Endangered is the status of Wood Buffalo National Park, as reported by the governing body of the United Nations’ World Heritage Sites. The park, renowned for its environmental diversity and native species, faces persistent threats from dam construction in British Columbia, oilsands development, and the looming shadow of climate change. This revelation comes as a focal point during a UNESCO meeting held in Saudi Arabia where delegates unanimously agreed upon its alarming condition.
The delegates, acknowledging the grave circumstances, have entreated Canada to act upon 17 remedial strategies delineated in the report. Five of these strategies are crafted specifically to mitigate the hazards generated by oilsands activities, located upstream of the park.
In an effort to reinforce long-standing concerns initially voiced by the Mikisew Cree First Nation nearly a decade ago, this report is unveiled as a testament to UNESCO’s consistent examination and advocacy for endangered natural landmarks worldwide.
In response to the escalating environmental crisis, Ottawa launched a revival plan for the park in 2018, with this report serving to evaluate the efficacy of their proposed measures. The report refrained from advocating the park’s exclusion from the list of World Heritage Sites but cautioned that nearly half of the attributes that accord the site its distinction are deteriorating.
As per UNESCO’s evaluation, of the 15 objectives set for the park, two have shown signs of improvement, five have maintained status quo, while the remaining seven have noticeably worsened.
Melody Lepine, representing the Mikisew community, exhorted the delegates with the hope that Canada would interpret this report as a beacon of reflection on strides made so far, simultaneously acknowledging the scale of work still pending.
“We are hopeful your decision will be met by Canada in the spirit intended — an opportunity to reflect on areas of progress,” she shared. “But most critically to renew, rededicate and expand its commitment to save this vital area in full partnership with the Mikisew Cree.”