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The North Woods
Alex Steffen, 3 Dec 03

A broad and powerful coalition of Canadians announced Monday the world's most ambitious model for saving the Northern woods.

Those woods, the "boreal" forests that run all around the far Northern hemisphere, are nowhere near as productive or biologically diverse as tropical rainforests, but scientists say they play a key role in planetary climate and provide crucial habitat for billions of migrating birds. Anyone who's every been there - I have - can tell you that boreal forests also have a rare beauty and power. They are global treasures.

This agreement, the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, covers just over half of Canada's land mass - 1.3 billion acres, or one-tenth of all the Earth's remaining forests. One half of that will be forever off-limits to logging and development. The other half will be managed for sustainability, with the Forest Stewardship Council and environmental groups acting as watchdogs. Most observers think the coalition has the political momentum to see the model adopted by the Canadian government.

There were of course compromises made along the way - as there would be in any effort which has won the vehement support of environmentalists, industry and native peoples - but those should in no way blind us to the staggering magnitude of this plan's achievement: ten percent of the world's forests, set aside or managed under a damn-fine approximation of the best sustainable forestry practices around. Monday was a good day.

(thanks Vicki!)

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