Alberta to expand world's largest connected stretch of boreal forest preserve

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EDMONTON — Alberta plans to expand the world's largest connected stretch of boreal forest preserve.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon said Thursday the province wants to protect more than 1,400 square kilometres of forest and wetland to bring the total area conserved to over 68,000 square kilometres.

The plan for what would be an expansion of the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Park now goes out for 30 days of public comment with the intent of it being passed in legislation.

"It is an area that is important, headwaters that support one of our most important places — the Peace Athabasca Delta, an area that supports traditional resources. It's our culture. It's our way of life," said Peter Powder, chief of the area's Mikisew Cree.

Powder said the expansion would protect land and water for traditional use.

The area sits just south of Wood Buffalo National Park. It connects Kitaskino Nuwenëné with Birch Hills Wildland Park, created by the previous provincial government.

Nixon said the park was made possible by the surrender of industrial dispositions on the land from companies including Cenovus and Athabasca Oil.

"This is a great example of how we can achieve positive outcomes when we work together," he said.

The park is home to threatened species such as woodland caribou and wood bison.

It's the second announcement protecting stretches of northern Alberta's forests this week.

On Tuesday, the province said it had completed a plan to manage oilsands development in an area near the Fort McKay First Nation that supports traditional land uses and maintains ecological integrity.

That came after more than 20 years of talks and followed an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling last April. The court overturned regulatory approvals for a $440-million oilsands project that would have encroached on land the First Nation considers sacred.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021

The Canadian Press