Parks Canada Leads UNESCO Second Reactive Monitoring Mission to Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site

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Parks Canada and a number of organizations are collaborating to coordinate a Reactive Monitoring Mission by representatives of the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO to Wood Buffalo National Park and World Heritage Site between August 18 and 26, 2022.

Indigenous partners, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories are joining in the effort, according to a news release.

Parks Canada is committed to conserving Wood Buffalo National Park and World Heritage Site for present and future generations. 

The organization invited the UNESCO Mission to share progress to date on the implementation of the 2019 Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site Action Plan and review the overall state of conservation of the protected area. 

This Mission follows the State of Conservation report submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in February of this year.

The itinerary will allow Mission representatives to visit the national park and hear the views of the many partners and stakeholders involved in advancing conservation at this important protected area, including Indigenous nations and communities, provincial and territorial governments; non-government organizations; and federal government departments.

Representatives of the World Heritage Centre visited Wood Buffalo National Park as part of a reactive monitoring mission in 2016. In 2017, the World Heritage Centre called upon Canada to develop an action plan to respond to the mission’s findings. 

Parks Canada led a collaborative effort to develop a multi-year Action Plan in 2019 to address concerns regarding the conservation of the natural heritage elements for which the park’s Outstanding Universal Value is recognized. 

The development and ongoing implementation of the Action Plan have been informed by and reflect Indigenous perspectives, values, and knowledge.

The Action Plan is highly comprehensive, with 138 critical measures implemented between 2019 and 2026 and ongoing management actions thereafter. To date, over two-thirds of the Plan has been implemented or is underway. 

Action Plan measures have been supported by an unparalleled investment of over $87 million in federal funding to date to conserve this important site.

Water management is an essential aspect of Wood Buffalo National Park conservation. Canada is setting the stage to further support inter-jurisdictional water governance by developing the modeling required to understand better environmental flows needs and cumulative effects in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. 

In addition to this work, Canada and Indigenous communities are collaboratively advancing the design and development of water control structures that aim to restore water levels in the Delta and ensure ongoing traditional access and use of the land.

Bison are a keystone species at Wood Buffalo National Park, and dialogue is underway with Indigenous nations and communities on a draft Conservation Agreement for the Ronald Lake bison herd. 

Key conservation actions included in the draft agreement are already being implemented to address imminent threats to the herd, including the expanded protection of critical habitats adjacent to the national park and advancing the development of a herd management plan.

A remarkable conservation success story at Wood Buffalo National Park is the recovery of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population, which was on the brink of extinction in the mid-1940s. 

While still listed as endangered in both the United States and Canada, the species continues to recover. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo population has achieved a growth rate of 4.4% and an estimated total population of 543 birds in February 2022.

Climate change is a key environmental stressor within the park, with significant cultural implications for Indigenous communities. Various climate change projects have been undertaken, and work has focused on further understanding the future climate and assessing climate change-related risks and vulnerability.

Parks Canada welcomes feedback from the international evaluation team; following the Mission, representatives from the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature will recommend the park’s overall state of conservation.

Parks Canada is committed to ensuring that Wood Buffalo National Park and World Heritage Site remains a treasured place now and for future generations. Parks Canada is grateful for the ongoing collaboration of Indigenous, provincial, and territorial partners and stakeholders’ ongoing interest and support. 

This collaboration and partnership are essential to advancing the measures outlined in the 2019 Action Plan and to the ongoing preservation of this important protected area.

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