|Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo|
|Planning region||Lower Athabasca|
|Specialized municipality||April 1, 1995|
|Name change||August 14, 1996|
|Administrative office||Fort McMurray|
|• Mayor||Sandy Bowman|
|• Governing body|
|• CAO||Jamie Doyle|
|• Land||60,843.88 km2 (23,491.95 sq mi)|
|• Density||1.2/km2 (3/sq mi)|
|• Municipal census (2021)||75,555|
|Time zone||UTC−7 (MST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−6 (MDT)|
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (abbreviated RMWB) is a specialized municipality in northeast Alberta, Canada. It is the second largest municipality in Alberta by area and is home to oil sand deposits known as the Athabasca oil sands.
The Municipality of Wood Buffalo was incorporated as a specialized municipality on April 1, 1995 as a result of the amalgamation of the City of Fort McMurray and Improvement District No. 143. Specialized municipality status was granted to provide "for the unique needs of a municipality including a large urban centre and a large rural territory with a small population." The Municipality of Wood Buffalo subsequently changed its name to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo on August 14, 1996.
By June 12, 2013, after many days of heavy rain, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo declared a state of emergency. They organized evacuations from some areas and placed others under boil water advisories as local waterways, such as the Hangingstone River, rose to dangerously elevated levels 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Fort McMurray, causing the closure of Highway 63.
Main article: 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire
From May 3, 2016 on, over 80,000 people were affected by evacuations, by May 3 at 6:49 pm, the entirety of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas were placed under a mandatory evacuation. making it Alberta's largest evacuation for a wildfire.
The Regional Municipality (RM) of Wood Buffalo is in the northeast corner of the province of Alberta. It borders the province of Saskatchewan to the east; the Northwest Territories to the north; Improvement District No. 24 (Wood Buffalo National Park), Mackenzie County, and the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17 to the west; and Athabasca County and the Municipal District of Bonnyville No. 87 to the south. The Athabasca River meanders northward through the central portion of the RM of Wood Buffalo before emptying into Lake Athabasca. Some of its water bodies include Christina Lake, Gardiner Lakes, Garson Lake, Gipsy Lake, Gordon Lake, Gregoire Lake, McClelland Lake, Namur Lake, Richardson Lake, and Winefred Lake (also partially within Lac La Biche County and the Municipal District of Bonnyville No. 87). Discharging northward from Lake Athabasca is Riviere des Rochers, which at its confluence with the Peace River becomes the Slave River. The Slave River forms much of the RM of Wood Buffalo's boundary with Improvement District No. 24 north of the confluence. Land formations include the Birch Mountains northwest of Fort McKay, Fort Hills north of Fort McKay, and Thickwood Hills west of Fort McMurray. A portion of the Peace-Athabasca Delta is also within the RM of Wood Buffalo.
The following localities are located within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo:
The following settlements are within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo:
First Nations have the following Indian reserves within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo:
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) is in the lower basin of the Athabasca River watershed and Fort McMurray is the largest community on the banks of the river.[notes 1] Local rivers include the Hangingstone River, Clearwater River and Christina River, a tributary of the Clearwater River.
The Hangingstone River drains an area of 1,070 km2 (413 sq mi), which is dominated by muskeg, and flows into the Clearwater River just upstream of the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray. The river often experiences high flows in the spring during snow melt, during heavy rainfall events and when ice jams occur during spring ice break. The RMWB warns citizens of the potential for sudden flash floods "especially in populated areas adjacent to the Athabasca River, Clearwater River and Christina River." Water levels have been monitored by the Water Survey of Canada since 1970 (WSC station 07CD004). During the spring months there is increased monitoring of the "Clearwater River to the south of the urban service area to provide warning of an ice break" and the "Athabasca River upper basin, local river levels, precipitation and overall weather patterns."
The Clearwater River,[notes 2] designated as part of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, flows 187 km (116 mi) from its headwaters at Lloyd Lake in northwest Saskatchewan into northeast Alberta before joining the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray. "The lack of significant oil sands developments means that the Clearwater River can be used as a baseline river system to provide information on the variability and characteristics of natural systems."
|Source: Statistics Canada|
In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo had a population of 72,326 living in 25,934 of its 30,451 total private dwellings, a change of 1% from its 2016 population of 71,594. With a land area of 60,843.88 km2 (23,491.95 sq mi), it had a population density of 1.2/km2 (3.1/sq mi) in 2021.
In the 2016 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo had a population of 71,594 living in 25,659 of its 30,713 total private dwellings, a change of 9.2% from its 2011 population of 65,565. With a land area of 61,777.65 km2 (23,852.48 sq mi), it had a population density of 1.2/km2 (3.0/sq mi) in 2016.
|Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo population breakdown, 2021|
|Urban service area (Fort McMurray)||72,917||3,089||76,006|
|Rural service area||2,638||27,415||30,053|
|Total RM of Wood Buffalo||75,555||30,053||106,059|
The permanent population of the Regional Municipality (RM) of Wood Buffalo according to its 2021 municipal census is 75,555, a change of 0.7% from its 2018 municipal census permanent population of 75,009. In addition, the 2021 municipal census counted a shadow population of 30,504 non-permanent residents for a combined population of 106,059, while the 2018 municipal census counted 36,678 non-permanent residents for a combined population of 111,687.
Wood Buffalo is home to almost 2,000 recent immigrants (arriving between 2001 and 2006) who now make up more than 3% of the population. About 21% of these immigrants came from India, while about 10% came from each of Pakistan and the Philippines, and about 9% came from Venezuela, and about 8% from South Africa, about 6% from China, and about 3% came from Colombia.
More than 80% of residents identified as Christian at the time of the 2001 census while almost 17% indicated they had no religious affiliation. For specific denominations Statistics Canada counted 15,880 Roman Catholics (37.4%), 4,985 Anglicans (11.7%), 4,225 for the United Church of Canada (9.9%), 1,730 Pentecostals (4.1%), 1,195 Baptists (2.8%), 965 for the Salvation Army (2.3%), 900 Lutherans (2.1%), 690 Muslims (1.6%), 350 Latter-day Saints (0.8%), and 320 Presbyterians (0.8%).
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is home to vast oil sand deposits, also known as the Athabasca Oil Sands, helping to make the region one of the fastest growing industrial areas in Canada.
Wood Buffalo National Park is adjacent to the Regional Municipality (RM) of Wood Buffalo to the northwest. The following provincial protected areas are also within the RM of Wood Buffalo:
The municipality's current mayor is Sandy Bowman, who was first elected in 2021. Its first mayor upon its creation in 1995 was Guy Boutilier, who had previously been the mayor of Fort McMurray and was subsequently elected as the region's provincial MLA. Doug Faulkner served as mayor from 1997 to 2004, and Melissa Blake from 2004 to 2017.
In the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, the municipality was served by the electoral district of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo until 2010, when a second district, Fort McMurray-Conklin, was created due to population growth. The new riding then became Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche in 2018.
Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo is currently represented by Tany Yao and Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche is represented by Brian Jean. Both MLAs are former members of the Wildrose Party and are current members of the United Conservative Party.
As of 2016, the municipality is located in the federal electoral district of Fort McMurray—Cold Lake. The riding has been represented in the House of Commons of Canada by former UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche Laila Goodridge of the Conservative Party of Canada since 2021.
((cite map)): CS1 maint: date and year (link)