Reactive Monitoring Mission to take place at Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage property (Canada)
A joint reactive monitoring mission by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) to assess the state of conservation of the World Heritage property “Wood Buffalo National Park” will take place from 25 September to 4 October 2016, at the invitation of Canada, and in keeping with the request made by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.
In line with World Heritage Committee Decision 39 COM 7B.18 (see whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3318), the objective of the monitoring mission is to assess the state of conservation of the property, as well as potential threats to its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). In particular, the mission will review and assess:
- the current effects of Peace River flow regulation activities associated with operation of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and Peace Canyon Dam, on the OUV of the property;
- the potential (cumulative) impacts of the planned Site C Hydroelectric Dam on the hydrological regime of the Peace-Athabasca Delta that could impact the OUV of the property and the ecological processes as they relate to the OUV of the property, also taking into account the effects of climate change; and
- the impacts of existing and planned oil sands projects in the Athabasca oil sands region, as well as their associated tailings ponds, including the impact on movement of migratory birds, the development and implementation of monitoring programs and the ecosystems that support some of the traditional ways of life of indigenous communities.
The mission will hold consultations with the relevant Canadian authorities at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels, along with representatives of indigenous people as well as a range of relevant stakeholders, including: industry; non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and relevant scientists, researchers and experts.
The mission team will prepare a report that sets out recommendations for review by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN. The final report will be sent to the Government of Canada for consideration and will be included in the working documents related to the state of conservation of World Heritage properties to be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its forthcoming 41st session (July 2017, Kraków, Poland, see whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/41COM).
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add,
- Notes that the World Heritage Centre has received a petition submitted by the Mikisew Cree First Nation expressing their concern about the state of conservation of the property, as well as a response from the State Party;
- Notes with concern the environmental impacts on the Peace-Athabasca Delta from hydro-electric dams, oil sands development, and proposed open-pit mining in the vicinity of the property, which could negatively impact its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
- Also notes with concern the lack of engagement with indigenous communities in monitoring activities, as well as insufficient consideration of traditional ecological knowledge, and takes note of the State Party’s three commitments to strengthen monitoring and management with a wide participatory approach in order to address the concerns raised by the Mikisew Cree First Nation;
- Requests the State Party to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to assess the potential cumulative impacts of all developments on the OUV of the property, including hydroelectric dams, oil sands development, and mining, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment;
- Also requests the State Party not to take any decision related to any of these development projects that would be difficult to reverse, and to submit the SEA to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to review the impact of the developments on the property, to evaluate its state of conservation, and to exchange in more depth with the State Party, petitioning First Nation, and other stakeholders as appropriate;
- Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.