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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Canadian Groups Agree to Conserve Woodlands

Canadian Groups Agree to Conserve Woodlands

Date : 3rd December 2003, Source : NY Times


TORONTO, Nov. 30 - An unlikely coalition of energy and forestry companies, Native Canadian tribes and environmental groups have come to a sweeping agreement to conserve at least 50 percent of Canada's vast sub-Arctic, or boreal, forests, one of the largest unspoiled woodlands in the world.

The agreement does not include federal or provincial governments, or any enforcement mechanisms. But environmental groups applauded the framework, to be announced Monday, as the most sweeping forest and wetland conservation agreement ever reached in Canada.

It is intended to protect one of the world's richest troves of caribou, wolves, bears, waterfowl and migratory birds, including whooping cranes, yellow rails, warblers and sparrows. Moreover, the forests of pine, spruce and poplar are a vital air purifier and source of fresh water. As much as 25 percent of the world's intact forests could be affected by the agreement, which was reached by 11 groups, including Suncor Energy and three logging and paper companies, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, Tembec and Domtar.

The companies and the native groups that have joined the agreement control one-sixth of the 1.3 billion acres of Canadian boreal forests and will press others to join. Their objective is to conserve 50 percent of the forests in their pristine state, and to develop the other 50 percent in an ecologically sustainable way. The woodlands are part of what is sometimes called the great northern forest, which circles the globe below the polar regions and above the temperate hardwood forests.

"This is just a first step," said Cathy Wilkinson, director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative. "These are groups that historically have not had relationships that were always constructive, but this group is coming together to propose a national vision for the boreal."

Ms. Wilkinson noted that the group wanted to enlist the federal and provincial governments in the initiative as well as other Native Canadian groups, which are gaining increasing control over their traditional hunting and trapping lands.

As the global climate grows warmer, environmentalists say, the boreal forests could grow taller and thicker and become an even more important source of oxygen.

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