Poised to deliver big results, the nearly four-year-old Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement continues to rely on the co-operation of former foes.
At the Radisson Hotel’s 12 resto bar in downtown Winnipeg, a collection of foresters, environmentalists, scientists and First Nations representatives huddle around a long table and shake off the early October chill. Seated together, they couldn’t be a truer reflection of the Canadian wilderness — equal parts “hewers of wood” and tree hugger, conservation biologist and northern hunter.
February 2014: Canada Foundation for Innovation (online)
A framework developed at the University of Alberta is helping the forest planners behind the world’s largest conservation agreement see the bigger picture.
In Canada’s boreal forest, a vast landscape that stretches from Newfoundland to the Yukon, woodland caribou and other iconic species live in an environment which alternates between frozen terrain and soppy ground that’s been known to sink heavy forestry equipment with ease.
The region’s wildlife thrives in large, undisturbed forest tracts. And although the boreal forest may seem endless, industrial excursions in the North have left scars, dividing contiguous landscapes with roads and pipelines and disrupting the region’s natural ecology.
Ontario’s government has an ambitious plan to reforest the most populated part of Canada. First, it must grapple with libertarian landowners and fragmented landscapes — and the fact that it got out of the business of planting trees.
Along the back roads of eastern Ontario, among the sleepy towns, antique shops and touristy locks that squeeze the Rideau River south of Ottawa, “Back Off Government” signs pepper a mixed countryside of cattle farms and small woodlands. Landowner pride runs strong here, although many traditional farms have given way to properties bought up by transplanted urbanites escaping the city and relishing the natural scenery.