An innovative agreement between Indigenous communities, energy companies and federal and provincial governments is expected to conserve more than 166,000 hectares of boreal forest.
The proposed Biodiversity Stewardship Area (BSA) would be designated a wildland provincial park. This would conserve natural landscapes and watersheds just south of Wood Buffalo National Park, protecting habitat for caribou, the Ronald Lake bison herd and other wildlife.
“Incredible things happen when industry, Indigenous communities and governments work together. Thanks to this BSA, we will help sustain wildlife for future generations and build on what is already the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world.”
~Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks and Minister responsible for Climate Change
The idea of a unique Biodiversity Stewardship Area was proposed by Mikisew Cree First Nation to safeguard their way of life while addressing concerns raised in a 2016 UNESCO report on Wood Buffalo National Park. The concept has also received strong support from Athabasca Chipewyan Cree First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation, Fort Chipewyan Metis, Fort McKay Metis, Fort McMurray Metis and the Athabasca Tribal Council.
Discussions brought a consortium of industry stakeholders to the table with Indigenous peoples and the governments of Alberta and Canada. The province will now begin a 30-day consultation to protect the BSA by designating it a wildland provincial park.
“Moving the BSA forward is an important first step towards reconciliation and an initial milestone on the way to implementing the Nikechinahonan framework, which is the vision of Mikisew Elders and community that is critical to our cultural survival. It shows that positive things can happen in Alberta when industry and government listen to First Nations.”
~Chief Archie Waquan, Mikisew Cree First Nation
“This is a great example of what can happen when we work together to protect important habitat for species at risk, such as caribou and bison. This is a major milestone in the creation and conservation of the BSA which will help us to reach our goal of doubling the amount of nature we’re protecting in Canada’s lands and oceans.”
~Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Industry champions Teck, Cenovus Energy and Imperial played a vital role in discussions by agreeing to a voluntary relinquishment of oilsands and mining leases. The BSA will add an area that is bigger than the combined footprints of Calgary (825 sq. km), Red Deer (69 sq. km), Edmonton (684 sq. km) and Fort McMurray (60 sq. km).
“We respect the tremendous cultural and ecological importance of the boreal forest and of Wood Buffalo National Park. Teck is honoured to have worked closely with the Mikisew Cree First Nation to advocate in support of their vision for a unique new protected area, and to donate leases to help make this vision a reality.”
~Kieron McFadyen, senior vice-president, Energy, Teck Resources Ltd.
“Imperial commends the leadership by the Mikisew Cree First Nation to champion this initiative, which has resulted in a unique and voluntary collaboration to preserve this area. This is an area of high biodiversity potential that supports the ecological integrity of Wood Buffalo National Park and promotes the long-term stewardship of areas and resources that are critical to the continuation of Indigenous rights and cultures. Imperial is pleased to support this initiative.”
~John Whelan, senior vice-president, Upstream, Imperial
“We work hard to build and maintain strong relationships with Indigenous communities. We are pleased to support Mikisew Cree’s initiative and the province’s biodiversity goals by donating a parcel of land to this proposed wildland provincial park.”
~Al Reid, executive vice-president, Stakeholder Engagement, Safety, Legal & General Counsel, Cenovus Energy
The new BSA will add to the more than 6.7 million hectares of contiguous boreal forest protected earlier this year through an agreement with oilsands producers, First Nations, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and provincial and federal governments.