UNESCO panel wants to study oil­sands ef­fects on Al­berta park

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

The UNESCO World Her­itage Com­mit­tee has asked Canada to in­vite a team to Al­berta to study how the oil­sands and other nearby projects will af­fect Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park.

The UN com­mit­tee's re­quest fol­lows a pe­ti­tion by the Mikisew Cree First Na­tion in De­cem­ber that asked for the park to be added to a list of world her­itage sites in dan­ger.

Af­ter ask­ing Ot­tawa for re­sponses to the First Na­tion's con­cerns, the com­mit­tee has made sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions.

It says it wants the gov­ern­ment to in­vite a joint team from the World Her­itage Cen­tre and the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture to re­view the im­pact of the oil­sands, a pro­posed open-pit mine and the pro­posed Site C Dam in B.C. on the park. It also asks the gov­ern­ment to con­duct an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment that takes in the po­ten­tial cu­mu­la­tive im­pacts of all de­vel­op­ments on the value of the park.

Wood Buf­falo has been a UNESCO World Her­itage site for over 30 years and is noted for hav­ing the largest pop­u­la­tion of wild bi­son, as well as for be­ing the nat­u­ral nest­ing place of the whoop­ing crane.

“We thank the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee for tak­ing Mikisew's con­cerns se­ri­ously in to­day's de­ci­sion,” Mikisew Chief Steve Cour­tor­eille said Wed­nes­day in a news re­lease fol­low­ing the com­mit­tee's de­ci­sion. “We are deeply con­cerned about the ex­ist­ing im­pact of in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity and cli­mate change on the Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park and the new threats posed by megapro­jects up­stream of the Peace-Athabasca Delta.”

Parks Canada re­sponded in a let­ter ear­lier this year to the World Her­itage Cen­tre that the case for a dan­ger list­ing was “over­stated.” Ge­orge Green, vi­cepres­i­dent of her­itage con­ser­va­tion with Parks Canada, noted that the pro­posed Site C Dam on the Peace River was re­viewed by an in­de­pen­dent, joint fed­er­al­provin­cial panel and that it found there would be no im­pact on the Peace-Athabasca Delta.

Green also noted that at 45,000 square kilo­me­tres, the park's size pro­vides for “con­sid­er­able po­ten­tial re­silience.” He fur­ther noted that while a re­port last Novem­ber from the In­ter­na­tional Union for the Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture in­di­cated some con­cerns with dam con­struc­tion, in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment and cli­mate change, he said it didn't con­clude Wood Buf­falo was fac­ing a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.

“We are deeply con­cerned about the ex­ist­ing im­pact of in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity and cli­mate change on the Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park and the new threats posed by megapro­jects up­stream of the Peace-Athabasca Delta.” Mikisew Chief Steve Cour­tor­eille

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