Wood Buffalo National Park
Pine Lake, Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada; Photo by Ansgar Walk

Canada Protects 4 New Parks, Forest Now Twice the Size of Belgium

Canada is now home to the largest stretch of protected boreal forest in the world.

Wood Buffalo National Park
Pine Lake, Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, Canada; Photo by Ansgar Walk

On May 15, the Nature Conservancy of Canada celebrated the creation of a 1,274 square-mile conserved forest in northeastern Alberta.

Through an Order in Council, the Government of Alberta created the Birch River Wildland Park. This park is near the recently created Richardson, Kazan, and Birch Mountain parks, thus creating the largest continuous boreal forest in the world.

And to the south, the parks link up with the already massive Wood Buffalo National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site home to the largest wild bison population in North America.

Wood Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo; Photo from Ansgar Walk
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The announcement comes after the Tallcree Tribal Government relinquished its timber quota of $2.8 million. The NCC purchased the relinquishment, thus opening the door for the Government of Alberta to protect the land and create the parks.

Largest Boreal Forest: Birch River Wildland Park

Canada’s protected boreal forests now total 26,156 square miles – a conservation achievement the NCC says is of “global significance.”

“The impact of this conservation project reaches well beyond the region, the province of Alberta, or even Canada,” said John Lounds, president and CEO of the NCC. “This is conservation on a global scale.”

Wood Buffalo National Park

Birch River Wildland Park and the other new parks are part of Canada’s pledge to conserve 17 percent of its land and waters by 2020.

The protection prevents industrial activities like logging and oil sands development.

Boreal Forest: Canada’s Largest Vegetation Zone

Boreal forest makes up 55 percent of Canada’s land mass. From the Yukon to Newfoundland, lakes, wetlands, and trees span the country.

Wood Buffalo National Park
American White Pelicans; Photo by Ansgar Walk

Pines, spruces, and larches are common trees found in boreal forests.

And the recently protected Birch River Wildland Park is a haven for 68 species of conservation concern. Peregrine falcons, wood bison, and woodland caribou inhabit the land.

Nate Mitka

Midwest born, Nate Mitka is based in the GearJunkie Denver office. He is an advocate of all outdoor activities and has developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.