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Boreal Forest

Canada's Boreal is home to the world's largest remaining stretches of intact forests. What's more, our Boreal forest buffers against climate change, storing large amounts of carbon providing refuge for wildlife to adapt as their habitats change. CPAWS is working across Canada to protect the Boreal's lands, waters and wildlife.

Canada's Boreal is one of the last frontier forests in the world. It provides essential services that human society depends on, like

  • Purifying the air that we breathe and the water we drink
  • Slowing the pace of climate change by being the largest terrestrial storehouse for carbon

Most of the planet's other great forests have been lost to industrial development, but Canada's Boreal is still home to millions of migratory songbirds, majestic caribou herds, a diversity of fragile plants and large predators like lynx and wolverine.

The threat

The greatest threat to Canada's Boreal is industrial development and its effects, such as climate change. Although much of the forest is still relatively intact, industrial activities like logging, mining, and oil and gas development continue to eat away at our remaining wilderness areas.

Industrial activities impact the Boreal Forest by:

  • damaging wildlife habitat
  • fragmenting forests and wetlands with roads, seismic lines and other disturbances
  • increasing human access into remote regions
  • changing water and nutrient cycles
  • contaminating wilderness areas with toxic chemicals

Logging

Each year, more than 8,000 square kilometres are logged in Canada.

  • Much of Canada's southern Boreal forest has been licenced to logging companies.
  • Approximately one million hectares of Canada's public forests and roughly 90 percent of this area is clearcut.
  • Logging can cause the loss of old growth forests from the landscape, degradation of wildlife habitat and conversion of conifer-dominated forests to hardwood.

Oil and gas

Underneath Canada's Boreal Forest lies an oil deposit the size of Florida - the oil sands.

  • Alberta's Boreal Forests have already been fragmented by 88,000 oil and gas well sites, and a massive expansion of oil sands extraction is planned in the coming years.
  • The development of oil sands mining leases will result in the clearing of 300,000 hectares of Boreal Forest and constructing 30,000 km of roads, leaving 80% of the remaining Boreal Forest within 250m of a road, pipeline or well site.

Mining

Over 90% of the Boreal forest is currently open for mining exploration and claim staking.

  • While mine sites themselves are relatively small and isolated, the big impact comes from the network of roads and seismic lines created during exploration, and the tailing ponds and waste left behind after mining.
  • Staked lands are considered 'unavailable for protection' unless the industry agrees to remove the Crown's mineral reserves.

Resources

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
This historic agreement between conservation groups and the Forest Products Association of Canada covers more than 72 million hectares of public forests licensed to FPAC member companies across Canada.

Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI)
Based in Ottawa, the Canadian Boreal Initiative brings together diverse partners to create new solutions for Boreal Forest conservation and works as a catalyst supporting on-the-ground efforts across the Boreal by governments, industry, First Nations, conservation groups, major retailers, financial institutions and scientists.

Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI)

The Boreal Songbird Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to outreach and education about the importance of the Boreal Forest region to North America’s birds. BSI works to mobilize environmental and birding groups and individuals to influence Canadian government and industry policies.

International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC)
The IBCC is an initiative of the PEW Charitable Trust with major support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Lenfest Foundation.

Wildlife Conservation Society Canada
WCS Canada generates and shares knowledge and understanding about key wildlife species and their survival needs with conservation groups, resource agencies and governments. This science, developed through detailed field research, helps to guide decisions and planning for how to best protect both species and ecosystems.

Take Action!

Help us protect caribou and their boreal home
Help us protect caribou and their boreal home
Help us demonstrate that Canadians care about our caribou and want them and their boreal home protected.
Read more | Sign the pledge!
Sign the Peel statement of support
Sign the Peel statement of support
Help create the largest protected area in North America by signing on to this statement of support for the First Nations' goal of protecting the entire Peel River watershed.
Read more | Add your name at Protect Peel

Publications

Looking for Action: Caribou losing ground (December 2014)

This report is our second annual review of Canada’s progress in conserving boreal woodland caribou habitat since the 2012 release of the federal recovery strategy for boreal caribou under the Species-at-Risk Act (SARA).

Population Critical: How are Canada’s Boreal Woodland Caribou Faring? (2013)

In our first annual assessment of how well provinces and territories are doing in meeting their obligations to protect boreal caribou since the federal recovery strategy for the species was released in 2012, the majority get bottom marks for lagging so far behind in protecting one of Canada’s most iconic species at risk.

Canadian Wilderness Fall 2013 (2013)

This issue of Canadian Wilderness commemorates what CPAWS has accomplished in its first half century. It profiles some of the leaders who have built our organization over those 50 years and some of the staff and volunteers who carry on that tradition today.

CPAWS response to the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (2011)

CPAWS responds to Alberta's plan for the future of the oilsands region.

Cliffs Chromite Project in Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” (2011)

CPAWS and Mining Watch Canada joint letter to the Federal Government regarding the environmental assessment of the Cliffs Chromite Project in Ontario's "Ring of Fire".

View more publications

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