Natural Boreal Forest Habitat Shrinking



    
    Study highlights need for conservation in advance of development to avoid
                             wildlife extinctions
    

    EDMONTON, Jan. 30 /CNW Telbec/ - A business-as-usual approach to
development in the Mackenzie Basin watershed may profoundly alter the region's
forest landscapes and risk regional extinction of woodland caribou and sharp
declines in bird populations. But, if conservation is increased as recommended
by the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, a study released today finds the
potential to protect wildlife in most regions while still allowing for
economic growth from resource development.
    Today's study, "Seeking a Balance," evaluated the oil sands region of
northeastern Alberta where extensive industrial development is already
scheduled, compared with the relatively undeveloped Dehcho territory of the
southern Northwest Territories. The study was released by the Canadian Boreal
Initiative (CBI) in conjunction with researchers from the University of
Alberta and Forem Technologies.
    Computer simulations concluded that growing industrial disturbance will
fragment intact areas of older forest if development continues according to
present plans. These changes would eliminate woodland caribou populations in
the region and would reduce the abundance of songbirds, such as a predicted
60% decline in the black-throated green warbler population.
    "This study demonstrates the profound impacts of industrial development
in the Mackenzie Basin ecosystem," said Larry Innes, Executive Director of
CBI. "It is increasingly important to plan and strike a balance with
conservation efforts before development takes place."
    Proposed conservation strategies modeled in the Alberta study area
predicted substantially reduced declines in songbird populations by limiting
the amount of old forest logged and the size of industrial disturbance.
However, doubling protected areas from 3 to 6% of the studied region did not
reverse declines in woodland caribou populations under the model. This
research demonstrates that strategies for conservation within the oil sands
region need to set more ambitious goals for increasing the protected area
networks across northeastern Alberta.
    The report also models the impacts of implementing the proposed Dehcho
Land Use Plan, which prescribes protection for approximately half of the
Dehcho region and sustainable management over the remaining landscape. This
scenario provided the researchers with a "conservation first" simulation for
the southern NWT. The simulation predicted that woodland caribou declines
could be avoided and songbird declines reduced. This finding confirms the
importance of work by the federal, territorial, and First Nations governments
to establish a system of protected areas in advance of proposed large scale
development such as the Mackenzie gas pipeline. Last November, the governments
announced plans to protect over 10 million hectares in three regions of the
NWT, one of the largest conservation set asides in North American history.
    "Partnership between governments, First Nations, conservation groups,
industry and science is necessary to ensure that future generations can enjoy
Canada's Boreal Forest," added Innes.
    This is the first time the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework has been
tested through applied modeling to a large region of Canada's Boreal Forest.
The Boreal Framework recommends that at least half of Canada's Boreal Forest
be set aside in large protected areas with cutting edge sustainable
development in the remainder of the landscape. Currently, 10% of Canada's
Boreal Forest is protected. The Framework is supported by over
1,500 scientists and a diverse coalition of conservation, First Nations, and
industry groups.

    The Canadian Boreal Initiative (CBI) works with First Nations,
governments, conservation organizations, industry leaders and others to link
science, policy and conservation solutions across Canada's Boreal Forest. CBI
works to advance the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework as a balanced vision
for conservation and sustainable development. For more information, visit
www.borealcanada.ca.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Lim, Communications Coordinator,
Canadian Boreal Initiative, Office: (613) 230-4739, Ext. 228, Cell: (613)
355-6513

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Canadian Boreal Initiative

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