Five new and expanded provincial parks are now connecting to help create the world’s largest contiguous area of boreal protected land.
On Tuesday, the Alberta and federal governments, along with Syncrude, Indigenous groups, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada announced the conservation of more than 6.7 million hectares of forest around the Wood Buffalo National Park.
Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips says along with Dillon River and Birch Mountains, three new wildland areas, Kazan, Richardson, and Birch River, are increasing the provinces protected land by 1.36 million hectares.
“This area is twice the size of Vancouver Island, it is bigger than the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and it is 10 times the size of the Greater Toronto Area.”
Kazan will be 570,822 hectares, Richardson 264,727 hectares, Dillon River 191,545 hectares, Birch River 331,832 hectares, and Birch Mountain 145,969.
Under the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan in 2012, the lands were reviewed to ensure there would be no economic impact on Industry or the surrounding communities. Companies in the area were also compensated to allow the land to be fully protected.
“Today’s announcement proves that the LARP process worked and our concerns were heard loud and clear,” said Bill Loutitt, CEO McMurray Métis.
Afters years of waiting, Loutitt added the people now will now have more places to hunt and fish with their families for generations.
As for Syncrude’s contribution, they donated $2.3 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to help make everything possible.
“Together, we have created something incredible special that will make a huge difference today and continue to deliver awards for generations to come,” added Doreen Cole, Syncrude’s Managing Director.
The environmental benefits from Birch River will also provide conservation offsets the oil company can use for future activities.
Meanwhile, the province is also looking at starting an ‘Indigenous Guardians Program.’
“The goal is that the Indigenous communities, if they so choose, can be part of managing these parks and lands,” added Phillips.
The government plans on hiring First Nations and Métis people to monitor the areas, maintain the lands, and provide education to park visitors.