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Red flag raised about state of Wood Buffalo National Park

16 Nov 17
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Canada’s largest national park — established 95 years ago to safeguard the past herds of northern bison — is deteriorating and faces significant threats from climate change and industrial development, says an international agency that monitors world heritage websites.

The International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is headquartered in Switzerland and was established in 1948 to promote conservation and natural diversity, published a World Heritage Outlook report this week which assesses the status of ecologically important sites around the planet.

While the IUCN has some concerns about half of Canada’s 10 natural world heritage sites, it says Wood Buffalo National Park in northeastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories poses “significant concerns.” The park has deteriorated because the IUCN’s 2014 evaluation, and in North America, just the Florida Everglades got a worse score.

While the park is the website of the recovery of the whooping crane, among the most spectacular species conservation stories globally, the report states, “the combination of climate change and massive hydrological alteration has caused ecological, cultural and cultural influences.”

Upstream dam construction, for example, Site C dam in British Columbia, is changing the procedures, navigability and plant in the Peace-Athabasca Delta in the southeast corner of the playground, the IUCN states, and the enlarging Alberta oil sands pose the danger of long-term and accidental discharges of toxic substance, including oil products.

Additionally, the report state the federal government’s response to the situation at Wood Buffalo has been “insufficient in light of the scale, pace and complexity of the challenges in a time when Parks Canada has just suffered major budget reductions and lost significant science capacity.”

The “clear signs” of major ecological change and overarching climate change “would appear to call for a more careful approach,” the IUCN says.

Questions about the report placed into the office of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who’s responsible for Canada’s national parks, were redirected to Parks Canada on Wednesday.

Parks Canada stated in an email it welcomed the IUCN report as an important tool for raising awareness of conservation challenges impacting natural world heritage sites, but it doesn’t consider actions the agency will take in the future to handle Wood Buffalo National Park.

“Canada’s national parks don’t exist in isolation,” the bureau stated. “In several instances, the conservation challenges stem from outside the national park boundaries, such as climate change. Parks Canada is committed to protecting the environmental integrity of Canada’s national parks, including those which are world heritage sites.”

Alison Ronson, the federal manager of the parks program to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said the IUCN report finds that, while many areas of the park are faring well, upstream growth is significantly affecting the flow of water from the delta.

“The First Nations and the communities around that region have discovered that the delta is drying, it is disappearing,” Ms. Ronson said. “And upstream of the park across the Athabasca River, you have many oil sands developments that are impacting the regulation of the water but also the quality of the wate”

Additionally, the corrosion is having a massive effect on traditional land use by First Nations, Ms. Ronson said, “that, I’d assert, affects all Canadians because we’re in an era today when we actually have to be reconciling with our background and reconciling with Indigenous peoples throughout the nation and recognizing that these natural areas are important to them.”

Melody Lepine, the manager of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, said the people of her community have witnessed the decline of the delta and the consequent loss of significant wildlife, including migratory birds, fish, bison, muskrat, beaver and moose.

The IUCN recognizes that the shift is important and “it ought to be very embarrassing for Canada to have this form of inspection completed,” Ms. Lepine said. “This is something which the regional folks have been saying for ages .”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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