The Wilderness Committee has worked on boreal forest research and protection for decades. We were inspired to take action because the boreal forest makes up over half of Canada, is threatened on multiple levels by numerous industrial activities such as the tar sands, and has many wildlife and plants that are declining. In response to these threats we opened the Boreal Research Station in northern Alberta in 1992. The wildlife research we conducted in partnership with the University of Alberta and Forestry Canada led to the creation of Alberta’s largest provincial park, the Caribou Mountains Wildland Park.
Our boreal studies also led us to conclude that scientific understanding of how boreal ecosystems function is in its infancy and that research on boreal forests is inadequate to justify massive extractive resource activity such as oil and gas, tar sands, mining and logging. Recent studies have found that the carbon stored in our boreal forests is equivalent to more than 900 years of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Another study found that the boreal forest in Canada is worth 13.8 times more than the combined value of all resource extraction. We must use precaution when managing the boreal forest. Industrial activities must be ecologically justified, and protected areas be prioritized.
The Wilderness Committee continues to strive to unlock the mysteries of boreal forest ecology with cutting-edge exploratory and natural history research with the goal of helping identify protected area proposals. In 2009 the Wilderness Committee completed a survey of birds in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. This research inspired a unique publication called “Canada’s Threatened Bird Nursery; the Boreal Forest” in which we chronicle the collapse of many boreal bird populations and identify an area that should be a priority for protection called the Bird Nursery Conservation Area. We also recently produced a report chronicling the negative effects of the tar sands on climate and ecology, and tar sands mail-in opinion postcards addressed to the Canadian Prime Minster and American President Barack Obama.
The need for boreal forest protection goes beyond birds; many other plants and wildlife, including numerous endangered caribou herds rely on a healthy boreal forest. We have joined numerous other organizations in calling for the protection of 50% of the boreal forest, including areas encompassed by tar sands land holdings in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the East Shore Wilderness in Manitoba and Ontario.
Photo Credit: Garth Lenz
Google Map of Canada's Greater Boreal Region
Boreal Forest (core) is shown in green, Taiga (stunted boreal northern transitional forest, transition to treeless arctic tundra) is shown in orange, Aspen Parkland (southwestern boreal transitional forest, transition to prairie grassland) is shown in yellow, Great Lakes Forest (southeastern boreal transitional forest, transition to deciduous forest) is shown in purple. At least 50% of the Boreal Forest core is proposed for protection. Note that the boundaries are at a coarse scale and are not very accurate if you zoom in too much.
View Canada's Greater Boreal Region in a larger map