By Jennifer Baker
Canada’s boreal forest is a globally important ecosystem that contains vast intact forest with clear, clean waters that are rich in wildlife. This broad band of forest lies across northern Canada and covers more than 50 million hectares in northern Ontario – close to half the province.
The boreal forest provides numerous ecological, economic and cultural benefits, including helping to protect against global warming by trapping and storing carbon, supporting large, naturally functioning ecosystems that provide habitat for 23 species at risk, and playing a key role in moderating temperatures and increasing atmospheric moisture throughout the year. Without the boreal forest, Ontario would be hotter and drier, affecting everything from food production to water supplies.
The boreal forest north of the Great Lakes is already developed, with extensive road networks, cities and towns, and industrial infrastructure, including lumber mills, mines and hydro dams. Due to lack of proper planning and management, these activities are having devastating impacts on wildlife, especially caribou and wolverine, which have all but disappeared from this part of the province. Millions of songbird nests also have been cut down.
North of an invisible line around 51 degrees latitude, the roads end, the logging stops and the rivers flow free. This is the northern boreal forest and it has been either officially or practically off-limits to most industrial development – until now.
The line of development is quickly shifting north, and will bring with it an advancing line of extinction for species at risk like wolverine and caribou, and will destroy nest for breeding birds. There are already 4,400 mineral claims staked in the north and plans for roads, hydro transmission lines, logging, an open pit mines.
Ontario Nature is working with other conservation partners and First Nation communities to urge the provincial government to protect the northern boreal forest. We want to ensure that conservation-based planning is in place before industry comes into the northern boreal forest.
There are several exciting announcements about Ontario Nature’s boreal forest project with more to come over the next few months:
- • Ontario Nature staff will be working with members of the Nature Network over the next year to deliver The Boreal Forest: Ontario’s Songbird Nursery presentation at member group monthly meetings and at special community events.
- • Jen Baker, formerly the Nature Network Manager, has taken on the role of Boreal Campaign Coordinator and will co-ordinate The Boreal Forest: Ontario’s Songbird Nursery presentations, as well as working with other conservation organizations to protect the northern boreal forest.
- • Julee Boan, GIS Coordinator based out of the Thunder Bay office is on maternity leave with her healthy and happy baby boy.
A First Nations Coordinator will be working out of the Thunder Bay office and will be focusing on building relationships with First Nations communities.
For more information about the Boreal Forest Project please contact Jen Baker at 1-800-440-2366, ext 224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Article reprinted from Nature Network News, October 16, 2006)