Initiative to protect Canada's western boreal forest faces challenges from resource development



Gary Stewart pointed on the map of Canada to a brown swath of western boreal forest that stretches from the border of Ontario and Manitoba, across four provinces and several territories, and up through Alaska. Canada's 2.0 million square kilometers of western boreal forest includes 20–30% of wetlands—bogs, fens, marshes, shallow lakes, and river deltas. The forest of spruce, aspen, poplar, and other trees historically has been heavily and naturally disturbed by fires.

Until recently, though, this vast region was fairly undisturbed by human activity, according to Stewart, manager of conservation programs for the western boreal forest region for the non-profit Ducks Unlimited Canada (DU). A 1986 North American Waterfowl Management Plan did not even include any perceived threats to Canada's western boreal forest, which DU says is the second-most important waterfowl breeding area in North America, after the Prairie Pot-holes region in Canada and the United States. The 13 million breeding ducks supported by the boreal forest are a primary reason for DU's interest, though the group's concern extend to habitat, wetlands, and other biodiversity