Canada Saves the Forest

Canada"s boreal forest is the largest intact forest on the

Canada’s federal government last week announced that it is setting aside some 25.5 million acres of boreal forest and tundra in its remote Northwest Territories province as conservation land off-limits to development and resource extraction. The move comes as the country looks for more ways to meet targets for reducing its carbon footprint as set forth under the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement Canada signed onto in 1998 that aims to stave off global warming by requiring its 172 signatory nations to limit emissions of greenhouse gases.

As the largest intact forest remaining on the planet, Canada’s boreal region is one of the world’s largest "sinks" storing carbon dioxide in trees" woody material and the surrounding soils. Major logging and resource extraction efforts in the region would release untold amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, in turn exacerbating the greenhouse effect. The two huge swaths set aside last week, which resource extraction industries have been eyeing as a potential motherlode, constitute a land mass area about 11 times bigger than Yellowstone National Park. Besides storing a lot of carbon, the newly protected conservation areas (near the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and around the Ramparts River and wetlands) teems with wildlife like bears, wolves, ducks, geese and migratory songbirds.

Environmentalists cheered the announcement. "This is one of the largest conservation actions in North American history," said Steve Kallick, Boreal Conservation Director for the Pew Environment Group. "Canada’s boreal forest is one of the most important ecosystems on the planet and it’s been neglected recently by conservationists, and it’s been under tremendous pressure from resource development."

Sources: MSNBC; The Canadian Press