Industry, First Nations and conservationists join forces behind largest conservation vision in Canadian history

December 1, 2003 – Ottawa

An extraordinary alliance of conservation organizations, First Nations and resource companies is proposing a vision to safeguard Canada’s vast boreal forests and wetlands – comprising one of the largest remaining intact ecosystems in the world.

The Boreal Forest Conservation Framework being announced today by the Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) is a new and balanced approach to nature conservation and development, endorsed by a diverse group with historically competing interests. It will position Canada as the world leader in forest and wetlands conservation and management.

The 11 groups that have helped develop and now endorse this shared vision are: Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Deh Cho First Nations, Domtar Inc., Ducks Unlimited Canada, Forest Ethics, the Innu Nation, Poplar River First Nation, Suncor Energy Inc, Tembec Inc. and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Together, they are the founding members of the Boreal Leadership Council, convened by the CBI.

“The Framework vision reflects a wide range of perspectives; the collective wisdom and experience of leaders in boreal conservation; and currently available information, ” says Cathy Wilkinson, Director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative. “We are confident that our work will be an inspiration and source of creative solutions to governments and all who depend on the future of the boreal region.”

Wilkinson adds that with more than 90% of the boreal region under public ownership, it will be important for governments to play a central role in making the Framework’s vision a reality.

Building on the strength of the diverse interests on the Council, members now want to reach out to other organizations and governments. “The Framework sets a goal and invites like-minded leaders to work towards it. Our plan now is to move into a broader dialogue with governments and others to explore collaborative approaches, particularly in the area of effective land use planning,” says Wilkinson. “Along the way, we will learn much more about boreal ecology, people and economies and how they interrelate, and our vision will evolve with our understanding.”

Wilkinson says there is an urgent need for a holistic approach towards boreal conservation because land use and resource-management decisions in every province and territory will determine the fate of much of the region within the next three to five years.

“By acting now, Canada can safeguard one of the world’s remaining large ecosystems – while it is still for the most part ecologically intact. We have a unique opportunity to pursue a balanced vision to conserve the entire Canadian boreal region, while providing for extensive economic benefits,” notes Wilkinson.

The Framework calls for the establishment of a network of large interconnected protected areas covering about half of the country’s boreal region, which includes the boreal forest, the Aspen Parkland and the Taiga, and the use of leading-edge sustainable development practices in remaining areas.

The Framework represents a national vision and goal for the region as a whole, rather than a formula to be applied on a unit-by-unit basis in a particular part of the region. For example, in several provincial commercial boreal forests, initiatives have already been launched to ensure requisite protection, which has been scientifically established at levels below 50%, while in areas of the frontier forest, more than 50% may be needed. A number of recently announced initiatives across the country, including those involving Council members in Labrador, the NWT, Ontario and Quebec, will be instrumental in advancing conservation consistent with the Framework.

Over the coming months, the CBI will be working with Council members to expand Framework endorsement in a variety of sectors, generate on-the-ground examples of the Framework principles in action, and create opportunities for governments to become engaged and active participants. The CBI has also commissioned science-based research to refine the approaches, in particular the necessary levels of protection, and activities that will help elaborate and implement this vision.

The Canadian Boreal Initiative was initiated by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2003, to promote boreal forest conservation and sustainable development.