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Conserving Canada’s Wetlands

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Top scientists call boreal protection a global priority

Canada's boreal forests house the world's largest intact freshwater ecosystems, and also contain a high concentration of wetlands.

(Excerpt from Boreal Songbird Initiative release)

Ottawa, Ont., March 16, 2011 – An international panel of prominent scientists (including DUC research scientist Pascal Badiou) today sent the following letter to Canada’s political and First Nations leaders. It urges them to adopt and act on the recommendations contained in the Pew Environment Group’s report on the extent and importance of the vast fresh water supplies in Canada’s boreal forests.

Canada has Responsibility for the Future of the World’s Largest Remaining Freshwater Reserves in the Boreal Forest

The global importance of Canada’s boreal forest is well-known, but the outstanding values of the boreal forest’s freshwater resources are generally unrecognized. The forest houses the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems, and contains the highest concentration of wetlands – which hold billions of tonnes of carbon – with countless pristine lakes and free-flowing rivers and streams. The boreal is home to many of Canada’s First Nations peoples, but it also benefits the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the world by stabilizing climate, supporting ocean health, enhancing food security, protecting wildlife and influencing the global economy. Unfortunately Canada’s boreal forest wetlands and waterways are increasingly affected by a growing footprint of industrial natural resource extraction activities that could degrade the ability of the boreal to provide clean water and its many other ecological values.

An international science report, A Forest of Blue: Canada’s Boreal Forest, the World’s Waterkeeper, being released today, highlights these globally important conservation values and reveals that while fresh water and biodiversity are globally endangered, Canada has a unique opportunity to lead the world in freshwater protection solutions. The report provides the rationale for protecting Canada’s boreal forest and the pristine water that it safeguards, laying out initial steps that Canada can take to seize this unprecedented opportunity.

Recently, exceptional leadership by federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments has led to enactment of policies that protect large portions of intact boreal landscape.  However, this report underscores the need for the governments of Canada to respond quickly to the increasing impact of industry on the boreal forest’s freshwater resources and to increase their commitments to protect the forest’s critical resources.

Protection of Canada’s boreal forest, along with limiting greenhouse gas emissions, should be among the top global conservation priorities, and the work to protect it can only be led by Canada’s federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments. Canada has the unrivalled opportunity to protect the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystem and the responsibility to enact sound conservation and sustainable development policy to safeguard the boreal forest. The longer we wait to act, the fewer the conservation options that will continue to be available. Without prompt action, Canada may miss the opportunity to protect this global treasure.

Signed,

International Boreal Conservation Science Panel

Pascal Badiou, John Jacobs, Jeremy Kerr, Micheline Manseau, Gordon Orians, Stuart Pimm, Peter Raven, Terry Root, Nigel Roulet, James Schaefer, David Schindler, Jim Strittholt, Nancy Turner and Andrew Weaver