Boreal Forest, AB (Photo by Michel-Rapinski)

Boreal Forest, AB (Photo by Michel-Rapinski)

Nature Conservancy of Canada applauds Government of Alberta’s plan to expand on boreal protected area

Proposed Biodiversity Stewardship Area adjacent to Birch River Wildland Provincial Park and Wood Buffalo National Park
Birch River (Photo by NCC)

Birch River (Photo by NCC)

On December 13, the Government of Alberta proposed permanent protection for 166,110 hectares (410,466 acres) of land directly south of Wood Buffalo National Park. The proposed Biodiversity Stewardship Area-Wildland Provincial Park (BSA-WPP) would expand on what is already the world’s largest protected area of boreal forest.

Earlier this year, the Province made global headlines by announcing the creation of four new Wildland Provincial Parks adjacent to Wood Buffalo National Park, which increased the total protected space in the region to 67,735 km2 — an area more than twice the size of Belgium. This announcement included the Birch River Wildlands Provincial Park, which was established in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), the Tallcree Tribal Government, the Government of Canada and Syncrude Canada.

The proposed BSA-WPP would increase protection of the Peace-Athabasca watershed and increase connectivity between existing Wildland Provincial Parks and the national park. It will benefit species such as Ronald Lake wood bison and the threatened red earth and Richardson woodland caribou populations.

Canada’s boreal zone is part of a wide, green band that encircles the globe’s northern latitudes. Nearly a third of the world’s boreal zone lies within Canada, and its forest teems with life. The boreal forest provides us with clean air and water, a nursery for billions of migratory birds and the planet’s largest terrestrial carbon sink. It plays a major role in regulating the global climate. Keeping carbon stored in the ground and out of the atmosphere is one of the most important and easiest ways we can prevent climate change from worsening.

The proposed BSA-WPP will directly contribute to Canada’s Target 1 — the nation’s pledge to the world to conserve 17 per cent of our land and inland waters by 2020. Conservation at this scale also reinforces a region’s ability to adapt to climate change.

The proposed BSA-WPP would continue to encourage backcountry and nature-based recreation opportunities and support the interest of Indigenous communities through Treaty rights and traditional uses. It would protect the region against large-scale tourism development and prevent commercial forestry and the mining of coal and metallic and industrial minerals.

NCC applauds the provincial government’s efforts to invest in this ecologically significant landscape and encourages Albertans to support the creation of this protected space.

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