, I would like to take this opportunity to thank China for hosting this meeting, and the Committee for adopting the decisions on the state of conservation of two Canadian World Heritage sites. My comments concern the Wood Buffalo National Park.

The Government of Canada recognizes the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park and is committed to its protection for future generations.

In 2017, the Government of Canada led a collaborative effort, with Indigenous, provincial and territorial partners to develop a multi-year Action Plan to address of the state of conservation of the Park.

This Plan was commended by the Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.

The Government of Canada is investing more than $87 million dollars to implement commitments, including:
- strengthening park management in collaboration with Indigenous partners;
- enhancing research, monitoring and management of the Peace-Athabasca Delta using science and Indigenous knowledge, and;
- establishing new mechanisms to support improved water management.

There has been notable progress since 2019, with more than half of the 142 Action Plan measures now completed or underway.

The Committee’s decision on Wood Buffalo National Park underscores the complex environmental challenges faced by this World Heritage Site.

It also creates opportunities for the State Party and its partners to continue to work with IUCN and the World Heritage Centre to ensure implementation progress is recognized as we continue to put in place long-term solutions.

We look forward to working with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to plan a second Reactive Monitoring Mission, at an appropriate time, where we can demonstrate progress to date.

I wish to thank the Committee for its recognition of our ongoing efforts for the conservation of Wood Buffalo National Park.

Action Plan Implementation

Canada, in collaboration with partners, is continuing to act by implementing the measures outlined in the Action Plan. These measures include strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples, protecting the ecological integrity of the park and surrounding ecosystems, and taking action to improve water management in the PAD. Through ongoing collective action with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, the Government of Canada will preserve the Outstanding Universal Value of Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site so that it remains a treasured place for generations to come.

More information on the Action Plan and its implementation is available here.

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