What is the WBEA?

The WBEA is a multi-stakeholder, consensus-based, not-for-profit organization that leads in state-of-the-art environmental monitoring to enable informed decision-making. The WBEA monitors the ambient air quality of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) 24 hours/day, 365 days/year.

Its environmental monitoring work is the most integrated and has the most intensive focus on air and deposition monitoring in any one area, anywhere in Canada. Established in 1985 as the Air Quality Task Force, the WBEA was set up to address environmental concerns raised by the communities in the RMWB.


Empower all stakeholders and rights holders with environmental data to make informed decisions.


A multi-stakeholder, consensus-based organization providing world-class environmental monitoring and reporting.

Core Values

  • Scientifically independent
  • Recognize and respect Indigenous Knowledge
  • Transparent and timely in communicating accurate and accessible data
  • Dedicated to using best practices and technology
  • Support diverse stakeholder participation and consensus-based decisions

About the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB)

From north-central Alberta to the borders of Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) covers 61,778 square kilometres, making it the second largest municipality in Canada by area. It was established in 1995 through an amalgamation of the City of Fort McMurray and Improvement District No. 143. The Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) is within the municipality, and is the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen in the world and the largest of three major oil sands deposits in Alberta. The region encompasses the communities of Fort McMurray, Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay, Fort Fitzgerald, Anzac, Janvier, Conklin, Draper, Gregoire Lake Estates, and Saprae Creek.

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Land Acknowledgement

The WBEA operates in nistawâyâw, which is Cree for “where three rivers meet,” and what we now call Fort McMurray. We understand and respectfully acknowledge that the WBEA and our members operate on Treaty 8 territory and the ancestral and traditional territories of the Dënesųłı̨né (Dene) and Nēhiyaw (Cree) Peoples, and in the Métis Homeland. We want to thank the 11 Indigenous community organizations who are Members of the WBEA for participating in and giving feedback on our monitoring programs.

We honour and respect the culture, language, stories, ceremonies, and history of the many nations whose traditions were established before Treaty. We also acknowledge that Treaty 8 was based on principles of law, respect, honesty, and acceptance, and has been described as a Treaty of peace, co-existence, and sharing. It is important to remember this and that we all have a responsibility to uphold the Treaties.

This region is now home to a diverse population of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. We encourage our members in different areas of the province and country to consider the land they are on and their relationship to it. We recognize that Indigenous peoples are the original stewards of this land, and were and are integral to the development of the WBEA.

History and Evolution of the WBEA

Even before the unprecedented growth of the oil sands industry in the Wood Buffalo region, it was concluded that an organization like the WBEA was necessary. The philosophies of the WBEA live in its grassroots, community-driven, multi-stakeholder membership’s shared values and commitment to consensus-based decision-making. Hover over the timeline below to see details about the WBEA’s history and evolution.

  • 1985

    An Air Quality Task Force was established to address environmental concerns raised by the Fort McKay First Nation related to oil sands development. The Task Force described issues, established priorities, and recommended on-going dialogue and a consensus-based approach to air quality concerns.

    Original Founding Members:

    • Alberta Environment
    • Fort McKay First Nation
    • Fort McKay Métis Local #122
    • Fort McMurray Environmental Association
    • Syncrude Canada Ltd.
    • Northern Lights Health Region
    • Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development
    • Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
    • Suncor Energy Inc.
  • 1990

    The Air Quality Task Force became the Regional Air Quality Coordinating Committee (RAQCC) which prioritized regional air quality concerns and coordinated a program to manage air quality in the region.

  • 1994

    The Government of Alberta developed a regional approach to air quality monitoring under the umbrella of the Alberta Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA).

  • 1996

    The RAQCC was formally endorsed by the CASA as a regional Airshed.

    Stakeholders first gathered and began developing the Forest Health Monitoring program.

  • 1997

    The RAQCC was reformed into the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association (WBEA) as a non-profit organization and assumed responsibility for air quality monitoring in the region. The regional Airshed was aligned with the boundaries for the RMWB. Capital costs were originally provided by Suncor Energy and Syncrude Canada Limited. Alberta Environment provided equipment on a long-term basis, as well as expertise and in-kind contributions.

  • 2005

    The WBEA implemented an ongoing Human Exposure Monitoring Program (HEMP).

  • 2011

    Environment Canada released the Integrated Monitoring Plan for the Oil Sands.

  • 2012

    The Governments of Canada and Alberta introduced the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM). The Plan built on a foundation of monitoring that was already in place, and was intended to enhance existing monitoring activities.

  • 2014

    JOSM formally became the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA). The AEMERA was established to monitor, evaluate and report on key air, water, land and biodiversity indicators to better inform decision-making by policy makers, regulators, planners, researchers, communities, industries and the public.

    The WBEA became a working partner of the AEMERA.

  • 2016

    With the dissolution of the AEMERA on June 30, 2016, the WBEA began working with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) and the Oil Sands Monitoring (OSM) Program to fulfill its mandate to provide independent ambient air monitoring in the region.

  • 2017

    Based on feedback from the public and its stakeholders, the WBEA transitioned the HEMP into the Community Odour Monitoring Program (COMP). The COMP App was also developed to collect odour observations from community members in the RMWB.

  • 2020

    The Air Quality Events (AQE) App was developed to better communicate exceedances of various thresholds being monitoring in the region.

  • 2021

    The WBEA continues to work collaboratively with AEP, the OSM Program, other jurisdictions, and stakeholders to move the OSM Program mandate forward.

WBEA Partnerships

The WBEA is fortunate to have formal partnerships with the provincial government and provincial organizations to ensure a shared approach to ambient air and deposition monitoring, as well as stakeholder engagement and education initiatives. The following sections highlight two partnerships: Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (AEP) and the Alberta Airsheds Council (AAC).


Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) Oils Sands Monitoring Branch

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) is responsible for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on key air, water, land, and biodiversity indicators. The mandate within the ministry is to provide open and transparent access to scientific data and information on the condition of Alberta’s environment, including specific indicators as well as cumulative effects, both provincially and in specific locations. The Oil Sands Monitoring (OSM) Program is a joint federal and provincial initiative between the Government of Alberta and Environment and Climate Change Canada. The mandate of the program is to implement an ambient environmental monitoring program in the oil sands region that integrates air, water, land, and biodiversity. The OSM Program strives to improve characterization of the state of the environment and enhance understanding of the cumulative effects of oil sands development.

The WBEA has entered into a contractual agreement with AEP and acknowledges the financial support of the Oil Sands Monitoring Program. As a working partner, the WBEA is one of the agencies helping to ensure that the OSM Program is delivered with the best expertise possible.

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Alberta Airsheds Council (AAC)

The WBEA is a member of the Alberta Airsheds Council (AAC), which is a partnership of Alberta’s Airsheds and provides leadership in support of healthy air quality for Albertans and the environment.

Initiated in 2006, the AAC includes membership from all ten Airsheds in Alberta and was formed to represent the collective interests of this collaborative group.

The AAC provides a forum for Airsheds to work and learn together, to continue to advance effective and efficient air monitoring, reporting and outreach, and to address regional matters.

To view any of the Airshed’s websites, click on a region in the map and then click on the link provided.

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