Executive Summary

Parks Canada manages one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected natural and historic areas in the world. We protect and present these treasures on behalf of Canadians and management plans are a key tool in fulfilling this commitment. This document presents the management plan for Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada. It contains commitments to the public of Canada regarding the on-going protection of one of Canada's natural treasures and the provision of real and inspiring experiences and learning opportunities.

Wood Buffalo National Park spans the boundary of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Encompassing an area of 44,741 square kilometres, Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada's largest national park, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site and the second largest national park in the world.

Wood Buffalo National Park was originally created in 1922 to protect the last free roaming herds of wood bison in northern Canada. The park was later identified as critical habitat for the endangered whooping crane and it continues to protect the only wild, self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in the world. In 1982 the Peace-Athabasca Delta and the whooping crane nesting area were added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance and in 1983 UNESCO recognized Wood Buffalo National Park for its many natural wonders.

Wood Buffalo National Park attracts local, national and international visitors who wish to experience and learn about the unique cultures, landscapes and wildlife of the boreal region. The 2010 management plan for Wood Buffalo National Park establishes a course of action to facilitate the inspired discovery of one of Canada's wilderness icons and to provide Canadians with an opportunity to create a sense of connection to Wood Buffalo National Park. It also sets the stage for Parks Canada to establish a management structure with local Aboriginal groups and build stronger relationships with stakeholders, and it presents a comprehensive strategy to address disease within the park's wood bison population.

There are three key strategies that form the foundation of the 2010 management plan. These strategies support the park's ten vision elements and the three elements of Parks Canada's integrated mandate – the protection of heritage resources, the facilitation of visitor experiences and public outreach education. Each key strategy will move Wood Buffalo National Park towards its future best and a set of corresponding objectives and actions will provide concrete direction with measurable targets. The three key strategies for Wood Buffalo National Park are as follows:

Key Strategy 1: Towards a Shared Vision

Towards a Shared Vision focuses on building relationships with local Aboriginal groups and communities. Parks Canada will work towards the establishment of a management structure with local Aboriginal groups and ecological integrity and cultural resources will be improved with support from local Aboriginal groups. Local communities will be aware of and provided with opportunities to actively and meaningfully participate in park management decisions, and visitor experience in the park and public outreach education efforts for the park will involve both local Aboriginal groups and local communities.

Key actions:

  • Building and developing a management structure between Parks Canada and local Aboriginal groups.
  • Collaborating with local Aboriginal groups and local communities to create a Vision Statement.
  • Working with communities around the park to expand partnering opportunities and incorporate Wood Buffalo National Park into their tourism offer.
  • Engaging local Aboriginal groups in cultural and ecological research and monitoring programs.

Key Strategy 2: Connecting to the Magic of the Boreal Plains

Connecting to the Magic of the Boreal Plains will position the park as a dynamic destination to inspire discovery and experience the diversity of the northern boreal plains. An increased number of visitors will have meaningful experiences in Wood Buffalo National Park and more Canadians will feel connected to and understand the significance of the park within the Canadian park system and internationally. An understanding of audiences' needs, expectations and desires will improve visitor experience and public outreach education initiatives.

Key actions:

  • Completion of Visitor Information Program surveys in 2011 and 2014.
  • Collaborating with local Aboriginal peoples to identify appropriate cultural stories for heritage presentation.
  • Developing a public outreach education strategy to support the Boreal Plains theme by 2011.
  • Develop a visitor experience plan by 2012.

Key Strategy 3: Bison Management in the Greater Wood Buffalo National Park Ecosystem

An integrated program of monitoring, research and management will be developed under Bison Management in the Greater Wood Buffalo National Park Ecosystem. This strategy will ensure the long-term viability of the Wood Buffalo National Park wood bison herd and it will minimize the risk of transmission of bovine diseases to adjacent disease-free wood bison and cattle herds.

Key actions:

  • Implement a research program to improve our understanding of wood bison population dynamics (including the interaction of disease with predation and other environmental factors), movement and habitat use.
  • Develop and implement a disease containment strategy by 2012.
  • Work with Aboriginal partners to bridge traditional knowledge with western science in wood bison management and communication strategies.

Area Management Approaches

There are two area management approaches for Wood Buffalo National Park: the Peace-Athabasca Delta Area Management Approach and the Pine Lake Area Management Approach. Area management approaches are effective for specific geographic locations within the park that require more detailed planning. The Peace-Athabasca Delta Area Management Approach addresses the challenges of maintaining, or in some cases improving, the delta's ecological integrity and cultural value in cooperation with Aboriginal partners, stakeholders, government and industry. The Pine Lake Area Management Approach promotes compatible land-use and development for reserve and park lands at Pine Lake.

Wood Buffalo National Park represents a measure of protection for land, water and wildlife that might otherwise be lost or impaired. The above key strategies and area management approaches will improve ecosystem conservation and facilitate visitor experience and public outreach education initiatives that will strengthen the place of Wood Buffalo National Park in the hearts and minds of Canadians. Monitoring and evaluation will provide a ensure the protection of the park's heritage resources and the integrated delivery of Parks Canada's mandate and with the identification of new issues and challenges over time Wood Buffalo National Park will move into its next phase of park management planning.

In an effort to make this information available to you in a timely manner, this plan is currently only available in PDF format. Should you require a printed or CD copy please contact Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada at:  pc.woodbuffaloinfo-infowoodbuffalo.pc@pc.gc.ca

2010 Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada Management Plan (PDF, 3.32 MB)

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