Question time. What is the largest intact forest on the planet? If you guessed Amazon, firstly you aren’t the only one; more importantly, you’ll have to know the answer is the Canadian boreal forests. Here are some facts: It covers a staggering 1.5 billion acres, between 1-3 billion birds flock nest and breed here each year, it alone stores 208 billion tonnes of carbon i.e 20 years worth of the world’s emissions from burning fossil fuels, and contains 200 million acres of surface fresh water alone. Yes, that’s a lot of numbers; but they are only some of the reasons for making sure these forests stay intact.
So, whether you enjoy a morning chasing warblers in Central Park’s Ramble, listening to ovenbirds sing in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., scanning the Chicago waterfront for ducks or strolling the shaded paths of Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston while vireos and tanagers flash through the old trees, you are drawing delight directly from that immense swath of unsullied northern forest.
All those facts and a recent opinion piece in The New York Times insisting that it is “imperative that we find a better balance between industry and conservation in northern Canada than we’ve found in most of the rest of the world” – you know these forests matter. And that it is better to start thinking about sustainable planning now than when the coniferous treetops begin to disappear. More than 30% of the Canadian Boreal Forest has been reserved for some form of current or future industrial development overall; logging, mining, oil and gas extraction and hydro-plants beginning to be big threats. While development is undoubtedly the way forward, responsibility would be the right direction to take to get there.