Canada’s Largest World Heritage Site under Threat from “Unfettered” Development

Map of threats to Wood Buffalo National Park. UNESCO, 2017

Canada Risks International Embarrassment Over Mismanagement of World Heritage Site: UNESCO

By Judith Lavoie, March 13, 2017

Canada’s largest World Heritage Site is under threat from unfettered oilsands development and hydro dams on the Peace River — where the B.C. government is now planning to build the massive Site C dam — says a hard-hitting report by a United Nations agency.

While contaminants from the oilsands are affecting water and air quality, water flows through Wood Buffalo National Park are being strangled by dams, according to the highly critical report by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and International Union for Conservation of Nature

The report warns that, if there is not a “major and timely” response to its recommendations the organization will recommend that Wood Buffalo National Park be included in the list of World Heritage in Danger, a list usually reserved for sites in war-torn countries or those facing other disasters.

The park, made up of 4.5 million hectares of boreal plains in northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories, has been affected by decades of massive industrial development along the Peace and Athabasca Rivers, along with poor management and lack of overall consideration of the effect of projects, it says.

“The scale, pace and complexity of industrial development along the critical corridors of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers is exceptional and does not appear to be subject to adequate analysis to underpin informed decision-making and the development of matching policy, governance and management responses,” says the executive summary, which adds that the park is also subject to the additional stress of climate change.

If the development approach of the last decades continues, the future of Wood Buffalo National Park is uncertain at best and several current project proposals add severity and urgency to the message, says the report, which singles out Site C and the Teck Frontier project, which would bring oilsands development closer to the southern boundary of the park and encroach on the habitat of the Ronald Lake Wood Bison Herd.

The park is home to the largest free-ranging buffalo herd in the world and includes the only known breeding ground for endangered whooping cranes.

UNESCO inspectors concluded that oilsands development near the park is affecting the water, land and air while putting human health at risk.

“There is long-standing, conceivable and consistent evidence of severe environmental and human health concerns based on both western science and local and indigenous knowledge,” it says, pointing to evidence that toxins such as mercury are showing up in fish and bird eggs.

The report includes 17 recommendations, including working more closely with First Nations, better monitoring of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, a systematic risk assessment of tailings ponds and strengthening of Parks Canada’s conservation focus and management of the park.

UNESCO also wants to see an environmental and social impact assessment of the Site C dam. …

Read the rest of this article at:

For more on Site C:

Is Site C Really ‘Past the Point of No Return?’ by Zoë Ducklow | March 15, 2017

The Startling Similarities Between Newfoundland’s Muskrat Falls Boondoggle and B.C.’s Site C Dam, by Emma Gilchrist | March 14, 2017

VIDEO: Site C Dam an ‘Economic Disaster,’ Says Former Premier Mike Harcourt, by Carol Linnitt | March 2, 2017

2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

April 4th-6th, 2018
Washington State Convention Center
Seattle, Washington

The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference is the largest most comprehensive event of its kind in the region. The purpose of the conference is to assemble scientists, First Nations and tribal government representatives, resource managers, community/business leaders, policy makers, educators and students to present the latest scientific research on the state of the ecosystem, and to guide future actions for protecting and restoring the Salish Sea Ecosystem. To accomplish its purpose, the conference will feature plenary sessions with keynote speakers, concurrent sessions featuring oral presentations, poster presentations, workshops, frequent opportunities for informal networking, and related off-program events.

Conference website:

Conference poster:

Climate Change to Transform Vancouver into San Diego

By Larry Pinn | February 26, 2017

A major climate-change study (PDF) predicts temperatures in Metro Vancouver [British Columbia, Canada] will exceed those of present-day Southern California in the coming decades.

Frost and ice will become virtually a thing of the past, heating bills will drop, and farm crops will flourish virtually year-round in the Fraser Valley.

[The] region can expect: air-conditioning costs to soar; worsening smog and associated health problems; increased forest fires and water shortages; summer droughts followed by severe fall rain events; and an influx of invasive species threatening forests and agriculture.

[The] study predicts that day-time high summer temperatures in the region will increase 3.7 C by the 2050s and 6 C by the 2080s. Indian summers are virtually guaranteed to linger into fall.

The bottom line is that “Vancouver would be warmer than present-day San Diego by the 2050s.”

The report notes that savings in heating costs due to rising temperatures will be offset by the need for air conditioning. Areas of lower elevation, where most buildings are located, will see more demand for air conditioning than present-day Kamloops by the 2050s….

Read the rest of this article at the Vancouver Sun:

B.C. Government Payments Divide Gitxsan Nation, Called ‘Bribery’

By Trevor Jang | February 7, 2017

Earl Muldon sits at his kitchen table surrounded by family, sipping coffee. His wife Shirley brings over a plate of cream cake topped with huckleberries. They’re hand-picked from the land surrounding his two-storey home in Gitanmaax, a village of about 800 people from the Gitxsan Nation in northwestern British Columbia, near the town of New Hazelton.

To the Gitxsan people, 80-year-old Muldon is known by another name: Delgamuukw. That name — a symbolic ancestral chief name passed down from generation to generation of Gitxsan people — is also one of the most well-known chief names in the rest of Canada. Delgamuukw was the lead plaintiff in a historic court case that confirmed that Aboriginal title, ownership of traditional lands had not been extinguished by any colonial government.

“It’s a name that’s greatly respected. We’ve earned respect for it,” says Muldon, who was one of three people to hold the Delgamuukw name during the court proceedings.

The 1997 Supreme Court win against the B.C. government was important to Indigenous people across Canada because it provided a new test to prove ownership over their traditional lands and waters. It was monumental to the Gitxsan because they seemed poised to assert self-governance over their 33,000-square-kilometre territory.

Fast-forward to the fall of 2016, when it emerged that Muldon was among a group of nine Gitxsan chiefs who had accepted money in exchange for their support of a controversial liquid natural gas (LNG) pipeline without consulting all of their nation’s members. Some Gitxsan people say that decision broke “ayook,” traditional Gitxsan law — and could undermine what the nation fought to prove in court 20 years ago.

So how did Muldon, who holds the hereditary name, Delgamuukw, that represented the unified Gitxsan Nation in their fight for their land, come to be among the group supporting resource development and spurring internal conflict among the Gitxsan? …

Read the rest of this article at DeSmog Canada:


CFP=Heritage Crime=ACHS.2018

Call for Papers


Association of Critical Heritage Studies
4th Biennial Conference
1-6 September 2018
Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Session title:
Heritage Crime

Session organizers:
Richard Hutchings & Marina La Salle, Vancouver Island University, and Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism, British Columbia, Canada

Session abstract:
What is heritage crime and who perpetrates it? Who are its victims? What are the implications for those victimized? For the perpetrators? For society at large? Taking a critical approach to both heritage and crime, contributors to this cutting edge interdisciplinary session explore the emerging field of heritage crime studies. Suggested subject areas covered include:

State-sanctioned heritage crime
Heritage crime across borders
Crime against Indigenous and ethnic minority heritage
Heritage crime and international law
Crime against state heritage
Heritage crime and war
Looting and trafficking
Fakes and forgeries
Heritage crime as resistance
Policing and prosecuting heritage crime
Crime against intangible heritage and intellectual property
Cultural resource management (CRM) / cultural heritage management (CHM)

Please submit title and 200-word abstract by 27 March 2017 to icht.bc[at]

Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2018 Conference

Association of Critical Heritage Studies, 4th Biennial Conference

1-6 September 2018

Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Call for Session Proposals (link): Deadline 31 March 2017

Theme: “Heritage Across Borders”


The global rise of heritage studies and the heritage industry in recent decades has been a story of crossing frontiers and transcending boundaries. The 2018 Association of Critical Heritage Studies conference, held in Hangzhou, China, thus takes ‘borders’ as a broadly defined, yet key, concept for better understanding how heritage is valued, preserved, politicised, mobilised, financed, planned and destroyed. Thinking through borders raises questions about theories of heritage, its methodologies of research, and where its boundaries lie with tourism, urban development, post-disaster recovery, collective identities, climate change, memory or violent conflict. Held in the city of Hangzhou, China, Heritage Across Borders will be the largest ever international conference in Asia dedicated to the topic of heritage. It has been conceived to connect international participants with local issues, and in so doing open up debates about the rural-urban, east-west, tangible-intangible and other familiar divides.

Borders tell us much about the complex role heritage plays in societies around the world today. Historically speaking, physical and political borders have led to ideas about enclosed cultures, and a language of cultural property and ownership which marches forward today in tension alongside ideals of universalism and the cosmopolitan. More people are moving across borders than ever before, with vastly different motivations and capacities. What role can heritage studies play in understanding the experiences of migrants or the plight of refugees? And what heritage futures do we need to anticipate as the pressures of international tourism seem to relentlessly grow year by year?

Heritage Across Borders will consider how the values of heritage and approaches to conservation change as objects, experts, and institutions move across frontiers. It will ask how new international cultural policies alter creation, performance, and transmission for artists, craftspersons, musicians, and tradition-bearers.

What are the frontiers of cultural memory in times of rapid transformation? How can museums engage with increasingly diverse audiences by blurring the distinctions between the affective and representational? And do digital reproductions cross important ethical boundaries?

One of the key contributions of critical heritage studies has been to draw attention to the role of heritage in constructing and operationalising boundaries and borders of many kinds-national, social, cultural, ethnic, economic and political.  In what ways do international flows of capital rework indigenous and urban cultures, and reshape nature in ways that redefine existing boundaries?

We especially welcome sessions and papers that challenge disciplinary boundaries and professional divides, and explore cross-border dialogues. What lessons can be learned from Asia where the distinctions between the tangible and intangible are less well marked? And how can researchers bridge cultural and linguistic barriers to better understand these nuances?

Organised by Zhejiang University this major international conference will be held in Hangzhou, China on 1-6 September 2018.

Conference website:

Natural World Heritage Sites Face Threat From Humanity

Areas shown in yellow, orange and red show the amount of forest lost in natural World Heritage Sites around the globe.

More Than 100 World Heritage Sites Face Threat From Humanity

By Nick Visser | January 31, 2017

Almost half of the planet’s natural World Heritage Sites, areas designated as holding “outstanding value to humanity,” face growing threats of destruction due to human activity that has already caused lasting damage to places like Yellowstone National Park, a new report says.

The study, published Monday in the journal Biological Conservation, found more than 100 internationally protected sites around the globe are “rapidly deteriorating and are more threatened than previously thought.” Natural World Heritage Sites are selected by UNESCO for their beauty and biological importance, and include famed areas like the Congo’s Virunga National Park, the Galapagos Islands and the Everglades.

“These sites have been inscribed by the United Nations as some of the most important, beautiful places on earth,” James Watson, a professor at the University of Queensland and a senior author of the study, said in a video release. “They hold incredible numbers of species, they are the jewels of the crown when we think about nature.” …

Read the rest of this article at the Huffington Post:

State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places 2016


Nearly Half of National Park Ecosystems Rate as ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’ in Parks Canada Report

By Susan Lunn | January 26, 2017

A federal report by Parks Canada shows that almost half of the ecosystems in the country’s national parks remain in fair to poor condition, five years after a previous report with similar concerns.

The report, called State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places, was tabled in the House of Commons in mid-December.

It contains a table rating the condition of forests, freshwater lakes, wetlands and coastal areas in all national parks across the country.

The report finds that 29 of the 41 national parks and reserves measured had at least one ecosystem rated as fair or poor. Twelve of the parks or reserves had all of the areas measured rated as good. […]

Canadians currently have an opportunity to tell the minister directly what they want done with federal parks.

[Federal Environment Minister Catherine] McKenna has been holding in-person and online consultations with stakeholders and the general public. The consultations wrap up Friday.

More than 1,700 people have submitted comments, many of them urging the minister to put nature before development.

Woodley isn’t surprised.

“I think it’s important for this government to understand Canadians do love our national parks. They are one of our top symbols of national identity.

“But they love them because they’re natural. Because they’re wild spaces that are places where wildlife can live and where there’s pristine natural beauty,” Woodley said. …

Read the rest of this article at the CBC:


State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places

2016 Report
HTML version
PDF version (8 MB)

2011 Report
HTML version
PDF version (2.4MB)

Trump Makes Dystopian 1984 Bestselling Book

First edition – Secker & Warburg, London, 1949.

Trump Makes Dystopian 1984 Bestselling Book

Richard M. Hutchings | January 25, 2017

Slate reports Donald Trump’s first days in office has made George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four (aka 1984, published 1949) the bestselling book on Amazon, and Salon says the books publisher has already ordered a new printing. According to the Associated Press,

With “alternate facts” the latest catchphrase, George Orwell’s “1984” is No. 1 on and the publisher has ordered an additional 75,000 copies.

Other than being “dystopian” (undesirable), a theme that long-preceded Trump (see also here), what does this mean?

I take a visual approach to answering that question, examining book jacket covers through time. My survey, which utilizes Emily Temple’s 2011 George Orwell’s 1984: A Visual History, reveals three key aspects of Orwell’s future (today’s present):

  1. Anxiety and Fear (dystopia)
  2. Control
  3. Modernity

Scroll down to see the examples I have selected of each theme on book covers dating from 1954 to present.

Controlling heritage is a vital function of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, where the slogan is “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

It is this aspect that I think most people are connecting with Trump. From Wikipedia:

The Ministry of Truth is the propaganda ministry. As with the other ministries in the novel, the name Ministry of Truth is a misnomer because in reality it serves the opposite: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events.

As well as administering truth, the ministry spreads a new language amongst the populace called Newspeak, in which, for example, “truth” is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants. In keeping with the concept of doublethink, the ministry is thus aptly named in that it creates/manufactures “truth” in the Newspeak sense of the word. The book describes the doctoring of historical records to show a government-approved version of events.

However, as with dystopia, Donald Trump did not invent Newspeak; recall, for example, George W. Bush’s persistent problems with “truthiness.” This, I suggest, is more evidence that Trump is being scapegoated by a nation already in crisis. Nevertheless, Trump is, I believe, triggering anomie on a national scale.

1. Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety and fear (and love and betrayal!) – Signet edition, 1954. Note the use of slogans (“Freedom is Slavery, “Ignorance is Strength, “Big Brother is Watching You”) and ethnicity (white slaves, “ethnic” Big Brother and guard). Note also the “heritage” landscape.
Anxiety and fear – Signet edition, 1959. Note also the heritage landscape.

2.1 Surveillance as Control

Surveillance and anxiety – Argentinian edition, 1954.
Surveillance and anxiety – French edition, 1980.
Surveillance – Penguin edition, no date.
Surveillance – Swedish edition, no date.

2.2 State Control

Police state – Penguin, 1978.
Bureaucratic state control – Penguin, no date.
Corporate state control – Indonesian edition, no date.

3. Modernity

Modernity – Swedish edition, 1959.
Modernity – Penguin UK edition, 1989.

For more on Trump and Orwell, see:

Trump Exposes Hypocrisy of American Archaeology


Trump Exposes Hypocrisy of American Archaeology

By Richard M. Hutchings | January 22, 2017

We are stewards of the past; we are the caretakers of unwritten history. We have a job to do. Use your sites and projects to…illustrate [to] all of the people who made the U.S. the great nation that it is, and make certain that our elected representatives understand that our heritage is the greatest currency we have. Our history, all of our history, is what makes the United States what it is, is what makes us Americans, is what makes us great. Not Again. Then, Now, and Forever.
J. W. Joseph, President, Society for Historical Archaeology, November 11, 2016

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.
Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, January 20, 2017

There is a surprisingly close association between American presidents and historic preservation.
Greg Werkheiser, Cultural Heritage Partners, Inc., March 29, 2016

The compliance process is far from perfect, but is it uniquely American.
Holly Kathryn Norton, Colorado State Archaeologist, November 10, 2016

…our world [is] under attack.
Holly Kathryn Norton, Colorado State Archaeologist, November 10, 2016

AS I DESCRIBE in Heritage in the Age of Trump, the election of Donald J. Trump on November 8, 2016 as the 45th President of the United States received a varied but emotionally charged response from American heritage experts, leading many to ‘speak their minds.’ Those fleeting moments of pre-inaugural truth-telling are drawn on here to demonstrate the hypocrisy of American archaeology.

I take as a point of departure on this matter Bob Muckle’s brave suggestion that we consider “the possibility that archaeology could thrive under a Trump Administration,” although it would not likely “be a kind of archaeology that most archaeologists or the public would want.” For Muckle,

Archaeology is political and it could be co-opted to support a political agenda. Authoritarians have done it before. Recall the Nazis had a significant archaeology program. And archaeology was highly valued by Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Kristina Killgrove highlights Trump’s focus on development, pointing to his US-Mexico border wall and estimating its construction would destroy hundreds of archaeological sites.

Most relevant here is American CRM expert Tom King’s conclusion (emphasis added):

Many people involved in managing and protecting ‘cultural heritage’—historic buildings, archaeological sites, antiquities, indigenous spiritual sites and landscapes, and other parts of the environment valued for cultural reasons by human communities—anticipate that the Donald Trump administration will quickly do away with many of the legal protections that such heritage enjoys. They also expect that many of the government systems set up to manage heritage, such as State Historic Preservation Officers and the National Register of Historic Places, will be transformed and cut back, if not eliminated. Many view these possibilities with fear; others think they present the opportunity to build better systems.

Rather than doing away with current laws, King predicts the Trump government will simply “bully the government’s employees into making the laws meaningless.”

The heritage industry’s response to Trump’s election on November 8 was swift and for many emotional. Patricia Markert took the news as provocation, writing “Where before I felt that our job was dialogic and weighty, I now feel that it is critical. It is potentially revolutionary. The world has changed overnight, and the role of archaeology along with it.”

So did J. W. Joseph, President of the Society for Historical Archaeology, who proclaimed “I will gladly defend the territory of American history, and that is a non-partisan tract that cannot be overrun.”

Markert described waking up “devastated,”  adding defiantly “I am going to bed ready to fight like hell the tools I have—from my trowel to my classroom—to make this world a place for everyone.” Yet, the global ecological crisis was unfolding on November 7 just the same as on November 9. What if Hillary Clinton had won? Would people still have such passion to save the planet, with or without trowel?

Writing in the royal ‘we’ or pluralis majestatis, Holly K. Norton, Colorado State Archaeologist and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, explained how “We woke on Wednesday morning to find our world under attack, in a very literal sense.”

The United States has just elected a man who has made promises to deport our friends and families, to destroy legislation that protects our health, and to eliminate safeguards on our environment. It is clear to all of us that we have a lot of work to do, and I have no doubt that we will each fight in whatever corner of the discipline in which we work. However, it is imperative at this time that we also stand together and consciously choose to understand and support each other’s work. I believe in the four fields of anthropology, and I believe now is the time we need to return to a more holistic approach to our broad discipline.

Problematically, the system Norton is so concerned about losing was corrupt and broken before Trump got elected, so why the concern now? As before, if Clinton had won the presidency, would any of these issues be raised? Or is it only because Trump was elected?

Remember, all of these comments were made before Trump took office January 20, 2017. Without having ever stepped foot in the White House, Trump was blamed for things he had nothing directly to do with. The question is why?

To be clear, I am sympathetic with those threatened by Trump. They have every reason to be fearful. My concern, however, is that this focus on Trump too easily distracts people from the bigger picture, in this case that all of these systemic and structural problems pre-date Trump. While his leadership may indeed pose a threat, the heritage-industrial complex was already in existential crisis (see also here and here) long before his election.

In this way, the heritage industry’s response to the election of Donald Trump in November 2016 is a clear-cut case of scapegoating. As shown in Figure 1, a scapegoat is a person made to bear the blame for the mistakes, faults or shortcoming of others, especially for reasons of expediency—that is, for reasons of convenience or practicality. Not only does the scapegoat take on the sins of others, they suffer in place of those responsible, leaving the guilty parties to continue on as usual.

Pinning all of archaeology’s problems on Trump is an easy way to absolve the discipline of its anxieties—a process related to Tom King’s “whitewashing.” But it is clear that cultural resource management has been toxic for some time, arguably always.

Figure 1. Scapegoat.

This toxicity is exposed in the way industry insiders have responded to Trump’s election, views starkly different than the idealistic visions of Markert and Norton above. Marion Werkheiser, Attorney for the American firm Cultural Heritage Partners, Inc., stated, for example:

In what could be a boon for CRM firms, President-elect Trump and Congress have expressed interest in passing a major infrastructure bill that would fund upgrades to roads, airports, hospitals, and ports. The new administration has also promised to open up public lands for oil and gas development, mining, and other activities. Development on public lands is subject to Section 106 review.

In this context, more Section 106 reviews mean more money coming into the industry.

J. W. Joseph of the Society for Historical Archaeology noted that while “Trump speaks against environmental regulation,”

many of the initiatives he will challenge and overturn are Executive Orders from President Obama that will not affect us. [Trump] calls for streamlining environmental review; I support that call, and the CRM industry has made great strides in the past decade. This is an area where we can all apply our acumen; I have no qualms with doing our work better and faster.

He added, “I am an eternal optimist, which is, I think, a characteristic of the American spirit. We are a nation of expansion and opportunity.”

Joseph’s words should be music to the ears of the commercial core of the American heritage industrial-complex, which includes approximately 1,300 CRM firms employing more than 10,000 professionals generating at least $1 billion dollars in revenue annually.

In this light, Trump’s presidency may well mean big business for archaeologists. As Marion Werkheiser summarized: “the Republican Party platform explains, ‘We will…modernize the permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act so it can no longer invite frivolous lawsuits, thwart sorely needed projects, kill jobs, and strangle growth.’”

Yet more archaeology means more development and more destruction of places that matter. Hence, the hypocrisy of American archaeology: while trained to promote preservation of history in all its forms, archaeologists are likewise responsible for its loss on an every-day basis. Indeed, archaeology/CRM’s existence is dependent on the very development that leads to site destruction. While academic archaeologists may like to believe they are not integral to this project and the crises it produces, they are profoundly mistaken (see also here).

Alarmed by the potential for heritage disasters under Trump, Tom King sought a different model with his “Heritage After Trump” Award. King offered  “(US$1,000) to the person, consortium, group, organization, gang, or crowd that produces the best written description of the cultural heritage program the United States should put in place once the Trump phenomenon has run its course.”

With only a handful of entries, King declared himself “disappointed in all.”

Joseph was less concerned about the impact of Trump’s victory: “[W]e know that the U.S. is a hub of a global world, that the global world and economy was set in motion by European exploration of the 15th century, and that it cannot be undone by one man in four years.”

These are bold words from an archaeologist. After all, archaeologists are in a prime position to know that overextended states are prone to collapse. Perhaps this time, rather than interpreting its material signature, we’ll actually be witnesses to it. But whether heritage laws are repealed under Trump or the current model is simply allowed to go on, the continued destruction of life-sustaining heritage seems inevitable—a crisis that predates Trump by decades.


Richard M. Hutchings directs the Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism, British Columbia, Canada. He is the author of Maritime Heritage in Crisis: Indigenous Landscapes and Global Ecological Breakdown (2017, Routledge) and numerous academic articles, including Archaeology as Disaster Capitalism and Why Archaeologists Misrepresent Their Practice—A North American Perspective.


A PDF of this document is available here: