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Alberta grants globally significant protection to boreal forest

Y2Y celebrates the announcement of new protection for 1.36 million hectares of parkland in northeast Alberta creating the largest stretch of protected boreal forest on the planet.

MEDIA RELEASE | May 15, 2018

Today, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) celebrates the announcement of new protection for 1.36 million hectares of parkland in northeast Alberta. This area is now part of the largest stretch of protected boreal forest on the planet at 67,735-square-kilometres — an area about twice the size of Vancouver Island.  

The formalization of the Lower Athabasca regional land use plan helped create four new wildland parks and expands an existing one.

A significant conservation easement enacted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada in partnership with the Tallcree First Nation in the Birch River region south of Wood Buffalo makes this an important international conservation achievement.

What’s more, when combined with existing protected areas nearby in Wood Buffalo National Park, the Province of Alberta has taken a significant step in to help meet its Canada Target 1 goals.

“This shows that Alberta is serious about its commitment to protect nature,” says Jodi Hilty, president and chief scientist of Y2Y. “Weaving conservation areas together the way the government of Alberta is in the boreal is fundamental to the conservation of endangered species and wild landscapes. This government sets a positive trend for others to follow.”

Alberta’s Minister of the Environment Shannon Phillips co-chairs the National Steering Committee on the Pathway to Canada Target 1. Target 1 is Canada’s response to the global commitment from the federal government to protect 17 per cent of the world’s terrestrial ecosystems by 2020, as laid out in the Convention of Biological Diversity. Before the announcement Alberta was at 12.5 per cent of protected land; these new protected areas increase that by almost 2 per cent.

“This is what it means to lead the effort to protect nature,” says Stephen Legault, program director at Y2Y. “Alberta can be proud as it starts to build vital momentum to protect the wide range of landscapes, waters and wilderness of this diverse province. We look forward to working with all Albertans as we continue this important effort to protect nature and people.”

Y2Y recognizes and congratulates members of Treaty 8 and the Metis Settlements of the region for their leadership. Nature Conservancy of Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Alberta Wilderness Association, the Government of Canada, and Syncrude all demonstrated the kind of commitment to nature and communities that make Albertans proud with this protection.

We hope the next step in this region will be a response to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s request to effectively buffer the southern boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park, and for future protections to address the findings of the Lower Athabasca regional land use plan review panel.

For further comment please contact:

Kelly Zenkewich, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative communications manager,