The boreal forest that covers much of Northern Manitoba and the rest of Canada as well was the focus of two sessions at The Wildlife Society Conference in Winnipeg Oct. 17-21, a gathering of more than 1,500 wildlife and conservation professionals from around North America.

Two sessions concerning the boreal forest were hold Oct. 20, one focusing on conservation of North America’s boreal forest and the other on balancing development and conservation in Canada’s boreal forest, which encompasses more than one billion intact acres and more than a quarter of the world’s wetlands and also serves as one of Earth’s largest storehouses of carbon.

“Canada has made exceptional progress on boreal conservation over the last decade – it’s leading the world in forest conservation and sustainable development,” said Steve Kallick, director of international lands conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the presenters at the conference. “But there is a lot of hard work still to be done to ensure the boreal region’s long-term health. Striking a balance between conservation and sustainable development allows for healthier wildlife and it ensures smart and stable economic growth. If Canada can conserve its boreal forest, and do so in a way that respects the rights and aspirations of First Nations, it will likely be remembered as one of its greatest conservation achievements within the global context.” 

Ontario and Quebec have pledged to protect half of their boreal forest and more may be protected through First Nations land-use plans throughout the forest’s range. Polls have shown that Manitobans want even more protection for their province’s boreal forest than in the two provinces to the east.

Less than one-fifth of Canada’s boreal forest is permanently protected while 30 per cent has been allocated for development.