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Expanding Our Roots

10th National Forest Congress Focuses on Canada’s Boreal Forest
Treena Hein, CFA Teaching Kit Contractor 

The Canadian Forestry Association (www.canadianforestry.com) held its 10th National Forest Congress titled “SustainableLand Management in the Boreal” from September 24-27 in Gatineau, Quebec. More than 50 speakers from government, industry, conservation groups and a substantial number of First Nations shared perspectives on how Canada’s vast boreal forest can be both protected and used wisely. This event marked the 100th anniversary of the National Forest Congress, which has the mandate of setting objectives by consensus.

Over one quarter of the world’s intact frontier forests are found within Canada’s boreal, which covers almost 60% of the country’s land mass – from the Yukon to Newfoundland. It is the breeding grounds for hundreds of species of songbirds and waterfowl, and contains a large percentage of the world's wetlands. 

CFA Teaching Kit contractor, Treena Hein, says “Many presenters touched on a major shift in thinking that is on the rise with regards to land use planning. Instead of proceeding with development in a given area (such as a mine, timber harvest or oil extraction) with a focus afterwards on how much land can be conserved, decision-makers are moving to a planning process wherein all information on the ecology, geology, history and social value of an intact area is considered with an eye to how much development should be permitted and in what context.”

Grand Chief, Herb Norwegian,
Deh Cho First Nations, speaks at
the National Forest Congress

Hein states that many at the Congress pointed to the land use plan developed by the Deh Cho First Nation as a prime example of this new way of thinking. The ancestral land of this native people covers 20,000,000 acres in the NWT. The Deh Cho spent 7 years consulting with elders about hunting and fishing grounds, sacred sites and burial grounds – added that to geologic and ecologic data – and created a plan wherein half the boreal land is preserved and limited careful development will take place in some of the other parts. Stephen Woodley, Chief Scientist at Parks Canada, called their plan "an astonishing piece of work." 

According to Hein, a significant number of presenters also stressed the need for involving local residents in boreal land use decisions which directly affect them, and for educating the general public about the boreal. In addition, there was overwhelming consensus that a great deal more knowledge about the boreal forest is required, but also agreement that despite gaps in knowledge, the time to act has come.

Many organizations are taking action already. For example, it was announced at the Congress that the Forest Products Association of Canada has joined the Canadian Boreal Initiative in agreeing that land use planning in a given area of the boreal should occur before any new forest tenders are given. The BC First Nations Forest Council presented their actions to fight Mountain Pine Beetle. Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is taking an active role in providing extensive amounts of data on species and wetlands to decision-makers. For example, DUC data on the habitat range of boreal waterfowl can be used in many ways, including as criteria in bids to create protected National Wildlife Areas.


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