McClelland Lake Introduction
The McClelland Lake watershed lies just east of the Athabasca River in northeastern Alberta about 90 km north of Fort McMurray in an area known as the Fort Hills.
It includes several environmentally significant features including McClelland Lake, a large patterned fen, a dissected kame, and sinkhole lakes. The watershed also contains the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex. The scenic beauty of this Complex rivals that of the most famous sites in the Canadian Rockies. Important both for its diverse biophysical features and its ecological functions, it is one of Canada’s least-known natural heritage treasures.
"This is the most extraordinary and spectacular patterned fen I have ever seen. It is a world-class site."
- Dr. Diana Horton, Botanist, University of Iowa.
- During the Special Places process, the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex was described as “worthy of a strenuous protection effort” (1998).
- In 2002, after TrueNorth Energy discovered oil under the fen, the government broke its own amendment guidelines to give in to the company’s request to change the 1996 IRP, which had protected the fen from mining.
In October 2002, the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) approved TrueNorth’s tar sands mining application despite a lengthy hearing with strong opposition to the project.
- An estimated one billion barrels of oil (0.3 percent of Alberta’s recoverable bitumen) lie beneath McClelland Lake fen. Approved tar sands mining will directly affect forty-five percent of the fen and 49 percent of the entire Wetland Complex, probably guaranteeing the destruction of the other half of the fen and putting the entire watershed at risk.
- In addition to this approved Fort Hills project (with Petro-Canada as the operator), McClelland Lake is now three-quarters surrounded by industry-owned tar sands leases; no other projects have yet been approved.
AWA is grateful that our work in the McClelland Lake Watershed is supported by the glasswaters foundation.