More boreal forest protected in 2013 but challenges remain

Canada has made significant strides in protecting the vast boreal forest that stretches across most of its provinces and territories, but the world’s largest intact forest ecosystem still faces threats, says an environmental group.

Canada has made significant strides in protecting the vast boreal forest that stretches across most of its provinces and territories, but the world’s largest intact forest ecosystem still faces threats, says an environmental group.

The amount of boreal forest under some form of government protection has doubled since 2007 to about 12 per cent of the total area, biologist Jeff Wells of the Canadian Boreal Initiative said recently.

“That’s a big rate of increase in a short time and we’re hoping that’s going to continue,” he said.

The boreal forest is the huge swath of green that stretches from Newfoundland to the Yukon. It’s home to millions of migratory birds, harbours endangered wildlife such as caribou and shelters hundreds of wetlands that clean water and store carbon.

A total of 708,000 square kilometres is now protected by government. Another 460,000 square kilometres are being harvested through sustainable practices such as those outlined by the Forest Stewardship Council, an organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests by setting standards, and certifying and labelling wood products.

Wells has high praise for provinces such as Manitoba, which teamed with aboriginal groups in 2013 to try to get the Pimachiowin Aki region — a 33,400-square-kilometre area almost half the size of New Brunswick — declared a World Heritage Site. While the attempt failed, the province has promised to try again in the coming year.

Wells’s group also commends the Ontario government for holding onto an objective of protecting half of its northern forests despite development pressure from the mining industry in the so-called Ring of Fire region northeast of Thunder Bay.

As well, an agreement that has brought together environmentalists and forestry companies continues to hold together despite strains.

But Wells warns that some jurisdictions aren’t doing so well.

Quebec has removed its deadline to protect half its northern forest by 2035 and has downgraded an interim goal of 20 per cent protection by 2020 to 12 per cent.

The Yukon has failed to implement mining reforms, despite a successful legal challenge to the territory’s free-entry mining system.

Wells said the federal imposition of a regulatory “superboard” in the Northwest Territories could erode local control over development. And energy and forestry development continue to hammer Alberta’s boreal zone.

“Alberta is at the front lines of boreal forest threats and issues,” said Wells. “There are more caribou herds that are in trouble there than anywhere.”

One of the biggest challenges for governments over the coming year will be land-use planning, Wells suggested.

In many jurisdictions, Wells said, mining interests are given top priority over any other possible use.

“It’s basically a question of what will happen to these lands and who will decide. In so many cases it’s being decided without any broad-scale thinking about what the future will look like.”

The Canadian Boreal Initiative hopes to ultimately protect about half the country’s forest, which makes up fully one-third of the world’s such woodlands and, said Wells, is gaining increasing international prominence.

The lead discussion at one of the world’s main meetings of conservation biologists this year was focused on Canada’s boreal forest, which the International Boreal Conservation Science Panel has called “the world’s last great forest.”

“In the last 10 years, it has become known as a place just like the Amazon,” Wells said. “Its values towards birds, towards caribou, toward carbon, toward water — all of those things — are really becoming much better known.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Setters Place grand opening in Red Deer

Red Deer’s Setters Place officially opened to the public Saturday afternoon.… Continue reading

Women’s marches underway in Canadian cities, a year after Trump inauguration

Women are gathering in dozens of communities across the country today to… Continue reading

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by government

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month