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Nature News
by Marlene Harris

Summer 2001   —   Road Through National Park Approved

Parks Canada has approved construction of a winter road through Wood Buffalo National Park, despite a host of protests from conservation groups. Wood Buffalo, a UNESCO world heritage site, straddles the NWT /Alberta border and is home to the world’s largest herd of free-ranging bison, and constitutes the last remaining natural nesting region of the endangered Whooping Crane.

Residents of Fort Smith on the northern edge of the Park, and others in villages within Park boundaries had been lobbying the government to approve construction of the winter road, connecting the various villages. Parks Canada finally approved the plan, provided the residents agreed to take on the responsibility of monitoring the construction’s effects on regional wildlife.

Most vocal among the opponents of the plan, is the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). According to CPAWS the notion that local residents have the requisite knowledge and expertise to adequately monitor wildlife, is ridiculous, and they expressed a strong belief that the government’s first goal is ecological integrity, not "bowing to the lobbying of small local groups." CPAWS is currently checking into the legal aspects of the proposed road and is prepared to take the government to court over the issue, if necessary.

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