Syncrude, provincial and federal governments, Nature Conservancy of Canada and Tallcree First Nation join forces to create Birch River Wildland Provincial Park, a protected boreal forest in Northern Alberta.  Nature Conservancy of Canada photo.

Syncrude to contribute $2.3 million

Syncrude is joining the governments of Alberta and Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Tallcree First Nation in the creation of the world’s largest protected area of boreal forest.

According to a press release issued by the oil sands giant, Syncrude will contribute $2.3 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which made a payment for a timber quota held by the Tallcree First Nation.

The government of Alberta then cancelled the timber quota which allowed for creation of the Birch River Wildland Provincial Park.  The new park sits next to Wood Buffalo National Park, Kazan Wildland Provincial Park, Birch Mountains Wildland Provincial Park and Richardson Wildland Provincial Park.

“Canadians are ready to work together to protect the natural places that make this country unique in the world,” said John Lounds, President and CEO of Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Chief of the Tallcree First Nation, Rupert Meneen says the collaboration between all parties involved is aligned with the 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,” said Meneen.

This marks the largest addition to the Alberta Parks system in its history, according to the government of Alberta.  The area will constitute the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world under the guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks said “This historic achievement shows what can be accomplished when governments, First Nations, industry and environmental organizations work together.”

The parks form a protected boreal forest area of over 67,000 Km2, an area twice as large as Vancouver Island.

“The ecological value of our boreal forest cannot be understated – this is a conservation achievement of global significance”, said Lounds. He added “Through partnership, we have been able to make a significant step forward in advancing meaningful conservation in Canada.”

Habitat for 68 species of conservation concern and three species at risk, including the wood bison, woodland caribou and the peregrine falcon, will be part of the protected area.

“Syncrude is proud to play a role in this remarkable initiative that provides both economic and environmental benefits for Albertans and Canadians,” said Managing Director Doreen Cole.

Part of Syncrude’s investment provides a land disturbance offset for future mining development as well as other commitments to cut the company’s environmental impacts.  Syncrude’s proposed Mildred Lake Extension Project is currently undergoing regulatory review.

“This agreement supports our commitment to responsible development of the oil sands while contributing to the conservation of the boreal forest for future generations,” said Cole. “Creating this protected area is a natural extension of our reclamation efforts and furthers our commitment to biodiversity conservation.”

Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change says she is encouraged that all parties worked together to protect this area of the boreal forest as a legacy for future generations.

“The environment and the economy go together – that’s why our government is investing in protecting nature and wildlife habitat.”