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Canada to protect its Boreal forest

Latest update : 2008-07-15

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has announced an ambitious plan to protect 225,000 km² of Canadian Boreal forest from industrial exploitation. This "permanent protection" will also restrict human activity to eco-tourism, hunting and fishing.

A huge swath of Canada's northern Boreal forest will be permanently protected from tree harvesting and mining as part of a plan to combat climate change, Ontario province's premier announced Monday.

The forest forms a band of mostly coniferous trees almost 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) wide across the entire country, and has remained mostly undisturbed since the retreat of glaciers 10,000 years ago.

But growing foreign demand for Canada's natural resources, as well as increased annual forest fires and insect infestations due to warming, are threatening this pristine wilderness.

"It's unspoiled and undisturbed, and if there's one thing we know for sure, it's not going to stay that way forever unless we do something," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty told a press conference.

Under his plan, almost half of Ontario's Boreal forest, or about 225,000 square kilometres (87,000 square miles), would be restricted to eco-tourism and traditional aboriginal uses, such as hunting or fishing.

As well, the forest would be off limits to commercial development.

The Boreal forest is one of the world's largest intact ecosystems, with more than 200 sensitive species of animals, including polar bears, wolverines and caribou as well as migratory birds, said McGuinty.

It is also a "globally significant carbon sink," with the Ontario tract absorbing some 12.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere each year, he said.

According to the Canadian Forestry Service, two-thirds of deforestation in Canada has been along the Boreal forest's southern edges, causing less than three percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in this country.

Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions account for about two percent of global emissions, it added.

Date created : 2008-07-15