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Alberta’s proposed parks act puts World Heritage Sites at risk

  • Published on Nov 23 2010 |
  • This article is tagged as: alberta

Calgary, AB -- The new Alberta Provincial Parks Act, Bill 29, currently being debated in the provincial legislature, will place at risk the province’s famous Rocky Mountain parks and other locations designated as UNESCO World Heritage sties, conservationists charge. Bill 29 proposes a significant overhaul of the laws governing Alberta’s Parks and Protected Areas. CPAWS and other environmental groups have been opposing the Bill and calling for its withdrawal since its introduction in legislature on November 4, 2010.

The Bill is expected to be under debate today and could come to a final vote in the Alberta Legislature later this week.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is calling Bill 29 “the worst conservation legislation in Canada’s living history.” It charges that the draft Act removes substantive protections for Alberta parks and other protected areas, representing a significant step backwards in ensuring the preservation of Alberta’s natural heritage. By removing prescriptive details from the law about what can and cannot happen in Alberta’s most protected wilderness, the group charges the Bill risks protection of many of the most environmentally significant and sensitive areas in the province.

“The removal of these protective measures will open up our Parks to all kinds of development proposals,” says Sarah Elmeligi, Senior Conservation Planner for the CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter. “This will not only impact areas of local and regional significance, but could put our UNESCO World Heritage Sites at risk,” she adds.

A World Heritage Site (WHS) designation is a science-based, universally accepted rating system for cultural and natural heritage of global significance. Bill 29 directly affects World Heritage Sites in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park (currently nominated), Wood Buffalo National Park, and the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.

“If Bill 29 passes, management that preserves the sensitive and significant features of our World Heritage Sites would be compromised. By having protection decisions solely in the Minister-of-the-day’s hands, we not only put the ecological features of these sites at risk, we risk having their international status revoked,” adds Elmeligi.

“Without protection provisions for the contiguous Wilderness Areas and Wildland Parks, the ecological integrity of Wood Buffalo and the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks will be at serious risk. Currently, the ecological health of these entire ecosystems is maintained partly by current legislation that specifies activities not permitted in these Provincial protected areas,” charges Elmeligi.

Alberta is the only region in North America where the great, expansive natural landscapes of the Boreal, Rocky Mountains, and Great Plains meet and give rise to a unique diversity of natural environments. Alberta’s parks network and the World Heritage Sites within it warrant legislation that sets preservation as a priority and is exemplary to other jurisdictions in Canada and abroad.

For more information:
Sarah Elmeligi
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society:
403-688-8641
selmelegi@cpaws.org