Oilsands producers Teck, Cenovus Energy and Imperial Oil have voluntarily relinquished leases in order to help create a new Alberta wildland provincial park, the province said on Monday.
The new protected area will be called Kitaskino Nuwenëné, which means “our land” in both Cree and Dene.
The wildland will preserve more than 160,000 hectares of land just south of Wood Buffalo National Park, protecting the Peace-Athabasca watershed and increasing ecological integrity and habitat for species at risk such as woodland caribou and the Ronald Lake Bison herd, the province said.
“Initially proposed by Mikisew Cree First Nation, the wildland will safeguard their way of life while addressing concerns raised in a 2016 UNESCO report on Wood Buffalo National Park,” the province said.
It adds to what is already the largest contiguous area of boreal protected land in the world, 67,000 square kilometre that was established in Alberta in May 2018 through work that included Syncrude.
Previously proposed as the Biodiversity Stewardship Area, the new wildland is the result of months of collaborative discussion between Indigenous groups, industry and other stakeholders, and federal and provincial governments, as well as public consultation.