Collaboration leads to boreal forest protection of global importance




MAY 15, 2018 | Nature Conservancy of Canada


A unique partnership, brought together by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), today celebrates the creation of a 3,300-square-kilometre conserved area in northeast Alberta. When added to other contiguous conserved lands in the area it is now part of the largest stretch of protected boreal forest on the planet — an area more than twice the size of Belgium.

A series of agreements between the Tallcree Tribal Government, NCC, the governments of Alberta and Canada and Syncrude Canada have contributed to the creation of the new Birch River Wildland Provincial Park. The park borders the southern boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park.

The catalyst for today’s announcement was a decision by the Tallcree Tribal Government to relinquish its timber quota on the A9 Forest Management Unit. NCC purchased the relinquishment for $2.8 million with the majority of the funding provided by Syncrude Canada Ltd. NCC then worked with the Tallcree to return the quota to the Government of Alberta. The timber quota is now permanently cancelled.

The cancellation of the timber quota has cleared the way for the Government of Alberta, through an Order in Council, to create the Birch River Wildland Park. When added to other new and expanded neighbouring parks, (Richardson, Kazan and Birch Mountain), as well as Wood Buffalo National Park, this forms the largest contiguous conserved boreal forest area in the world. The protected area now measures 67,735 square kilometres. It is a conservation achievement of global significance.

Canada’s boreal zone is part of a wide, green band that encircles the globe’s northern latitudes. Nearly a third of the world’s boreal zone lies within Canada, and its forest teems with life. The boreal forest provides us with clean air and water, a nursery for billions of migratory birds and the planet’s largest terrestrial carbon sink. It plays a major role in regulating the global climate. Keeping carbon stored in the ground and out of the atmosphere is one of the most important and easiest ways we can prevent climate change from worsening.

The Birch River Wildland Park is a haven for 68 species of conservation concern, including three that are listed under the federal Species at Risk Act — peregrine falcon (special concern), wood bison (threatened) and woodland caribou (threatened). It encompasses 13 per cent of the core habitat for the Red Earth caribou range.

The wildland park will directly contribute to Canada Target 1 — the nation’s pledge to the world to conserve 17 per cent of our land and inland waters by 2020. Conservation at this scale also reinforces a region’s ability to adapt to climate change.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada acknowledges and thanks the Tallcree Tribal Government for working with us to achieve this important goal.

We are grateful for the funding support that has made the Birch River project possible. Syncrude Canada, the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the Schad Foundation and others have generously contributed funds to support the retirement of the timber quota.


“The impact of this conservation project reaches well beyond the region, the province of Alberta or even Canada. This is conservation on a global scale. Nature can only benefit when people work together. We are grateful for the work of all our partners who have joined together to achieve conservation through collaboration.” John Lounds, President and CEO, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“This collaboration between the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Governments of Canada and Alberta and industry have aligned with Tallcree Tribal Government’s values regarding the preservation of the boreal forest. The boreal forest holds greater value to the First Nation for exercising our traditional way of life and the quiet enjoyment of our Treaty Rights.” Chief Meneen, Band Manager, Tallcree Tribal Government

“The environment and the economy go together – that’s why our government is investing in protecting nature and wildlife habitat. It’s encouraging to see governments, Indigenous peoples, industry and conservation groups working together to protect this significant part of Alberta’s boreal forest as an important natural legacy for Albertans, Canadians, the world and future generations.” The Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Our government is committed to protecting our land, water and forests for future generations. These protected areas will enable Alberta to contribute to the largest contiguous boreal protected area in the world. This historic achievement shows what can be accomplished when governments, First Nations, industry, and environmental organizations work together.” Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

“Syncrude is proud to be a part this historic partnership to create the world’s largest boreal forest conservation area. It shows what’s achievable when we work together towards a common goal.” Doreen Cole, Managing Director of Syncrude

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The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres), coast to coast. In Alberta, more than 11,300 hectares (280,000 acres) of the province’s most ecologically significant land and water have been conserved. 

The Government of Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership to accelerate the pace of land conservation across Canada. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) manages the program. Federal funds are matched by contributions raised by NCC and its partners. Habitat conserved under the NACP enhances natural corridors and other protected areas.

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