Canada makes giant leaps in site protection
…half of North America's birds are dependent on Canada's boreal forest for their survival…The Canadian Government has announced that it will protect more than 450,000 hectares of Arctic wilderness in Nunavut province, including a globally significant Important Bird Area, by establishing three new National Wildlife Areas: Niginganiq (Isabella Bay), Qaqulluit (Cape Searle) and Akpait (Reid Bay). All three sites are located on the north-east side of Baffin Island in Nunavut.
“This is great news for Canada’s birds, biodiversity and the cause of wilderness preservation”, said Julie Gelfand, president of Nature Canada. “Two of Canada’s Important Bird Areas are found within the Qaqulluit and Akpait NWAs. This means critical breeding and feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds will be preserved.”
Nature Canada has long argued that National Wildlife Areas are an essential tool for protecting Canada’s migratory birds and endangered species. Habitat for several Arctic marine species stand to be set aside with the Government’s announcement, including the largest Canadian colony of Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. “We are extremely pleased to see the Government take the all important first step of officially designating three new wildlife areas”, said Gelfand. “With this announcement, however, should come a commitment to provide the ongoing funding required to properly manage the entire system of National Wildlife Areas in Canada well into the future. Currently nearly 12 million hectares of wilderness are being managed on less than $4 million dollars annually, which is a tiny fraction of what is needed to properly address management concerns and protect wildlife populations”, said Gelfand.
In another recent announcement, Ontario State Premier Dalton McGuinty, pledged to permanently protect 225,000 square kilometres of boreal forest in the northern area of the province. Covering more than 20% of Ontario's total landmass, the area to be protected is roughly the same size as the United Kingdom. McGuinty also announced a sweeping mining reform package that is unprecedented in North America in recognizing the role of First Nations and the need to share resource benefits with local communities.Scientists around the world have been calling on Canadian governments at all levels to protect the boreal forest, which is under increasing pressure from logging, mining and oil and gas exploration. The vast boreal region in northern Ontario represents 43% of the province's land mass and has been identified as one of the world's most significant and largest intact forest and wetland ecosystems. Boreal forest is the world's single-largest terrestrial carbon storehouse. The Canadian boreal forest alone stores 186 billion tons of carbon - equivalent to 27 years of the world's carbon dioxide fossil fuel emissions. It also contains the majority of North America's fresh, unfrozen water and it provides nesting grounds for billions of migratory songbirds and waterfowl; half of North America's birds are dependent on Canada's boreal forest for their survival.
In May, the Quebec government announced that they will protect more than 18,000 square kilometres of forest and wetlands in 23 new conservation areas. Fifteen of these new conservation areas are in the boreal zone.
The move will bring the province closer to its pledge to protect 8% of its natural spaces from development by the end of 2008. The new conservation areas amount to more than one per cent of Quebec's total area and was the biggest area of land protected in more than 100 years.
4th July 2014