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New park provides needed safeguards for one of Canada’s 10 longest wild rivers, WWF-Canada says

Alberta’s Birch River largely protected by new provincial park

/EIN News/ -- NORTHERN ALBERTA, May 17, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- World Wildlife Fund Canada is thrilled to see one of Canada’s longest wild rivers protected from future development through the creation this week of new provincial parks in Alberta.

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WWF-Canada recently identified the Birch River as one of the country’s top 10 wild rivers, based on its status as a free-flowing river that is relatively unharmed by human development, and called for their protection. With the announcement this week of the new Birch River Wildland and other provincial parks, most of the river will be protected, benefitting wildlife and those communities downstream in the Peace-Athabasca river delta.

The collaboration among Alberta, Canada, the Tallcree First Nation, Syncrude and the Nature Conservancy of Canada to create these parks provides a leading example of how governments, communities, industry and civil society need to work together to advance conservation. 

The resulting two per cent increase in protected areas in the province is an important contribution toward reaching our target under the Convention on Biological Diversity of 17 per cent of lands and inland waters protected by 2020. It’s also a good step toward managing habitat for the threatened  boreal woodland caribou.

Elizabeth Hendriks, vice-president of freshwater conservation for WWF-Canada, says:

“The protection of the Birch River is a vital contribution toward safeguarding Canada’s wild rivers. Despite their importance, these ecologically and culturally important rivers are often not given the same attention as land or ocean habitats – and that must change. As Canada works toward achieving protecting 17 per cent of our land and inland waters, it is time to start giving wild rivers the credit and protections they deserve. Provincial protections like those announced by the government of Alberta this week are an important step in protecting these wild rivers.” 

About the Birch River:

  • Flows into Lake Claire and the Peace-Athabasca Delta, which is one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas and is significant habitat for migratory waterfowl.
  • Passes through communities of Chipewyan, Cree, Métis and non-Indigenous people.
  • Now almost fully protected from the harmful impacts of human development by the new Birch River Wildland Park, the expanded Birch Mountain Wildland Park and the existing Wood Buffalo National Park.
  • Supports a recreational and commercial fishery, with species including goldeye, lake whitefish, mountain whitefish, northern pike and walleye.

Wildlife protected by the Birch River Wildland Provincial Park: Northern pike; wood bison (Threatened); mountain whitefish; woodland caribou (Threatened); peregrine falcon (Special concern) 

What is a free-flowing river?

Any river, or section of a river, that is not impacted by a dam.

What is a wild river?

A river not negatively impacted by pollution, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, overuse of water, invasive species, climate change or alteration of flows. 

Why wild and free-flowing rivers are worth safeguarding
Canada is one of the last places on the planet where you will find rivers that run for hundreds of kilometres, unencumbered by dams and relatively untouched by development. These freshwater highways:

  • Benefit wildlife (including species at risk) that rely on intact river ecosystems.
  • Facilitate climate-change adaptation.
  • Allow for the unhindered transportation of nutrients for plants and animals.
  • Maintain a healthy food supply for communities.
  • Support native biodiversity.
  • Provide pollution control.
  • Support vibrant industries.
  • Provide substantial cultural and spiritual value.

About World Wildlife Fund Canada

WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.

Philippe Devos
                    World Wildlife Fund Canada
                    +1 416 453 0092
                    pdevos@wwfcanada.org
                    

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