Ontario sets boreal forest protection plans

Mon Jul 14, 2008 3:52pm EDT
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By Wojtek Dabrowski

TORONTO (Reuters) - The government of the Canadian province of Ontario said on Monday it will conserve a huge swath of the province's northern wilderness in a bid to protect the region's vast boreal forest, as well as polar bears and other wildlife, and to help fight climate change.

The plan to protect permanently at least 225,000 square kilometers (87,000 square miles) of the northern forest -- an area nearly the size of the United Kingdom -- won praise from environmental groups, which said it should serve as an example for other governments.

"We are overjoyed with the announcement," said ForestEthics senior campaigner Gillian McEachern. "This is the largest conservation commitment in Canadian history."

Ontario's boreal region takes up 43 percent of the province's landmass and its vast forest soaks up about 12.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. The protection of a big swath of it is a key part of the province's plan to fight climate change.

Avrim Lazar, the chief executive of the Forest Products Association of Canada said the boreal forest is a "huge wilderness treasure" and said he is glad the government is protecting a large chunk of it.

"It's a great step in the right direction," he said.

He said he hasn't seen any map of a proposed protected area and so was unable to comment on how the conservation proposal will affect the industry's logging plans.

Boreal forests are northern forests that are affected by long winters and are made up mainly of evergreen conifers.   Continued...