Saturday, June 18, 2011

Huge new boreal forest preserve in Manitoba

Kim Murphy in the Los Angeles Times: Efforts to combat climate change and diminishing wildlands have increasingly focused on the vast belt of northern forest that rings the globe south of the Arctic. The boreal forest is a vast repository of stored carbon and, in much of northern Canada, a pristine region populated by wolves and caribou along rivers still teeming with fish.

The forest in Canada's Manitoba province has been under threat in recent years by expanding hydropower development. A major new electrical transmission line has been sought through the wild woodlands east of Lake Winnipeg, a plan many indigenous residents say would threaten a region they have called home for thousands of years. Now the government of Manitoba has granted permanent legal protection to nearly 2 million acres -- an area the size of Yellowstone National Park -- on the ancestral lands of the Poplar River First Nation people.

The "Asatiwisipe Aki Management Plan" is being celebrated by conservation groups across Canada and the United States, which see it as a crucial step toward protecting the boreal forest not only for the people of the Poplar River and the wildlife there, but as a hedge against a warming planet.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the Poplar River reserve, about 250 miles north of Winnipeg, is part of a larger, 10-million-acre area being proposed for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "This is really important for us, because we do think it's a priceless world asset, and you only get one chance to do it right," Selinger said in an interview.

"What's unique about it is not only do the First Nations still occupy it, but it's intact. There's a complete ecosystem that generates clean water, oxygen; there's a huge storage of peat that's one of the most effective ways to store carbon dioxide."…

Map of Manitoba from Atlas of Canada by Natural Resources Canada

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