World Heritage Sites in Danger with Alberta’s Proposed Parks Act
Ottawa, ON – UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS) will be directly and adversely affected by the Alberta Government’s proposed Alberta Parks Act (Bill 29) according to a letter that national conservation organizations have emailed Alberta Premier, Ed Stelmach and copied to IUCN, the international scientific body that provides advice to the World Heritage Committee. The Alberta Government with its huge majority is set to pass Bill 29 this Thursday, without any public consultation on it. The organization’s letter echoes the growing call of Albertans and newspaper editorials to withdraw the Bill. If passed, protection will no longer be the priority in Alberta’s parks. Directly impacted is Dinosaur Provincial Park WHS and Áísínai’pi (Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park), on UNESCO’s list to become a WHS. Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves and Wildland Parks are to be done away with, including those the groups describe as needed for the ecological health of Wood Buffalo WHS, and Banff and Jasper National Parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks WHS.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Nature Canada and Sierra Club Canada are calling Bill 29 “one of the worst pieces of conservation legislation to come forward anywhere in Canada in a decade.” They are asking that the Bill be withdrawn. Alberta’s Environmental Law Centre sums the Bill up as “a significant step backwards in ensuring the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage.”
“It’s another black-eye for Alberta’s international environmental record,” says John Bennett, Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada.
The draft Act removes prescriptive laws specifying what can and cannot happen inside parks, opens all parks to tourism development and off-road motorized recreation, and leaves all decisions between development and protection inside parks to Ministerial opinion. That includes Dinosaur and Áísínai’pi, and the parks contiguous with Wood Buffalo, Banff and Jasper. For example, woodland caribou and grizzly bear that rely on the World Heritage Sites and contiguous parks are directly affected. Both species are listed as Threatened in Alberta.
“The removal of these protective measures will open up the World Heritage Sites and the parks contiguous with them to all kinds of development proposals and the option of off-road vehicles,” says Sarah Elmeligi, Senior Conservation Planner for the CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter.
A World Heritage Site (WHS) designation is a science-based, universally accepted rating system for cultural and natural heritage of global significance. Nominations come from the countries in whose jurisdiction the sites are located and they remain responsible for the laws, policy and management to protect them. Dinosaur WHS is located in southern Alberta
“The bottom line is that Alberta doesn’t function in a bubble. The decisions the Alberta Government makes affects World Heritage Sites and ecosystems of international significance,” says Elmeligi.
For more information:
Alexander MacDonald, Nature Canada: 613 560-3447