In Alberta, approximately 8.2 million hectares (12.4% of the province as of 2010) are designated as protected. Environment Canada maintains 8 protected areas in Alberta, including 4 National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) and 4 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs), comprising over 58 thousand hectares of the province's protected lands and waters.

Map of Environment Canada's Protected Areas in Alberta

Map of Environment Canada’s protected areas in Alberta. (3) Richardson Lake MBS (4) Saskatoon Lake MBS (2) Red Deer MBS (1) Inglewood MBS (3) Meanook NWA (1) Blue Quills NWA (4) Spiers Lake NWA (2) Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield NWA

Long description for the Map

Map showing the number of Environment Canada’s protected areas in Alberta totalling 8 divided among 4 National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) and 4 Migratory Bird Sanctuaries (MBSs).

National Wildlife Areas
Réserves nationales de faune (4)

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
Refuge d'oiseaux migrateurs (4)

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List of Protected Areas in Alberta

The tables below contain information about the NWAs and MBSs shown on the map above. In addition to the name, year of establishment, and size of each protected area, the tables indicate how these sites fit into national and international networks of conservation areas. The following entities may be noted:

Ramsar: Wetland of International Importance
IBA: Important Bird Area
WHSRN: Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
MAB: Biosphere reserve of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme

This table provides information on the national wildlife areas such as the name of the area, the year it was established, the size in hectares and notes.

National Wildlife Areas
No.NameYear establishedSize in hectaresNotes
1Blue Quills NWA196897-
2Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield NWA200345,836-
3Meanook NWA1979214-
4Spiers Lake NWA198064part of Chain Lakes IBA

This table provides information on migratory bird sanctuaries such as the name of sanctuary, the year it was established, the size in hectares and notes.

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries
No.NameYear establishedSize in hectaresNotes
1Inglewood MBS1968111-
2Red Deer MBS1924129-
3Richardson Lake MBS194910,798-
4Saskatoon Lake MBS19481,150part of Grande Prairie IBA

Access and Permitting

Although access to NWAs is not restricted, the primary purpose of these areas is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitats, and therefore most NWAs are not equipped with facilities to accommodate public visitation. Unless otherwise posted, all recreational activities are prohibited within NWAs.

In Alberta, access to the Canadian Force Base (CFB) Suffield NWA is restricted. CFB Suffield NWA is administered by the Department of National Defence and located within the restricted space of the Canadian Forces Base Suffield.

Although access to most MBSs is not restricted either, the primary intent of these sanctuaries is to protect migratory birds, and therefore hunting, as well as disturbing or molesting migratory birds, their eggs, nests or habitat, is prohibited.

A permit may be obtained from the Minister of the Environment authorizing the conduct of certain activities in an NWA or MBS, if the Minister or delegate is of the opinion that the proposed activity:

  • will not interfere with the conservation of wildlife; or
  • is consistent with the purpose for which the protected area was established; and
  • is consistent with the management plan for the protected area.

Contact Information

Additional information on entry, prohibited activities and permits in Environment Canada's protected areas is provided on the Management and Activities web pages of the National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. For more isformation on Environment Canada's protected areas in Alberta, please contact the regional Environment Canada office:

Environment Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
Eastgate Offices
9250 - 49th Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T6B 1K5
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)