Statement

Pew Applauds Decision to Recommend Pimachiowin Aki as World Heritage Site

UNESCO advisory bodies advance nomination for boreal forest designation in Canada

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The Pimachiowin Aki area contains the largest protected section of the North American Boreal Forest© The Pew Charitable Trusts

An aerial view of intact boreal forest in the proposed Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site.

WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts praised the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Commission on Monuments and Sites today for their recommendation to inscribe Manitoba’s Pimachiowin Aki site on the World Heritage List.

The decision by the two groups, which advise UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, represents a significant victory in long-standing efforts by five First Nations communities in Manitoba and Ontario to win global recognition of the intact boreal forest area’s natural and cultural value. A final decision on the nomination will be made at UNESCO meetings this July in Istanbul.

Mathew Jacobson, Pew’s boreal conservation officer, issued this statement:

“The Pimachiowin Aki nomination has been the catalyst for action in the international conservation community to address long-standing issues about indigenously managed landscapes.

“The First Nations that have led this initiative, their partners in the Manitoba and Ontario provincial governments, the Canadian federal government, UNESCO, and its advisory bodies—all are to be commended. Their combined efforts have produced improvements in how UNESCO judges World Heritage nominations in the traditional homelands of Indigenous peoples around the world.

“This improved evaluation system is more open to, and respectful of, the values of Indigenous people. These recommendations affirm their contribution to our common heritage. The recognition is long overdue.

“The inscription of Pimachiowin Aki would fill an identified gap in the World Heritage System as the first representation of the North American boreal shield. At 33,400 square kilometers (8.25 million acres), the area contains the largest protected section of that ecosystem in North America.

“We look forward to the final decision in Istanbul.”

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BACKGROUND

For more than a decade, five First Nations, in partnership with the provincial governments of Manitoba and Ontario, have been at the forefront of efforts to protect their traditional homeland of Pimachiowin Aki, which means “The Land That Gives Life” in the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) language.

With a land area approximately the size of Belgium, Pimachiowin Aki is home to more than 40 species of native mammals, including wolverines, moose, beavers, and timber wolves. It provides vital habitat for threatened woodland caribou and at least eight at-risk bird species. The area has an equally important cultural significance to the local Indigenous peoples.

The World Heritage Committee first reviewed the Pimachiowin Aki nomination in 2013. At the time, the committee evaluated natural and cultural values under entirely separate review processes. However, these values are inseparable for many Indigenous peoples, including the inhabitants of the Pimachiowin Aki site, leaving the nomination at a disadvantage.

The committee has been working since 2013 to revise its approach.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at www.pewtrusts.org.

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