State of Conservation (SOC)
Wood Buffalo National Park (1991)
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Total Amount Ap proved:0USD
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
Project of a dam on the Slave River (issue resolved); Dam on the Peace River ; Pulp and paper mill developments; bison herd infected with either tuberculosis and/or brucellosis
Current conservation issues
The Bureau recalled that the Committee, at its last session, expressed serious concerns regarding the infection of the remaining 3,200 bison in the Park by bucellosis and tuberculosis, as well as with logging operations. The Bureau was informed of a longer term threat to the integrity of the site caused by activities upstream along the Peace/Athabasca Rivers, which include the expansion of pulp mills, logging operations and dam construction resulting in water pollution and loss of water quality, changes in the flooding regime and the gradual drying-up of the Athabasca Delta. The Bureau noted that the large surface area is no longer an adequate basis to ensure the long-term integrity of the Wood Buffalo National Park, and similar World Heritage sites such as Yellowstone (USA), Serengeti (Tanzania) and Banc d'Arguin (Mauritania), and that an ecosystem management approach taking into account activities outside the Park would be required.
After listening to the detailed response of the Delegate of Canada (see paragraphs 32 and 33 of the Rapporteur's Report of the fifteenth session of the Bureau, i.e. Document SC91/CONF.002/2) the Bureau acknowledged that the Canadian Government was taking appropriate measures to preserve the integrity of this Park. The Bureau requested the Canadian authorities to make special efforts, both within the Park and throughout the entire drainage basin, in order to retain and restore the integrity on the types and nature of technologies which are currently used for mitigating negative impacts on the Peace and Athabasca Rivers due to development activities. The Bureau agreed with the IUCN report that the Wood Buffalo National Park will, in many ways, be a test case for conservation of large, remote reserves and could provide lessons applicable elsewhere.
The observations and recommendations of the Bureau were transmitted to the Canadian authorities by letter of 12 August 1991. In response, the Canadian authorities have transmitted, by letter of 10 October 1991 and attachments, detailed information on the following:
a) the membership, roles and responsibilities, and terms of reference of a Northern Bison Management Board (NBMB) that was set up in June 1991 to develop a plan for the management of bison in the Wood Buffalo National Park by the end of 1992;
b) the types of environmental impact studies that have been carried out and administrative mechanisms that have been set up for the Biological Monitoring of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers, and
c) an update on the status of pulp mills in the area, their impacts on water quality of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers and the mitigative measures that have been undertaken to monitor water quality.
The response of the Canadian authorities to the concerns and recommendations of the Bureau has been transmitted to IUCN.
Analysis and Conclusion
Link to the decision
Wood Buffalo National Park (Canada)
The Committee recalled that logging was permitted within this site and that as many as 3,200 of the Park's bison population were affected by brucellosis and tuberculosis. The Committee was satisfied to note that forestry regulations are now more strictly enforced by the Canadian Park Service personnel and that negotiations are underway to terminate logging rights before their official expiry in the year 2002. The Committee recognized that the large size of a site is no longer a guarantee for the conservation of this site and development activities in upstream areas of the Peace/Athabasca Rivers threaten the integrity of this Park. The Committee noted that a river basin assessment study was now underway with support from Canada's Green Plan and the Alberta Provincial Government. The Committee urged the Canadian authorities to make special efforts, both within the Park and throughout its entire drainage basin, in order to retain and restore the site's integrity. The Committee acknowledged that the conservation of Wood Buffalo National Park is, in many ways, a test case for conservation of large remote reserves, such as the World Heritage sites of Yellowstone (USA), Banc D'Arguin (Mauritania) and Serengeti (Tanzania), and had the potential to demonstrate lessons that will be applicable elsewhere.
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Bison herd infected with either tuberculosis and/or brucellosis
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).