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

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford shakes hands with people associated with the hall before a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association is forging ahead in its bid to establish an economically sustainable professional league in North America with or — for now — without the NHL’s full financial backing. In response to Sportsnet.ca reporting the NHL was not in a position to operate a women’s league for the foreseeable future, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford wrote in an email to The Associated Press late Thursday that her group has begun developing what she called “a parallel path for a future that doesn’t rely on NHL support.” (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney answers questions at a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Kenney is distancing himself from a decision to expel two members from his United Conservative caucus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. A judge is expected to rule this morning on a challenge of the United Conservative government's inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta's oil industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

Albertans receive vaccines at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Alberta Health Services says it has obtained a restraining order against a Calgary mayoral candidate who the agency says has threatened health workers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta health agency obtains restraining order against Calgary mayoral candidate

Alberta health agency obtains restraining order against Calgary mayoral candidate

Most Read