Top 5 Breakthroughs in Protecting the Boreal Forest in 2018
December 21, 2018
The effort to conserve the world’s largest intact forest gained new ground this year. Progress stretching from the Northwest Territories to Ottawa helped ensure Canada’s Boreal Forest will continue to sustain animals and plants, clean waters and communities for years to come.
Many of these advances were led by Indigenous Peoples. And many will help Canada meet its international conservation commitments. Here’s a look at some of 2018’s boreal highlights.
Canada Invests Historic $1.3 Billion in Conservation
In February, the federal government made the biggest investment in conservation in Canadian history. Budget 2018 dedicated $1.3 billion to protecting at least 17 percent of lands by 2020 and meeting other conservation goals. This investment will help conserve large areas within the boreal—a natural system that matters to the health of the entire planet. It also recognizes the leadership role of Indigenous communities in creating new parks and protected areas.
Ministers Strengthen Commitment to Conservation Targets
Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for parks and protected areas pledged on June 28 to accelerate action toward the shared goal of protecting at least 17% of lands by 2020. The goal is part of Canada’s commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity to stem the tide of vanishing animals and plants and the loss of wild landscapes that sustain them. At the meeting in June, ministers also affirmed that Indigenous protected and conserved areas are essential for achieving this target.
Indigenous Nations Secure First-of-Its-Kind World Heritage Site
Nearly 30,000 square kilometres of boreal forest lands and waters along the Manitoba–Ontario boundary were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 1. Four Anishinaabe First Nations—Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi and Poplar River—led the effort to secure World Heritage Site status for the area, known as Pimachiowin Aki. Most World Heritage sites are recognized for either natural or cultural values, but this application prompted UNESCO to shift the evaluation process to honour links between nature and culture. Pimachiowin Aki is the first mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Site in Canada.
Dehcho First Nations Lead Creation of Giant New Protected Area
A stretch of boreal forest more than twice the size of Banff National Park gained new protections thanks to the leadership of the Dehcho First Nations. In July, the Dehcho First Nations passed a Dene law to protect vibrant forest lands, headwater lakes and caribou grounds west of Yellowknife. Then on October 11, they signed an agreement with Canada to establish the joint Edéhzhíe Dehcho Protected Area/National Wildlife Area. Dehcho K’éhodi Indigenous will manage Edéhzhíe drawing on Dene culture and science.
Nunavik and Cree Nation Move to Protect More Boreal Forest
On December 19, Quebec formalized the creation of Kovik River Aquatic Reserve. Stretching across for than 4,600 square kilometres, the protected area will sustain Arctic char habitat, support Inuit cultural uses of the land and conserve range used by the Leaf River caribou herd. Two weeks before the Kovik River designation, the Cree Nation identified 30 percent of its territory for protection—a plan that would conserve an area about the size of Ireland. This progress will help put Quebec on track to meet its Plan Nord commitments: protecting 20 percent of the boreal region by 2020, and 50 percent of the boreal region by 2035.