A huge swath of Canada’s northern Boreal forest will be permanently protected from tree harvesting and mining as part of a plan to combat climate change, the Province of Ontario’s premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday.
Canada’s Boreal forest forms a band of mostly coniferous trees almost 620 miles wide across the entire country, and has remained mostly undisturbed since the retreat of glaciers 10,000 years ago.
Growing foreign demand for Canada’s natural resources, like timber, wood pulp, hard rock, and fossil fuels, as well as ecological pressures from forest fires and insect infestations, are threatening the health and well-being of Canada’s Boreal forests.
Through this new arrangement, the future of Ontario’s northern Boreal lands and waters will be determined through an innovative land use planning initiative with Canadian First Nations. Under the plan, almost half of Ontario’s Boreal forest, or about 87,000 square miles, an area nearly equal to the entire United Kingdom, would be restricted to eco-tourism and traditional aboriginal uses, such as hunting or fishing.
The portion of the Boreal Forest that is protected, (encompassing nearly 45% of the province of Ontario), is home to billions of migrating birds, threatened species such as Woodland Caribou, Polar Bear and Lake Sturgeon. The massive ecosystem is also one of the globe’s most significant carbon sinks with the Ontario tract absorbing some 12.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, said McGuinty.
Conservation groups hailed the decision, both in terms of the land protection itself, and the land use planning model that was put in place to protect that land. In a statement, Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS Wildlands League said, “This is a visionary and unprecedented policy. Today’s announcement fulfills the Premier’s promise to protect the Boreal Forest by doing Land Use Planning before large scale industrial development.”