Group welcomes Premier's announcement of landmark conservation vision for Boreal Forest

    Historic announcement sets aside area almost twice the size of England

    TORONTO, July 15 /CNW/ - Today CPAWS Wildlands League congratulates
Premier McGuinty on his vision to protect 225,000 km(2) or 22.5 million
hectares of intact Boreal Forest in Ontario in an interconnected network
across the Far North. The future of Ontario's northern Boreal lands and waters
will be determined through an innovative Land Use Planning initiative with
First Nations. The announcement includes two important commitments; to work
with First Nations to ensure their consent is given before any industrial
projects go forward; and resource benefit sharing with the First Nations
communities involved.
    Also in the announcement is a firm commitment to change the Mining Act
from a 'free entry' system to one that respects the rights of First Nations.
It also enshrines the duty to consult and accommodate in legislation in
accordance with the Supreme Court ruling.
    "This announcement sets out the most ambitious conservation agenda for
the Boreal Forest in Canada," said Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS
Wildlands League. The area set aside for protection is almost twice the size
of England.
    CPAWS Wildlands League, working with other conservation groups, has been
a strong voice calling on Ontario to protect its intact Boreal forest for the
past five years, given its critical global ecological value as one of the
world's most important remaining stretches of wilderness. It has also been a
critic of the "free entry" mining system.
    "This is a visionary and unprecedented policy. Today's announcement
fulfills the Premier's promise to protect the Boreal Forest by doing Land Use
Planning before large scale industrial development. It sets out an incredible
conservation agenda that will be a legacy for all our grandchildren and their
grandchildren," Ms. Sumner commented.
    "The commitment to revise the Mining Act is also extremely welcome.
Ontario is now taking a leadership position in Canada on this issue, leaving
behind an antiquated law that has no place in our future," adds Ms. Sumner.
    In comparison to previous notable conservation area gains in Ontario,
this one is unprecedented:

    Greenbelt       728,000 hectares
    Lands for Life  2,400,000 hectares
    Algonquin       763,000 hectares

    "Scientists say that we need to protect more than half of the carbon-rich
Boreal ecosystem in order to ensure its ecosystem services and benefits are
maintained in the long term. Protection must be designed to meet the needs of
wide-ranging species such as caribou, which is the indicator for overall
ecosystem health, support carbon retention and sequestration and of course,
protect watersheds to maintain clean air and water," Ms. Sumner said.
    The key to successful land use planning will be to work respectfully with
First Nations in achieving the overarching conservation objectives and in
providing business stability, the group noted.
    In this part of Ontario (encompassing nearly 45% of the province), the
Boreal Forest is home to billions of migrating birds, threatened species such
as Woodland Caribou, Polar Bear and Lake Sturgeon. It is one of the world's
largest terrestrial carbon storehouses. Each hectare of forest holds
approximately 177 tonnes of carbon while the peatlands on average hold 1,294
tonnes of carbon. There are approximately 27 million hectares of Boreal Peat
Lands in Ontario.

For further information:

For further information: Janet Sumner, Executive Director, CPAWS
Wildlands League, (416) 579-7370 cell

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