UNESCO to send group to Wood Buffalo National Park, says First Nations delegate – by Jodie Sinnema (Edmonton Journal – July 1, 2015)

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Party will look at environment impact of oilsands development

UNESCO has agreed to send a monitoring committee to Wood Buffalo National Park to look at cumulative effects of oil, gas and hydro development on the environment, says a northern Alberta First Nation representative.

During a convention in Bonn, Germany this week, UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — reviewed concerns raised by the Mikisew Cree Nation about the sprawling national park that straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border.

The Mikisew Cree had petitioned to have Wood Buffalo — a World Heritage Site since 1983 — deemed “in danger” because of the Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River approved by the British Columbia and federal governments, as well as oilsands development and proposed open-pit mining near the northern Alberta park.

“The Mikisew have reported that First Nations have expressed significant concern about (the hydroelectric dam’s) impacts on their hunting, fishing and agricultural areas,” reads a document posted on UNESCO’s website.

The document notes that while a joint Alberta-Canada implementation plan was set up to make sure government worked with stakeholders to make decisions about oilsands development, indigenous groups in the region withdrew from that plan “due to concerns about the engagement process, limited incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge and lack of transparency.”

UNESCO accepted the document Wednesday with no objections, said Melody Lepine, head of the Mikisew delegation in Germany, and expressed its own concerns about the impacts of oilsands development on the Peace-Athabasca delta.

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