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Canada draws applause

…for protecting ‘Amazon of the North’

Nature Canada (BirdLife in Canada) has congratulated the Canadian government on the temporarily withdrawal of more than 10 million hectares of Canada’s Northwest Territories from future industrial development. The breakthrough decision places 1% of Canada’s total land mass under interim protection, a move described as ‘one of the largest designations of its kind in this hemisphere’ by BirdLife’s Americas Division.

“This land is more than twice the size of Switzerland”, said Julie Gelfand, Nature Canada President, who attended the announcement ceremony in Ottawa yesterday. “Though these culturally and environmentally rich areas are only receiving temporary protection today, Canadians expect to see these regions permanently protected as new national wildlife areas and new national parks soon.”Nature Canada has spent over 40 years working to complete the system of national parks in Canada, and joins a number of organisations in applauding the Canadian government. Among those supporting the decision is the Boreal Songbird Network: a network of conservation groups –among them Bird Studies Canada (also a BirdLife Partner)- working to underline the importance of the region’s Boreal Forest to migratory birds in the Americas. Areas that will be protected under the announcement include the Ramparts River and Wetlands complex, which is slated to become Canada’s next national wildlife area, and the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, scheduled to become a new national park.

“This is great news for Canada’s birds and biodiversity”, said Gelfand. “A number of Canada’s Important Bird Areas are found partly within the lands receiving protection today. This means critical breeding and feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds will be preserved.”Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – designated by BirdLife International - are priority areas for the conservation of globally threatened, range-restricted and congregatory birds. Canada’s new protected areas will engulf three IBAs, with more potentially to follow. Among the IBAs to have received interim protection are North Arm IBA (NT086) and South Shore IBA (NT087) on the shores of the Great Slave Lake. These IBAs represent a series of freshwater lakes, rivers, marshland and sand flats and are crucial stop-over sites for northward-migrating waterfowl like Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus, Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata and Northern Pintail Anas acuta.

To the northwest, the third IBA to benefit from the interim protection will be the alpine woods and mudflats of Lower Mackenzie River Islands IBA (NT080). Surveys suggest that most of the Western Central Flyway population of Lesser Snow Goose Anser caerulescens caerulescens migrate through the area during spring migration towards Alaska.

“Canada is setting the pace for other countries, as far as declaring large tracts of wild nature for the protection of bird, bears, caribou and their forests for the benefit of people – but there is work to do”, Gelfand added.“How the government will fund Canada’s system of 49 national wildlife areas operating on a current budget of less than $2 million dollars remains to be seen. 10 million hectares of boreal forest -the ‘Amazon of the north’- is certainly immensely encouraging however.” she finished.

4th July 2014