UNESCO calls on Canada to examine impacts of Peace River dams, oil sands development on national park

A United Nations agency is calling on the Canadian government to delay development and conduct an environmental assessment of a national park that will be impacted by the Site C dam.

A report in the Globe and Mail this week says that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee concluded the Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta is facing increasing risk from the encroachment and rise of oil sands in northern Alberta and dam development on the Peace River.

The park — Canada’s largest at 44,800 square kilometres — includes the Peace-Athabasca river delta, and was declared a world heritage site in 1983 for its abundant wildlife.

According to the Globe report, UNESCO wants the federal government to avoid any development decisions that would impact the park and “would be difficult to reverse.”

UNESCO’s call was a direct response to a petition by Mikisew Cree First Nation, who, along with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, have a launched a federal legal challenge over the approval of the $8.8-billion Site C project.

The two nations say continued hydro development on the Peace River in BC have drastically lowered water levels in the delta, which is home to a number of threatened wildlife species, and includes ancestral lands traditionally used by the nations for hunting and fishing.

They have also raised concerns over a proposed oil sands mine by Teck Resources in the area.

The nations fear continued development will push the delta past the point of any possible recovery.

For more, read the full Globe and Mail report.