Forests define our Canadian geography and identity. One-third of our country is covered with trees, and forests occur in every province and territory. Jobs in forestry employ more than 200,000 Canadians and support many indigenous and northern communities. Our forests are the reason why I’ve had days in the backcountry when I’ve encountered more foreign tourists, such as Germans in the Yukon, or Japanese in Algonquin Park, than Canadians.
It’s easy to think that our forests are endless, and it’s a mindset we’ve held for a long time. But we need to change our thinking. Although there are vast areas of forest in our northlands, these places represent some of our planet’s last stands of large intact forests.
There are opportunities for Canada and Canadians to do more to become world leaders in forest conservation. In Canada’s north, we have a unique opportunity to create the world’s largest network of protected forests in the world. Canada may rank third for total forest cover (behind Brazil and Russia), but if there’s anywhere in the world where intact forests can be maintained, my bet is on Canada.
In southern Canada, we have lost and degraded many of our forests, impacting both nature and people.
Finding conservation solutions for our southern forests is important for nature and people. These forests provide habitat for many species, but also provide services to our communities. From recharging the groundwater that we drink, to holding back floodwaters during storms, to providing places for recreation, this natural capital is important to maintaining our quality of life.
There’s no doubt we have made important progress, but there is still urgency for forest conservation in Canada. Many nations have recognized the need for accelerated forest restoration and have committed to the Bonn Challenge to restore 865 million acres (350 million hectares) of degraded lands back to forest. The strategic restoration of forests in southern Canada could ensure that our protected areas are connected with wildlife corridors, that the health of streams and rivers is improved by forest buffers and that important habitats for wildlife are maintained.
We have a unique conservation challenge in Canada. Can we protect our northern forests, which represent some of the last large, wild forests on the planet, while protecting and restoring the degraded, threatened forests of southern Canada, where most of us live?
We have the opportunity to do both. What would be more Canadian than committing to conserve more forests than any other nation?
Dan Kraus, Nature Conservancy of Canada