Canada's Boreal Region

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

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Recent Developments

16 weeks 3 days ago
Write a letter! As images of reindeer and snowy evergreens appear as part of our seasonal celebrations, it’s time to care for the reindeer cousins right here in Manitoba – the woodland caribou.
16 weeks 3 days ago
December 4, 2014 Images of reindeer and snowy evergreens are a memorable part of our seasonal celebrations, and they’re springing up all around us right now. This leads me to think about our reindeer cousins right here in Manitoba – the woodland caribou – and my recent journeys this past summer into the caribou’s winter home.

Take Action

Give Manitoba’s reindeer cousins a safe winter home

Write a letter!

As images of reindeer and snowy evergreens appear as part of our seasonal celebrations, it’s time to care for the reindeer cousins right here in Manitoba – the woodland caribou.

Of the 15 caribou ranges in Manitoba, the Owl-Flintstone range around Nopiming Provincial Park is the most at risk. The Wilderness Committee has proposed a new protected area adjacent to Nopiming Provincial Park, called the Nopiming-Owl Lake Caribou Protected Area, based upon the habitat area and proposal identified in the government’s 2011 Manitoba Draft Action Plan for this caribou range.

There have been many strategy documents published by governments over the last few years, but little on-the-ground action. All the strategies say the same thing: these shy forest icons need large tracts of undisturbed forest to thrive. So let’s give it to them!

You can help by taking this simple step right now: write a letter and tell the Manitoba government to give the Owl-Flintstone caribou the gift of a protected winter home, just like they called for in 2011.

Click here to write your letter now >>

To read more about the woodland caribou and our expeditions into winter caribou habitat, check out this blog post. To view a map of the proposed protected area, click here.


Photo: Caribou (Jakob Dulisse).


Help protect the Lower Bird River

Write a letter!

The Bird River is a real conservation hotspot in Manitoba, one that we’ve highlighted in our recent educational report, Wild Manitoba: 5 Natural Treasures at Risk. This region encompasses a wealth of wildlife, is relatively pristine and is accessible for many people by foot or by paddle.

However, there is an imminent risk to the Bird River. 

Cabot Corporation, the company that operates the Tanco Mine at Bernic Lake, has proposed a plan to drain water from Bernic Lake – a lake that has been contaminated from their mine operations – into the Bird River. The Manitoba government has sent Tanco’s application back to them, requesting additional research and information about the proposal. The plan could easily be resubmitted though, as the Bird River has no protection whatsoever right now.

The Wilderness Committee is proposing a new protected area to encompass the lower Bird River, one that will protect it and the surrounding lands for future generations.

Please join us in our campaign by sending a letter to the Manitoba government, asking them to permanently protect the lands and waters of the lower Bird River.

Write a letter now >>


Photo: The lower Bird River (Eric Reder).

No Crude Oil Shipments Through Churchill, Manitoba!

Write a letter now!

We need you to raise your voice against a terrible plan to ship crude oil through northern Manitoba communities to the Port of Churchill, and then by tanker through Hudson Bay. It’s a terrible idea that would put this fragile ecological area at risk!

Most people only know Churchill as the place to see polar bears and beluga whales; in fact, it’s the best place in the world to see them. Omnitrax, the company that owns the port and railway, plans to put those polar bears and belugas in jeopardy by shipping crude oil through this region.

We’ve already documented many aspects of this plan that simply won’t work. You can read about the area’s lack of oil spill containment equipment on our blog post here, and even see a government video of cleanup equipment failing in icy northern waters. You can read about how dangerous this rail line is in this blog post, which chronicles four separate derailments and accidents that occurred on this rail line while I was travelling to and from Churchill in the fall of 2013.

For some of the remote communities along the rail line, this single railway is their only access to the outside world – and to each other. How can oil spill response equipment be transported into these communities, when the only rail line has an accident on it? How do you evacuate people when there is no road into these communities? How do we safeguard the population, the wildlife, and the lands and waters that provide for them, when the only access – the rail line – is blocked by a train derailment?

Finally, Hudson Bay itself has no crude oil being shipped through it right now. We do not need to put Hudson Bay at risk. Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec will all share the risk if crude oil is transported through Hudson Bay. This plan does not need to happen!

Please use this letter-writing tool to contact federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, and voice your opinion today! Share this information with your family, friends and neighbours – the more people who speak up, the better.

We must ban crude oil shipments through Hudson Bay to protect marine ecosystems, to protect the fragile northern ecology, and to protect the Bushline and Bayline communities – and the territories they rely on to thrive.

Click here to write to the Minister of Transport today.                      


Photo: The rail line heading into the Port of Churchill, Manitoba (Eric Reder).

Help Stop the Manitoba "Peat Rush"

Manitoba is suffering from a “peat rush” right now, with companies currently trying to get approval to strip mine thousands of hectares of boreal lowlands to harvest peat moss. Peatlands, however, are an important part of a healthy Manitoba environment.

Peatlands, which are all wetlands, are natural filters that provide and store clean, clear fresh water. Peat lowlands also provide important habitat for unique plant species like the carnivorous pitcher plant (right), as well as moose. But the most significant benefit of peatlands is that they store vast amounts of carbon, which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Mining peat will reduce or eliminate all of these ecological benefits.

Please write to the Minister for Conservation and Water Stewardship, and let him know your opinion on this important public land issue.

Write your letter today!

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