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.