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Jeff Wells


10 Stories That Will Shape the Future of Canada's Boreal Forest

Posted: 01/09/2014 7:21 am

2013 was a big year for Canada's boreal forest. From new parks and protected areas to game-changing court decisions that saw First Nations receive more control over development projects within their traditional lands, there was no shortage of action throughout this massive forest that stretches all the way from Yukon to Newfoundland.

However, many of these stories remain unresolved. Between finalizing parks currently under temporary protection, large areas likely being opened up for mining, and World Heritage Site bids currently in limbo, 2014 could prove to be an even bigger year for the Canada's boreal forest.

Here are the top 10 stories of 2014 that are most likely to have a huge impact in the boreal forest for years to come. How these stories pan out will shape the future of this forest and determine whether it will remain the healthy, productive forest we have all come to know.

The full text for these stories can be found here.

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  • 1. Growing Forest Protection

    Newly added protected areas (including Tursujuq National Park, pictured here) have bumped up the level of boreal forest protection to at least 708,000 km²—an area larger than France. More protected areas could be in sight for 2014, and large land-use plans in northern boreal regions of <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2008/07/15/ontario_to_protect_vast_tract.html" target="_hplink">Ontario</a> and <a href="http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=129450f0-d3c0-4337-8f09-9977ff6c1f40" target="_hplink">Quebec</a> could eventually see this figure rise dramatically. (Credit: Josée Brunelle, KRG)

  • 2. The Weather

    Wacky weather is and will continue to be a common theme in both Canada and around the globe. Protecting the <a href="http://www.borealbirds.org/carbonreport.shtml" target="_hplink">deep carbon stores</a> within Canada’s boreal forest—equivalent to nearly 300 years’ worth of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions—is now more important than ever for making sure that climate change doesn’t worsen even further. (Credit: Ryan L.C. Quan via Wikimedia Commons)

  • 3. The World is Watching

    From reports about <a href="http://www.borealbirds.org/reports/coolcanadianbiodiversity.html" target="_hplink">Canada’s biodiversity hotspots</a> and <a href="http://borealscience.org/projects/conserving-last-great-forests/" target="_hplink">large-scale conservation planning</a> to <a href="http://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/science-2013-global-forest" target="_hplink">high-tech satellite mapping projects</a> (pictured here) and <a href="http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/other-resources/canadian-boreal-and-australian-outback-are-on-the-leading-edge-in-conservation-85899490802" target="_hplink">recurring themes</a> at international conservation assemblies, the world is increasingly focusing on the Canadian Boreal Forest and the globally significant values it contains. Will more major international players step up in 2014? (Credit: Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland)

  • 4. First Nations Stewardship

    No people have a richer connection to the boreal forest than the First Nations who have lived off of the forest for millennia. 2013 saw several First Nations have their land-use plans formalized or treaty rights upheld, but many more still face uncertainty. 2014 will be a crucial year for the numerous First Nations whose official sovereignty status over traditional territory remains in limbo. (Credit: Natasha Moine)

  • 5. The Northwest Territories: Devolution

    The Northwest Territories is in the <a href="http://devolution.gov.nt.ca/" target="_hplink">process of Devolution</a>, which will see the territory gain more sovereignty over how to manage their lands. Numerous areas are currently under interim—or temporary—protection (including Thaidene Nene, pictured here). 2014 will be a crucial year in seeing whether years of efforts will be rewarded with finalized, permanent protected status. (Credit: Jason Charlwood)

  • 6. Manitoba and Pimachiowin Aki

    After a decade of work, the <a href="http://www.pimachiowinaki.org/" target="_hplink">Pimachiowin Aki Corporation</a> officially announced their bid to become a World Heritage Site in 2013. Although approval was initially delayed due to a flaw in the WHS nomination process, <a href="http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/other-resources/unesco-commends-canadian-governments-first-nations-for-pimachiowin-aki-nomination-85899485600" target="_hplink">UNESCO felt so compelled</a> they are actually planning on changing their own wording to fix the issue. A second bid is expected to come in 2014. (Credit: Jeff Wells)

  • 7. Northern Quebec

    When announced, the Plan Nord—which would <a href="http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=129450f0-d3c0-4337-8f09-9977ff6c1f40" target="_hplink">protect half of Quebec’s north</a>—was viewed as a globally historic event. However, a change in party majority has put this monumental plan <a href="http://www.ledevoir.com/environnement/actualites-sur-l-environnement/377764/le-nord-pour-tous-les-engagements-du-pq-envers-l-environnement-s-amenuisent" target="_hplink">in uncertain waters</a>. 2014 will be a big test for the Parti Québécois in navigating this noble and monumental commitment, as eyes around the world will certainly be watching. (Credit: Valerie Courtois)

  • 8. Northern Alberta: Not Just the Oilsands

    The oilsands continue to dominate the news when it comes to Alberta. However, there is much more happening in the province despite receiving less attention. From the <a href="http://www.edmontonjournal.com/technology/Massive+coal+mine+leak+damaged+fisheries+habitat/9145680/story.html" target="_hplink">billion-litre coal slurry leak</a> to a report that found Alberta’s woodland caribou herds <a href="http://www.globalforestwatch.ca/pubs/2013Releases/05IFLUpdate/IFL_Update_Media.pdf" target="_hplink">contain almost no intact habitat remaining</a>, 2014 may see an expanded focus on the province beyond its oilsands region. (Credit: Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development)

  • 9. The Ring of Fire

    Perhaps no region within the boreal better defines “case study” than Ontario’s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ontario_Ring_of_Fire" target="_hplink">Ring of Fire region</a>. The deep chromite deposits have attracted major mining interest, but resident First Nations are <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/debate-flares-up-over-ring-of-fire/article13049784/" target="_hplink">concerned about environmental impacts and community benefits</a>. How the province handles the need for balance in this contentious region could prove to be either a model to follow or one to avoid. (Credit: Global Forest Watch Canada/Genevieve Margherio)

  • 10. Mining

    Mining is an important part of Canada’s economy, but also contains its fair share of controversy. <a href="http://www.whitehorsestar.com/archive/story/decisions-effects-will-be-expansive-lawyer/" target="_hplink">A historic court case</a> in Yukon set a precedent by stating a First Nation’s rights had been violated by the existing free-entry system, which previously allowed virtually anyone to stake claims anywhere with few exceptions. Will a ripple effect take place in decisions elsewhere in 2014? (Credit: Michael Fay)


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