Alberta Environment and Parks, in partnership with the Mookaakin Cultural & Heritage Society and with support of the Blackfoot Confederacy, is preparing a nomination for Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi to be inscribed onto the World Heritage List. The nomination will be submitted to UNESCO in January 2018, with an official designation expected in summer 2019.
Pursuing World Heritage Site designation for Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi was identified as an objective in the 1997 Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park Management Plan. In 2004 the Government of Canada placed Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi on Canada’s Tentative List for World Heritage Sites - an inventory of natural and cultural heritage properties with strong potential to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. More recently, Alberta’s South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (2014) states the World Heritage nomination of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi as an objective for implementation.
This webpage provides information on the components of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park that are being nominated and the World Heritage Site nomination process, and answers questions we've heard from stakeholders.
Will the name of the park change because of World Heritage Site status?
The provincial park name will continue to be Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. However, the proposed name for the World Heritage Site will be Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi.
Áísínai’pi is the name that Blackfoot people use for the area which means “it is pictured/written”.
What is the area to be designated? Will it apply to private or lease land?
The proposed nominated property and buffer zone of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi is fully contained within the boundaries of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. No private land or public lease lands will be included.
The total size of the proposed nomination area is approximately 1,106 hectares, and the area of the buffer zone is approximately 1,047 hectares. Portions of the park included in the nomination include the Aisinai’pi component (main block), Poverty Rock and Haffner Coulee components (see map).
Park lands near Coffin Bridge are not included in the nomination because they do not contain proposed features of outstanding universal value.
Will the legal status of lands change?
The designation of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO does not change in any way the legal status, ownership or management of any lands included in the designation area. No level of government (local, provincial, federal, or international) acquires any new control or authority over any of the nominated land base. UNESCO will not have jurisdiction over the site; neither the provincial nor federal governments acquire any new level of jurisdiction.
The designation of a land base as a World Heritage Site is commemorative. It is recognition of the outstanding international significance of the area, but it does not assert any legal control over the designated lands.
UNESCO has the expectation that any designated lands will be managed in such a way so as to preserve the international heritage significance of the property. However, UNESCO does not take on any role as managers of the property; this is left entirely to existing authorities.
Will designation as a World Heritage Site lead to increased visitation and greater impacts?
Visitation to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park has increased substantially over the past decade. A market assessment and visitor projection study for the park projects higher visitation to the park over the next 10 years. However, much of the increase in visitation will consist of adults who choose to visit the park for a day, explore the visitor centre and take part in guided tour events.
Despite gradual increases in tourism, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is situated in a remote setting that will not likely be subjected to high levels of tourism, regardless of the designations attached to the area.
Designation of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi as a World Heritage Site will likely result in greater visitation from both international and Canadian markets over time. Alberta Parks is taking steps to deal with increasing visitation. The Writing-on-Stone Visitor Centre serves to welcome, educate and manage visitation, and help reduce impact to the site. The Visitor Centre also provides an opportunity for presenting preservation and management messages to visitors. Provincial park staff lead guided tours within park boundaries. This approach has worked successfully at other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Alberta (Dinosaur Provincial Park andHead-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump).
How will Indigenous people be involved in the designation of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi?
We have worked closely with local Indigenous communities on the nomination of Writing-On-Stone / Áísínai’pi as a World Heritage Site.
Indigenous communities will ensure that the proposed designation portrays their history accurately. Indigenous communities and the public will be involved when regional and park plans are prepared following designation.
Blackfoot communities were closely involved in the successful nomination of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park as a National Historic Site, an event that fostered closer ties with the local community.
How will the local community be involved?
Consultation and engagement activities were held in 2010 and 2016/2017. These provided opportunities for the local public to become informed and play a role in the nomination process, and to increase community understanding of the significance of World Heritage Site designation and site management.
The Minister of Alberta Environment and Parks conducted meetings with adjacent landowners and municipal governments to create awareness of the proposed nomination and to gather feedback.
When will a decision be made on the proposal?
It is anticipated that the nomination document will be submitted to the World Heritage Committee in February 2018. Following an extensive review process, a decision on inscription will be made in 2019.
Are there other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Alberta?
Proposed designation of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was identified as goal in the Writing-On-Stone Management Plan in 1997. In 2004, the Government of Canada placed Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi on Canada’s Tentative List. Alberta’s South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (2014) lists the World Heritage nomination of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi as an objective for implementation.