There are some places on Earth that simply must be protected. Machu Picchu. The Taj Mahal. The Grand Canyon. Venice, Italy. Pyramids of Giza. That’s why these places are designated as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Wood Buffalo National Park in northeastern Alberta is one of these gems. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Canada’s largest National Park.
But Canada is failing to protect this treasure by allowing the Site C dam to proceed.
After Mikisew Cree First Nation, Sierra Club BC and others raised the issue, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre implemented a review process and has strongly criticized Canada for failing to protect Wood Buffalo National Park.
The UN report noted that impacts on the park are “far more complex and severe than previously thought.” It included 17 recommendations for Canada to address the threats the Park is facing from the Site C dam, tar sands development and poor water governance.
On July 5, 2017, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee met and approved the report, warning Canada that if it does not follow through with these recommendations, the park could become Canada’s first World Heritage Site to be listed as “in danger.”
In early 2018, Parks Canada issued a rough outline of a plan to implement some, but not all, of the recommendations, notably rejecting the recommendation to conduct an environmental and social impact assessment of the Site C project.
In November, 2018, Parks Canada released its draft Action Plan “to protect the World Heritage Values of Wood Buffalo National Park,” and again refused to take UNESCO’s recommendations to assess the impacts of Site C downstream on the Peace-Athabasca Delta.
Parks Canada is not demonstrating a serious intention to protect the country’s largest national park.
Wood Buffalo Park protects the Peace-Athabasca Delta—the largest inland freshwater delta in the world, and is downstream from the $10.7 billion (and counting) Site C megadam. Site C will reduce water flows in the Peace River, which threatens to dry up the park and the delta as a whole. This will compound damage being done by tarsands development in the region.
The Peace-Athabasca Delta provides critical habitat for fish, moose, bison, and migratory birds including the endangered whooping crane. The Mikisew Cree, who have depended on this area for time immemorial, are highly concerned about the growing threats posed by reduced water levels and contamination in the delta.
The Mikisew Cree and UNESCO are calling on Canada to make every effort to understand the possible impacts of Site C on this critical area.
Please call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt construction on the Site C Dam immediately while the federal government assesses the potential impacts of the dam, and of tar sands development, on Wood Buffalo National Park.