We highlight below some of the areas with substantial opportunity for boreal forest conservation.
It is safe to say that 2008 and 2011 were big years for the Canadian Boreal Forest. Not one, but two separate provinces followed the recommendations of the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework and announced bold plans to place half of their northern boreal forests off limits to development. However, these ambitious plans will understandably take years to develop responsibly. From the need to integrate First Nations into planning phases to changes in party leadership, both provinces will be tested in coming years. With firm commitments to these goals and careful planning with First Nations, industry, and other affected parties, these plans could result in some of the largest conservation areas anywhere in the world.
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In 2012, after five years of work, the Pimachiowin Aki Corporation—a collection of five First Nations as well as the Governments of Manitoba and Ontario—submitted their official bid to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bid is currently being revised based on advice received from advisory bodies to the Word Heritage program. If accepted, Pimachiowin Aki would not only protect a vast region of pristine boreal forest and preserve longstanding Anishinaabe land use traditions, it would become Canada’s first UNESCO Site accepted under both natural and cultural heritage classifications.
From proposed National Wildlife Areas to potential National Parks, First Nations across the vast Northwest Territories demonstrated remarkable leadership in setting in motion the creation of a variety of large protected areas through the territory’s Protected Areas Strategy. Although many of these extraordinary landscapes were placed in interim (or temporary) protection with the goal of eventually seeing full protection, the transfer of lands through the territory’s devolution process has slightly complicated this official process. Strong leadership on all sides will be required to see these lands gain full, permanent protection.