UN World Heritage Committee could put Wood Buffalo National Park on UN World Heritage in Danger list

Gros Beak Lake at Wood Buffalo National Park/Photo: Wikimedia Commons

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The United Nations Heritage Committee has put forward 17 recommendations to governments and other officials when it comes to Wood Buffalo National Park and one of those recommendations involves Site C.

While the park itself is close to 1,100 kilometres away from Site C, there are still concerns.

Back in 2014, Mikisew Cree First Nation submitted a petition that voiced those concerns. That petition raised concerns regarding current and future hydroelectric dams as well as oil sands development and climate change.

The park is located where the Peace and Athabasca rivers converge. First Nations and conservationists have expressed concern about how two dams already on the Peace River are affecting the park, a problem they say will get worse from Site C.

BC Hydro responded back in March to a report that the Site C dam would have impacts on the Peace-Athabasca Delta (PAD).

A Joint Review Panel back in 2014, concluded the project would not have any measurable effect on the Peace-Athabasca Delta, something The United Nations Heritage Committee disagrees with.

“Given the enormous complexity of both the effects of river regulation and the PAD itself, the mission respectfully disagrees with this simplistic approach. From a technical perspective, it is clear that there are important effects which should be understood to inform decision-making, including as regards mitigation options.

With the aforementioned loss of high flow pulses and the reduced connectivity with the floodplain, floodplain wetland area is also impacted. The fisheries that depend on connections between the main channel and floodplain habitats (oxbows, channel scars, sloughs, etc.) for foraging, refuge, or spawning are greatly impacted as a result of channel confinement and limited access. Further, with the cutting-off of the Peace River from tributaries upstream of these hydropower projects, the combined impacts to spawning fish requiring backwater, shallow water and lower order tributaries could be dramatic.”

The committee has decided that if the 17 recommendations are not met and reported back to them by the end of next year, it could be listed as a UN World Heritage in Danger.

UNESCO World Heritage Centre paid a visit to Wood Buffalo National Park from September 25 to October 4 of 2016.

You can find the full report as well the list of recommendations at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/156893.

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