Alberta’s Six UNESCO World Heritage Sites


By Katie Sowden, Alberta Environment and Parks

Alberta is home to magnificent landscapes that are waiting to be explored, including six UNESCO World Heritage Sites—more than any other state or province in North America. We are proud of our conservation and cultural heritage, as UNESCO celebrates 50 years of recognizing outstanding natural and cultural sites with universal importance worldwide, Albertans are invited to experience and celebrate these special places.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

In addition to its spectacular badlands scenery, Dinosaur Provincial Park protects some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made. Well known as one of the richest dinosaur fossil locations in the world, dozens of prehistoric species have been discovered at the park. The exceptional abundance and diversity of fossils include dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Period along with other ancient plants and animals including turtles, crocodiles, fish, birds, ferns and more.


The unique landforms of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi resulted from the dynamic interaction of geology, climate and time. The coulees and hoodoos in the Milk River valley were formed as sedimentary rocks were exposed by a massive volume of meltwater eroding the soft sandstone after the last ice age, 85 million years ago. Located in the heart of Traditional Blackfoot Territory, this is where ancient stories took place and where ancestors left engravings and paintings on the sandstone walls of the valley. This sacred landscape is an example of the history, longevity, and resilience of the traditions of the Blackfoot people.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

In southwest Alberta, the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump area spans 1,470 acres and demonstrates the Blackfoot People’s history of communal bison hunting. Due to the excellent degree of preservation, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump allows scientists to trace bison jumping from its earliest beginnings. Using their unique knowledge of the landscape and animal behaviour, Blackfoot people chased their prey over a precipice, later utilizing the carcasses in the camp below.

Some of Alberta’s UNESCO sites are also part of the national parks system, including:

Wood Buffalo National Park

Covering 44,807 square kilometres, Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest national park. Home to North America’s largest population of wild bison and the natural nesting place of the whooping crane, the park is a celebration of the northern boreal wilderness. The world’s largest inland delta sits at the mouth of the Peace and Athabasca rivers, and visitors can take advantage of a dark sky preserve for a spectacular view of the northern lights.

The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks

The interprovincial group of parks, including Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber parks form a striking mountain landscape. On Alberta’s side, picture-perfect scenery and rich history come together with rocky peaks, turquoise lakes and crashing waterfalls. Endless outdoor adventures await in the Banff and Jasper National Parks.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in Montana combined to form the world’s first international peace park. Nestled in the far southwest corner of Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park offers outstanding scenery, including prairie, forest, alpine and glacial features. Majestic mountain views and exceptional hiking trails are bursting with diverse flora and fauna where the rolling prairies collide with the stunning Rocky Mountains.

The Ronald Lake Wood Bison Herd in Alberta


By Katie Sowden, Alberta Environment and Parks

Do you know that bison were once on the brink of extinction, and only a few hundred remained? With conservation efforts over time, wild free-ranging bison are now found in a number of locations in Alberta. Two types of bison make their home in Alberta, plains bison and wood bison. Wood bison are larger than plains bison, making them the largest land animal in North America.

Excluding Wood Buffalo National Park and Elk Island National Park, Alberta’s wild wood bison are found in small, isolated herds in northern Alberta.

The Ronald Lake bison herd is a crucial population for the recovery of wood bison, both provincially and nationally, and has a population of around 270 bison. Their range of over 2000 square kilometres is bordered by the Birch Mountains to the west and the Athabasca River to the east, with a small portion overlapping Wood Buffalo National Park.

Since 2014, Alberta has worked with partners and supported research to better understand the Ronald Lake bison herd’s ecology and habitat. Surveys are conducted every few years to monitor the herd’s population and health. The next survey is, planned for 2024, will use radio collars, cameras and aerial flights to observe and record changes to the herd’s demographic, distribution, movement and composition.

How Alberta protects the herd

What are the threats to the Ronald Lake bison herd? The most significant risk is the threat of disease from neighbouring bison herds in Wood Buffalo National Park. Although they live in close proximity to diseased bison that have bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis, the Ronald Lake herd is genetically distinct and disease-free. Other potential threats to recovery include changes to habitat from resource extraction activities. The Ronald Lake herd is protected under Alberta legislation, which lists wood bison as threatened.

The recently expanded Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park protects a significant portion of the natural habitat of the herd, including 100 per cent of the herd’s calving range. A portion of the herd’s range also occurs in Wood Buffalo National Park. Over one half of the herd’s range occurs within protected areas.

Alberta has established a cooperative management board for the Ronald Lake bison herd. The board includes seven Indigenous communities and several additional organizations and is developing a herd management plan. Ensuring the conservation of the herd, and the sustainability of Indigenous traditional use and cultural connection is of utmost importance.

Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park Expansion


By Katie Sowden, Alberta Environment and Parks

Did you know? The expansion of Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park has expanded the largest area of protected boreal forest in the world.

The concepts of conservation and stewardship aren’t new to Albertans and are shared responsibilities. Working together, we are all responsible for protecting and enhancing the environment.

Wildland provincial parks

Wildland provincial parks conserve wilderness while offering opportunities for backcountry recreation on lands that are relatively undisturbed. They provide sustainable outdoor opportunities, support Indigenous People’s traditional activities, including the exercise of treaty rights, protect watersheds and preserve critical wildlife habitats. There are 34 wildland provincial parks in Alberta, protecting over 34,861 square kilometres of land. The Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park is now the fourth largest wildland provincial park in Alberta.

Working together to preserve boreal wilderness

Kitaskino means “our land” in Cree and Nuwenëné means “our land” in Dene.

Collaboration between the Alberta government, the federal government, Indigenous communities and industry made the expansion possible. The Mikisew Cree First Nation led the discussions, which began in 2019, and several industry partners contributed over 230,000 acres of mineral rights to make the expansion of the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park possible.

Alberta initially established the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park in 2019, consisting of 400,000 acres of land. The Government of Alberta gathered input from Albertans on the proposed expansion in 2021, and after learning about the proposed expansion, a new oil sands leaseholder offered to support the expansion by voluntarily surrendering Crown mineral agreements in the middle of the proposed expansion area. An additional area 21,000 acres was identified for inclusion, making the final area more than 19,000 acres larger than anticipated.

The expansion of the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park, now totalling 775,000 acres aligns with the Alberta Crown Land Vision, which guides Alberta’s management of the province’s rich, natural heritage of Crown lands.

Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park is special

The expansion area is located south of Wood Buffalo National Park, part of the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world, with 98 per cent of the addition overlapping with caribou habitat, as well as a small portion of the Ronald Lake bison herd range.

The expansion supports Indigenous Peoples’ traditional activities, including the exercise of treaty rights, addressing interests of Indigenous communities and supporting collaboration among Indigenous communities, industry and government.

In addition, the expansion contributes to watershed protection in support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Outstanding Universal Values of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, and provides a conservation buffer in support of the UNESCO Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site.

The Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland, now 775,000 acres, is slightly larger than Yosemite National Park in the United States which sits at 760,921 acres.