May 21-28, 2007

Scientists worldwide urge Canadian governments to protect Boreal forest

In a letter to all Canadian governments-federal, provincial and territorial-some 1,500 leading scientists from more than 50 countries around the world call for enhanced protection of Canada's Boreal forest in the face of increasing pressure from logging, mining and oil and gas operations.

"The extraordinary level of support expressed in this letter demonstrates the global ecological importance of Canada's Boreal forest and the urgent need for Canada to protect it," said University of Alberta ecology professor David Schindler. "We are losing so many of the world's great forests, despite the best efforts of conservationists. Canada's Boreal forest offers what may be our last, best chance to do things right, but only if our leaders act decisively and act now," he added.

The scientists cite the 1.4-billion-acre Canadian Boreal forest as one of the largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems remaining on earth. They note that it is a major part of the global Boreal region, which stores more freshwater in wetlands and lakes and more carbon in trees, soil and peat than anywhere else on earth. The Canadian Boreal forest alone stores 186 billion tonnes of carbon-equivalent to 27 years of the world's carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of fossil fuels.

The ecological services of Canada's Boreal forest, including water filtration and carbon storage, are estimated to be worth 2.5 times the value of natural resources extracted each year, says the letter.

However, the Boreal forest is under increasing pressure from logging, mining and oil and gas operations. The letter notes that the range of threats facing the Boreal and their potential cumulative effect prompted a Senate committee to conclude that the region is "under siege." And the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report singled out deforestation as a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

To date, the letter adds, less than 10% of land within Canada's Boreal region has been set aside as protected to date. This is far less than what is scientifically recognized as necessary to sustain the ecosystem over time. The scientists recommend preserving a minimum of half of Canada's Boreal forest in protected areas while allowing only carefully managed development on the rest, in accordance with the Boreal Conservation Framework, a plan already endorsed by Canadian conservation groups, 25 Canadian First Nations, and more than 75 major businesses with annual sales of $30 billion.

"Scientists recognize the urgent need to protect large parts of Canada's Boreal," said Larry Innes, executive director for the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI). "We owe it to our children to strike the right balance between conservation and development - and immediate action will be vital if we hope to protect this globally important ecosystem."

The CBI brings together First Nations, conservationists, industry, and others to link science, policy and conservation activities in Canada's Boreal region. The letter and list of signatories may be viewed on-line at www.borealbirds.org.

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