North America’s Boreal Forest is the world’s largest remaining intact, productive ecosystem encompassing more than 1.5 billion acres of forest, wetlands, lakes and streams that remain largely pristine but potentially threatened. To see firsthand the ongoing efforts to conserve this vital ecosystem that accounts for 25 percent of the world’s remaining intact forest and more than a fourth of the world’s wetlands, members of Ducks Unlimited’s Wetlands America Trust (WAT) board chose the location for their annual spring meeting. Discussions during the three-day gathering centered on the Boreal Forest’s importance to North America’s wildlife and people.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, board members had the opportunity to view the landscape the same way ducks and geese do: from the air. Daily excursions included surveying the breeding habitats of North American wigeon, green-winged teal, ring-necked ducks and many other species.
“We chose the Boreal Forest as our gathering point because of its importance to the viability of waterfowl and Neotropical songbirds worldwide,” said WAT COO Dan Thiel. “The vast Boreal Forest is the best place on earth to secure large-scale conservation and sustainable development through the proactive application of conservation science.”
Encompassing more than 1.5 billion acres, the Boreal is a DU conservation priority, and the organization has undertaken the world’s most ambitious conservation campaign to protect the forest. The Boreal provides habitat for 5 billion birds that migrate throughout the continent. The Pew Charitable Trusts created a partnership ultimately known as the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC), of which DU and Ducks Unlimited Canada are central partners. Early on, the IBCC was successful in conserving 500 million acres. Now, the goal is to permanently conserve an additional 500 million acres while allowing sustainable development on another 500 million acres.
Threats facing the Boreal include agricultural expansion at the southern boundary, petroleum exploration and development, forestry, hydroelectric development and mining expansion throughout the forest. By 1999, a consortium of aboriginal, federal, provincial, and territorial governments, non-governmental conservation organizations and visionary industries began working toward the common goal of conserving a substantial portion of Canada's boreal region.
“The Boreal and Prairie Pothole Region are the two most important breeding habitats for North American waterfowl, with as much as 40 percent of the continental duck population and the majority of Neotropical songbirds utilizing the boreal,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. “Through DU’s Boreal Forest Initiative and the coordinated efforts of the IBCC, the vast and often-remote breeding grounds of Alaska and Canada will be conserved for future generations of waterfowl, wildlife and people.”
For more information about the Boreal and DU’s work in the region, visit www.ducks.org.