On July 14th, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that Ontario will set aside 55 million acres of Northern Boreal Forest for permanent protection from development. The area, one of the world's largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems, is roughly the size of the United Kingdom.
More than 1,500 scientists worldwide sent letters to inspire the Canadian government to initiate the legislation, which, once enacted in 10 to 15 years, will work to protect the forest as well as its more than 200 sensitive animal species from oil, mining and logging interests.
According to this article by Kerry Gillespie of the Toronto Star, the plan will not only work to protect the forest, but will also help the forest protect us from climate change:
“The announcement is globally significant in the fight against climate change, advocates say. Nearly 100 billion tons of carbon are stored in the Northern Boreal region and another 12.5 million tons are absorbed each year.
These lands remain, for the most part, untouched by development. But with increasing world demand for resources, it was just a matter of time before mining and logging inched up from the south.
Now, those resource industries will be barred from half the land and have to work with the government and local First Nations communities to create sustainable development plans for the rest, McGuinty said.
Over the next 10 to 15 years, the province will work with scientists and communities to map out the specific lands that are the most valuable as carbon storehouses and for species protection and which lands have the greatest resources and should be developed.”
The Northern Boreal Forest, as we’ve written before, is an impressive ecosystem worth more than just the sum of its natural resources. But getting everyone to understand the long-term benefits of natural capital is sometimes a difficult task. And in the interim between now and full implementation, the Canadian government will have to hold its ground to protect the forest against competing interests.
But I stand optimistically with Larry Innes, Director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative, who commented that ‘This is a tremendous opportunity to get it right, and it looks like all the elements are there for success."
Photo credit: Peter Gorrie for the Toronto Star