Canada’s majestic boreal zone stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, covering 307 million hectares of forest and woodland and another 245 million hectares of natural landscape. One of the world’s most important ecosystems, it harbors biodiversity, provides livelihoods for local communities, stores large quantities of carbon, and produces paper and timber for use across the world. While much of it remains intact, industrial activity has been invading the old-growth forest.
In response, 21 forest products companies and nine leading environmental organizations, together with Canadian First Nations, signed an historic agreement in 2010 to protect a large swath of this forest and its species at risk, such as the Boreal caribou. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement suspends new logging in 29 million hectares of forest land until 2013, and calls for the highest environmental standards of forest management within an area of 72 million hectares – twice the size of Germany. Additional forest will be added as the agreement broadens.
WRI and its Global Forest Watch network first put the issue of Canadian old-growth forest loss on the map – literally. We produced a ground-breaking set of maps documenting old-growth forest loss and areas of surviving intact forests. Global Forest Watch Canada’s maps were accepted as objective, accurate, and credible by activist groups, government officials, and companies. They supported advocacy efforts by explaining the global significance of the forests at stake. And they provided key data for the development of the Boreal Forest Agreement, part of an ongoing effort among environmental groups to fully protect 50 percent of Canada’s boreal forest from industrial development.