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Wood Buffalo National Park

Canada
Factors affecting the property in 2015*
  • Water infrastructure
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Urban Pressure (issue resolved)
  • Road construction (issue resolved)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2015**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

In December 2014, Mikisew Cree First Nation, an indigenous community of the property, sent a petition to the World Heritage Centre (available online http://cpawsnwt.org/news/mikisew-first-nations-petitions-unesco-to-list-wood-buffalo-np-as-world-her), requesting to inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger for the following reasons:

  • Hydroelectric dams on the Peace River outside of the property are affecting its hydrology and biodiversity, and a third dam on the river, Site C Hydroelectric Dam, has now been approved at regional and federal levels;
  • Large industrial development of Alberta’s oil sands region, located upstream of the Park, is releasing contaminants, extracting significant volumes of water from the Athabasca River system, and disrupting migratory bird movements;
  • A proposal has been submitted for an open-pit mine, which falls partially within a watershed sub-basin that flows directly within the property into Lake Claire, the largest lake within the Peace-Athabasca Delta (PAD);
  • Threats from climate change are not being adequately taken into account in the management of the property;
  • Indigenous communities are not taking part in the federal government’s monitoring programme, and the environmental management tools that are critical to address upstream threats have been omitted from the monitoring programme.

In response to the World Heritage Centre’s letter of 11 December 2014 requesting comments on the above, the State Party reported on 13 March 2015 (available online at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/256/documents/) that:

  • Site C Hydroelectric Dam underwent a thorough federal-provincial environmental assessment by an independent panel in consultation with the Canadian public and Aboriginal groups, and the project is legally required to fulfil over 80 conditions set out by the government besides to obtaining additional federal and provincial authorizations in order to proceed;
  • The governments of Canada and Alberta are committed to develop oil sands with an environmentally responsible approach;
  • PAD Ecological Monitoring Program was established in 2008 to address concerns about the cumulative impacts of regional developments and climate change on the delta.

Furthermore, the State Party reports that the Minister of Environment of Canada corresponded with the Chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation regarding the issues raised in the petition, which has led to three key commitments by the federal government:

  • Continue monitoring water levels and stream flow of the Peace River and in the PAD, as well as ecological integrity monitoring in the PAD;
  • In collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, enhance the monitoring and research of the regional hydro-climatology and ecology of the PAD, and the effects of flow regulation, water withdrawals, and climate change on its productivity and biodiversity;
  • Participate in discussions with stakeholders on best management practices for restoring and preserving the aquatic resources in the PAD.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

It is noted that Site C Hydroelectric Dam on the Peace River, which will be located outside the property, was approved by the government of British Columbia in December 2014, and that the construction work is expected to start in summer 2015. However, the Mikisew have reported that First Nations have expressed significant concern about its impacts on their hunting, fishing and agricultural areas. The IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2014 identified the existing dams to have significantly altered the hydrological regime of PAD and hence, any further activities should be evaluated prior to commencement of constructions, including an assessment of potential (cumulative) impacts on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

A Joint Alberta-Canada Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) was created to support decision-making by governments and stakeholders; however the Mikisew have reported that all indigenous groups in the region have withdrawn from JOSM, due to concerns about the engagement process, limited incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge, and lack of transparency. Furthermore, Alberta’s Auditor General’s 2014 report concluded that further work is required to understand cumulative environmental impacts for oil sands development.

It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to review the cumulative impacts of all of the hydroelectric dam projects, oil sands development and open pit mining on the property’s OUV, taking the effect of climate change into full consideration, and to complete a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment. Furthermore, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party not to take any decision related to any of the development projects that would be difficult to reverse, and to submit the SEA to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN.

It is finally recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to review the impact of the developments on the property, evaluate its state of conservation and exchange in more depth with the State Party, petitioning First Nation, and other stakeholders as appropriate.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7B.18
Wood Buffalo National Park (Canada) (N 256)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add,
  2. 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;
  3. 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);
  4. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. 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;
  7. 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;
  8. 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.
39 COM 8E
Adoption of Retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value
The World Heritage Committee,
  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/8E.Rev,
  2. Congratulates the States Parties for the excellent work accomplished in the elaboration of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties located within their territories;
  3. Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-15/39.COM/8E.Rev, for the following World Heritage properties:
AFRICA
  • Mozambique: Island of Mozambique;
  • Senegal: Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary;
  • United Republic of Tanzania: Stone Town of Zanzibar;
ARAB STATES
  • Oman: Land of Frankincense;

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

  • India: Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi; Kaziranga National Park;
  • Iran (Islamic Republic of): Bisotun; Meidan Emam, Esfahan; Persepolis; Soltaniyeh; Tchogha Zanbil;
EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA
  • Belarus: Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh;
  • Belgium: Flemish Béguinages; Historic Centre of Brugge; The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx (Hainault);
  • Canada / United States of America: Waterton Glacier International Peace Park;
  • Canada: Dinosaur Provincial Park; Gros Morne National Park; Historic District of Old Québec; Miguasha National Park; Old Town Lunenburg; Sgang Gwaay; Wood Buffalo National Park;
  • France / Spain : Pyrénées – Mont Perdu ;
  • Greece: Acropolis, Athens; Archaeological Site of Olympia; Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns; Delos; Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus;
  • Italy: 18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex; Archaeological Area of Agrigento; Castel del Monte; Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci; Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the Archeological sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula; City of Verona; City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto; Crespi d’Adda; Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna; Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli; Historic Centre of San Gimignano; Historic Centre of Siena; Historic Centre of the City of Pienza; Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily); Rock Drawings in Valcamonica; Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy; Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica; The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera;
  • Montenegro: Durmitor National Park;
  • Russian Federation: Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad; Ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery; Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent; Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments; Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings; Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow;
  • Serbia: Stari Ras and Sopoćani; Studenica Monastery;
  • Slovakia: Historic Town of Banská Štiavnica and the Technical Monuments in its Vicinity;
  • Spain: Aranjuez Cultural Landscape; Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco; Archaeological site of Atapuerca; Garajonay National Park; Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula;
  • Sweden: Engelsberg Ironworks;
  • The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region;
  • Ukraine: L’viv – the Ensemble of the Historic Centre;
  • United States of America: Pueblo de Taos;

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

  • Brazil: Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves; Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves; Central Amazon Conservation Complex; Cerrado Protected Areas: Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks; Discovery Coast Atlantic Forest Reserves; Pantanal Conservation Area;
  • Colombia: Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary;
  • Haiti : National History Park – Citadel, Sans Souci, Ramiers ;
  • Honduras: Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve;
  • Peru: Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa; Huascarán National Park; Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana; Manú National Park; Río Abiseo National Park;
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park;

4. Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in Danger will be reviewed in priority by the Advisory Bodies;

5. Takes note that the World Heritage Centre, further to Decision 38 COM 8E, continues to harmonize all sub-headings in the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value and updates names and sizes or buffer zones, as appropriate, following relevant Decisions of the Committee concerning changes of names and Minor Boundary Modifications;

6. Requests the States Parties to provide support to the World Heritage Centre for translation of the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value into English or French respectively, and further requests the World Heritage Centre to upload the two language versions on its web site.

Draft Decision: 39 COM 7B.18

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add,
  2. 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;
  3. 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);
  4. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. 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;
  7. 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;
  8. 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.
Report year: 2015
Canada
Date of Inscription: 1983
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 39COM (2015)
Exports

* : 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”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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