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Alberta just created the world’s largest boreal protected forest.. right next to the oil sands!

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From the Province of Alberta

The largest contiguous area of boreal protected land in the world has been established in northern Alberta.

The Government of Alberta partnered with The Government of Canada, the Tallcree First Nation, Syncrude and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) on the conservation of more than 6.7 million hectares (67,000 sq. km) of boreal forest.

The creation of the Kazan, Richardson and Birch River wildland provincial parks connects the federal government’s Wood Buffalo National Park to other existing wildland provincial parks.

The new and expanded wildland provincial parks are: Kazan, Richardson, Dillon River, Birch River and Birch Mountains. In total, these northern Alberta parks contribute more than 1.36 million hectares to the province’s protected area network.

This is the largest addition to the Alberta Parks system in its history, and will constitute the largest contiguous protected boreal forest in the world under the guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Our government is committed to protecting our land, water and forests for future generations. Preserving these areas has allowed Alberta to establish the largest contiguous boreal protected area in the world. This historic achievement shows what can be accomplished when governments, First Nations, industry and environmental organizations work together.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

“The environment and the economy go together – that’s why our government is investing in protecting nature and wildlife habitat. It’s encouraging to see governments, Indigenous peoples, industry and conservation groups working together to protect this significant part of Alberta’s boreal forest as an important natural legacy for Albertans, Canadians, the world and future generations.”

Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Identified in the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) in 2012, the new parks were fully reviewed to ensure there are no economic impacts on natural resource industries or communities. Industry tenures in the parks were compensated years ago, leaving the lands free for protection.

For the five new and expanded wildland provincial parks, the Government of Alberta proposes to enter into cooperative management arrangements with Indigenous communities. Indigenous advice and knowledge will inform decision-making and management of these lands and the province will provide resources to support this process.

“Our government is listening to the Indigenous peoples of Alberta who share a deep connection with this land. This opportunity for cooperative management will help to enrich and strengthen the planning, management and operation of Alberta’s provincial parks, while also implementing our commitment to reconciliation and our respect for Indigenous heritage and traditional knowledge.”

Richard Feehan, Minister of Indigenous Relations

“This collaboration between the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the governments of Canada and Alberta, and industry are aligned with the Tallcree Tribal Government’s values regarding the preservation of the boreal forest. The boreal forest holds greater value to the First Nation for exercising our traditional way of life and the quiet enjoyment of our treaty rights.”

Rupert Meneen, Chief, Tallcree First Nation

In addition, Alberta plans to integrate an Indigenous Guardian Program into these wildland provincial parks. Under this program, First Nations and Metis peoples will be hired to monitor the areas, help maintain the lands and provide education and outreach to park visitors.

“The new wildland provincial parks ensure Indigenous peoples have places to hunt and fish with their families for generations to come. The Government of Alberta’s commitment to work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to develop cooperative management plans provides a historic opportunity to have Indigenous knowledge and values influence land-use planning.”

Bill Loutitt, CEO, McMurray Metis

Treaty 8’s Tallcree First Nation, in cooperation with the NCC and the Alberta and federal governments and with support from Syncrude, generously relinquished their Birch River area timber licence and quota to enable one of the new parks (Birch River WPP) to proceed.

The Government of Alberta thanks the Tallcree First Nation for working with the government and the NCC to achieve this historic outcome. Alberta and the Tallcree First Nation have agreed to manage the Birch River WPP with mutual benefit toward conservation and economic opportunities.

“Canada’s boreal forest is unique in the world. The ecological value of this region cannot be overstated—this is a conservation achievement of global significance. Through partnership, we have been able to make a significant step forward in advancing meaningful conservation in Canada.”

John Lounds, president & CEO, Nature Conservancy of Canada

In addition, the environmental benefits created through the establishment of the Birch River WPP will provide conservation offsets that Syncrude can apply towards future industrial activities.

“Syncrude is proud to play a role in this remarkable initiative that provides both economic and environmental benefits for Albertans and Canadians. This agreement supports our commitment to responsible development of the oil sands resource while contributing to the conservation of the boreal forest for future generations.”

Doreen Cole, managing director, Syncrude Canada Ltd.

“Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac) extends our support and congratulates the Government of Alberta as it formalizes the creation of the world’s largest network of protected areas in Canada’s boreal forest. Al-Pac has long recognized the importance of conservation areas as an integral part of managing human activity in the boreal forest for the long-term benefit of both biodiversity and the economy. ”

Elston Dzus, forest ecologist, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.

Establishing the wildland provincial parks (WPPs) will mean a protected area that is more than twice the size of Vancouver Island (32,000 sq. km), slightly smaller than the province of New Brunswick (72,908 sq. km), slightly bigger than the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia (64,000 sq. km), and 10 times the size of the Greater Toronto Area (7,124 sq. km).

Background

  • In 2010, the Lower Athabasca Regional Advisory Council, consisting of representatives from municipalities, industry, First Nations, and environmental non-governmental organizations, recommended that the Government of Alberta establish the Kazan, Dillon River and Richardson WPPs and expand the existing Birch Mountains WPP.
  • In 2012, the Government of Alberta completed the Lower Athabasca Region Plan (LARP), establishing the Birch River Conservation Area in a section of the A9 forestry management unit (FMU). While the oil sand agreements in the area were cancelled, forestry was permitted.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, the Government of Alberta spent $45 million to purchase oil sands and metallic mineral leases in the identified conservation areas.
  • In March 2018, the Government of Alberta, the NCC, the Tallcree First Nation, and Syncrude signed a Memorandum of Understanding that would see the Tallcree First Nation relinquish its timber licence and quota in the A9 FMU to the Government of Alberta.
  • By Tallcree First Nation voluntarily relinquishing its timber licence and quota, commercial forestry will no longer take place in Birch River WPP.
  • The establishment of the Kazan (570,822 hectares of new land for a total of 659,397 hectares), Richardson (264,727 hectares of new land for total of 312,068 hectares), Dillon River (191,545 hectares) and Birch River (331,832 hectares) WPPs, and the expansion of the Birch Mountains WPP (by an additional 1,563 hectares) create 1,360,390 hectares of new protected land.
  • Birch Mountains WPP is already designated and is now 145,969 hectares in size.

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Effect of pandemic border restrictions could be long-lasting: Critics

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BANFF, Alta. — The last of Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions are set to disappear at the end of this month, but some critics say they fear the measures have already caused a lasting decrease in cross-border travel.

At the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta. on Friday, prominent voices who have been arguing for months in favour of the lifting of restrictions such as mandatory vaccinations, testing and quarantine requirements for international visitors said they’re now worried the economic impacts of such measures could be permanent.

In a panel discussion at what is an annual conference for business leaders in Canada’s most-visited national park, Meredith Lilly – an associate professor at Carleton University and a former international trade advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper – said cross-border day trips by Canadians to the U.S. never fully recovered after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

She said her research has showed part of that is due to the heightened U.S. border controls put in place after that event.

“Fewer Canadians travelled to the United States to shop or fill up their tank of gas because of the unfriendly border,” Lilly said.

“Canada is now doing the same thing to Americans. So it’s going to take major effort to get Americans to come back.”

Earlier this week, federal government sources confirmed the cabinet order maintaining COVID-19 border measures will not be renewed when it expires on Sept. 30.

The change means international travellers will no longer have to prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Under the current rule, Canadians returning to the country who aren’t vaccinated must show a negative COVID-19 test result before arriving, and undergo further testing after arrival. They also must quarantine for 14 days.

The expiry also spells the end of insisting travellers use the ArriveCan app to input their vaccine status and test results, though the app will live on as an optional tool for customs and immigration.

But Lilly said the two-and-a-half years that pandemic-related border rules were in place was likely long enough to change the habits of some Americans, who will now no longer consider visiting Canada in the future.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that the number of international arrivals to this country increased in July even as they remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

The agency said the number of trips by U.S. residents in July was 2.2 million, 11 times the number of trips taken in July 2021, but still about 60 per cent of the trips reported in July 2019.

“So the picture still isn’t great,” Lilly said. “And three years is a long time for people to permanently change their behaviour.”

Canadian Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Perrin Beatty, who also spoke in Banff Friday, said this country’s tourism industry has now missed out on two summer seasons.

He said multiple medical experts have argued that testing asymptomatic travellers for COVID-19 at the border is far less effective than testing symptomatic Canadians within their communities.

“We’ve maintained these restrictions that simply make no sense. The cost to us, for small businesses in every part of this country, of the friction that we’ve put on at the border has been billions of dollars,” Beatty said.

“And we’re out of step with other countries around the world, we’re out of step with the science, and we’re out of step with the rest of Canadian society because of these self-inflicted wounds we’ve put on ourselves.”

A report released by the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable on Friday aimed to assess the impact and effectiveness of border measures and other travel restrictions implemented by the federal government to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The report, which was authored by four Canadian doctors specializing in infectious diseases, emergency medicine and pandemic management, concluded border measures have been largely ineffective at preventing new COVID-19 variants from entering the country.

It also said there is no convincing evidence that pre-departure and on-arrival testing and surveillance have had a significant impact on local transmission in Canadian communities.

The expiry of the cabinet order on Sept. 30 doesn’t deal with whether passengers must wear masks on domestic and international trains and planes because that rule is contained in a separate order issued by the minister of transport.

The tourism industry has argued masking on planes is also “inconsistent” from a policy perspective, given that the high air exchange rates on passenger aircraft make them one of the safest ways to travel from a COVID-19 perspective.

“But the government of Canada is saying the single most dangerous thing you can be doing is travelling by air,” Beatty said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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Business

Dow sinks to 2022 low as recession fears roil world markets

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BEIJING — Stocks fell sharply worldwide Friday on worries an already slowing global economy could fall into recession as central banks raise the pressure with additional interest rate hikes.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.6%, closing at its lowest level since late 2020. The S&P 500 fell 1.7%, close to its 2022 low set in mid-June, while the Nasdaq slid 1.8%.

The selling capped another rough week on Wall Street, leaving the major indexes with their fifth weekly loss in six weeks.

Energy prices closed sharply lower as traders worried about a possible recession. Treasury yields, which affect rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans, held at multiyear highs.

European stocks fell just as sharply or more after preliminary data there suggested business activity had its worst monthly contraction since the start of 2021. Adding to the pressure was a new plan announced in London to cut taxes, which sent U.K. yields soaring because it could ultimately force its central bank to raise rates even more sharply.

The Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world aggressively hiked interest rates this week in hopes of undercutting high inflation, with more big increases promised for the future. Such moves put the brakes on economies by design, in hopes that slower purchases by households and businesses will deflate inflationary pressures. But they also threaten a recession, if they rise too far or too quickly.

Besides Friday’s discouraging data on European business activity, a separate report suggested U.S. activity is also still shrinking, though not quite as badly as in earlier months.

“Financial markets are now fully absorbing the Fed’s harsh message that there will be no retreat from the inflation fight,” Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a research report.

U.S. crude oil prices slid 5.7% to their lowest levels since early this year on worries that a weaker global economy will burn less fuel. Cryptocurrency prices also fell sharply because higher interest rates tend to hit hardest the investments that look the priciest or the most risky.

Even gold fell in the worldwide rout, as bonds paying higher yields make investments that pay no interest look less attractive. Meanwhile the U.S. dollar has been moving sharply higher against other currencies. That can hurt profits for U.S. companies with lots of overseas business, as well as put a financial squeeze on much of the developing world.

The S&P 500 fell 64.76 points to 3,693.23, its fourth straight drop. The Dow, which at one point was down more than 800 points, lost 486.27 points to close at 29,590.41. The Nasdaq fell 198.88 points to 10,867.93.

Smaller company stocks did even worse. The Russell 2000 fell 42.72 points, or 2.5%, to close at 1,679.59.

More than 85% of stocks in the S&P 500 closed in the red, with technology companies, retailers and banks among the biggest weights on the benchmark index.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lifted its benchmark rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, to a range of 3% to 3.25%. It was at virtually zero at the start of the year. The Fed also released a forecast suggesting its benchmark rate could be 4.4% by the year’s end, a full point higher than envisioned in June.

Treasury yields have climbed to multiyear highs as interest rates rise. The yield on the 2-year Treasury, which tends to follow expectations for Federal Reserve action, rose to 4.20% from 4.12% late Thursday. It is trading at its highest level since 2007. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, slipped to 3.69% from 3.71%.

Goldman Sachs strategists say a majority of their clients now see a “hard landing” that pulls the economy sharply lower as inevitable. The question for them is just on the timing, magnitude and length of a potential recession.

Higher interest rates hurt all kinds of investments, but stocks could stay steady as long as corporate profits grow strongly. The problem is that many analysts are beginning to cut their forecasts for upcoming earnings because of higher rates and worries about a possible recession.

“Increasingly, market psychology has transitioned from concerns over inflation to worries that, at a minimum, corporate profits will decline as economic growth slows demand,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial.

In the U.S., the jobs market has remained remarkably solid, and many analysts think the economy grew in the summer quarter after shrinking in the first six months of the year. But the encouraging signs also suggest the Fed may have to jack rates even higher to get the cooling needed to bring down inflation.

Some key areas of the economy are already weakening. Mortgage rates have reached 14-year highs, causing sales of existing homes to drop 20% in the past year. But other areas that do best when rates are low are also hurting.

In Europe, meanwhile, the already fragile economy is dealing with the effects of war on its eastern front following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Central Bank is hiking its key interest rate to combat inflation even as the region’s economy is already expected to plunge into a recession. And in Asia, China’s economy is contending with still-strict measures meant to limit COVID infections that also hurt businesses.

While Friday’s economic reports were discouraging, few on Wall Street saw them as enough to convince the Fed and other central banks to soften their stance on raising rates. So they just reinforced the fear that rates will keep rising in the face of already slowing economies.

Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber and Business Writers Joe McDonald and Matt Ott contributed to this report.

Damian J. Troise And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press

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