October 1, 1994
The 932 km2 Parkland Dunes is located in east-central Alberta, southeast of the Town of Wainwright.
This AWA Area of Concern stretches from CFB Wainwright in the north to Sounding Lake and Neutral Hills in the south, encompassing the Wainwright Dunes, the so-called Cluster of Unnamed Lakes, Sunken Lake, David Lake, and the hamlet of Metiskow (population ~100). An uncultivated island in a sea of agriculture, Parkland Dunes is a relatively undisturbed area that overlaps two rapidly vanishing, and generally unprotected, natural subregions, Central Parkland and Northern Fescue.
A small portion of Parkland Dunes is protected under the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act. Intended to preserve public lands for ecological purposes, this act created the 28 km2 Wainwright Dunes Ecological Reserve, designated in 1988. The reserve is located 40 km south of Wainwright and is accessible to the public by foot only.
The Draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is officially unveiled. The draft does not address conservation in native grasslands in any specific way; no legislated protection is proposed for grassland areas despite the large number of species at risk in southeast Alberta.
An AWA site visit is concerning in terms of missing and broken fencing that allows free ranging of cattle. Overgrazing of higher spots in the dunes is evident. Amphibian researchers are present and their lack of willingness to walk into the Ecological Reserve is a disappointment as they are seen driving their two four-wheel drive vehicles into the reserve that is clearly marked with signs that no motorized access is allowed.
The Alberta government announces that the Wainwright Dunes Ecological Reserve and the Dillberry Lake Provincial Park campground, hiking trails, and backcountry areas will be closed until the end of March while staff members work to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease. Chronic wasting disease is a fatal nervous system disease that alters the brain tissue of deer and elk. Affected deer and elk gradually lose weight and waste away.
AWA repeatedly expresses opposition to the pending sale of leases within Parkland Dunes and requests that the Minister of Energy withdraw this lease offer.
Protected land in Alberta’s Parkland Natural Region is tripled with the addition to the list of Alberta’s Special Places of Killarney-Reflex and Ribstone-Edgerton Natural Areas, combined with an extension to Dillberry Lake Provincial Park.
AWA expresses concern that intensive energy exploration, including drilling and road-building, will have negative impacts on the piping plover (“Protecting the Plover,” Calgary Herald).
AWA works to build relationships with residents of Neutral Hills in hopes of garnering support for protective status.
The Wainwright Dunes Ecological Reserve is established.
Energy Minister Neil Webber announces the approval of a Special Warrant to cover the costs of conducting a seismic program in the Wainwright Military Reserve. Oil and gas rights will later be put up for public offer.
AWA issues a call to action to members, asking for support for the designation of the Wainwright Dunes as an Ecological Reserve.
In a letter to Donn Cline, Chairman, Wilderness Areas and Ecological Reserves Advisory Committee, AWA expresses concern for the Wainwright Dunes and encourages the Ecological Reserve designation.
Wainwright Buffalo Park Reserve is turned over to the Department of National Defense.
Wainwright Buffalo Park Reserve is used as a prisoner-of-war camp and training camp.
Wainwright Buffalo Park Reserve is cleared of all animals in order to become a National Defense Area
Oil is discovered and the first oil wells drilled in the Parkland Dunes area.
The Town of Wainwright is established.
An area within Wainwright Dunes is set aside as a reserve for bison, and hundreds of bison are relocated from Montana. This reserve is variously known as National Buffalo Park Reserve, Wainwright Buffalo Park and Buffalo National Park. Unfortunately, the area eventually becomes overcrowded and the herd becomes riddled with disease.
After a mass exodus of residents during the depression, communities in the Parkland Dunes area responded by joining together in the creation of a seven million-hectare land base known as the Special Areas of Alberta. The Special Areas of Alberta officially came into being with the Special Areas Act in 1938 and is managed by a board of directors and an elected Advisory Council. Part of the mandate of the board is to maintain land in an economically and environmentally viable state.
October 1, 1994