03/30/2009 - The boreal forest occupies nearly half of Canada's land mass, yet it's more significant to national myth and memory – as home to the coureurs de bois and the hewers of wood – than it is to any discussion of a shared future.
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As one of the last great intact forests on Earth, along with the Russian taiga and the Amazon rain forest, the boreal is considered one of the world's largest carbon storage systems. The trees and soil of Canada's northern forest form a critical shield against global warming, storing a volume of carbon equal to 27 times the world's annual greenhouse-gas emissions.
That's why organizations such as the U.S.-based Pew Trusts have invested more than $40-million in the last seven years to lobby for greater protection of Canada's forests. Their efforts contributed to a major announcement by the federal government last month that removes more than 4 million hectares of land from development in the Northwest Territories.
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Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment group in Philadelphia, which funds the Boreal Initiative, said conservation efforts in Canada offer large-scale rewards, backed up by a level of democratic political stability that often can't be found in other parts of the world.
“We're focused on a different scale of protection than is often the case with some conservation organizations. We're looking to protect vast functional ecosystems … and there's not very many areas of the world that offer those kinds of opportunities,” he said. “There's a lot of land [in Northern Canada] to be protected and once a political decision is made to protect it, there's no serious concern about those decisions and the protections being enforced.
“We view it as one of the last great remaining wilderness areas on Earth,” he said.
Read the full article A Critical Shield Against Global Warming on the Globe and Mail's Web site.