Home Feature What is the Boreal Forest?

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Boreal Forest

The boreal forest is one of the great wonders of the natural world. It spans much of the Northern Hemisphere, from North America and Asia to parts of Europe, and is considered public land. The forest is home to unique plants, animals and human cultures that have coexisted for thousands of years. Those of us who live and work in Canada’s boreal region consider it a critical part of our culture, economy and collective future.

The Boreal’s Ecology

  • Canada’s boreal region covers almost 60 percent of the country’s land area, essentially spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific. At 2,000,000 mi², (over 5,740,000 km²), it is one of the largest and most complex ecosystems on the planet.
  • The boreal is fantastically diverse and complex. An ecosystem of lakes and wetlands moderates the climate, produces oxygen and purifies the water supply for its inhabitants. Much of the world’s freshwater is in the boreal’s lakes, rivers and streams. More than 208 billion tons of carbon are stored in the boreal’s trees, soils, water and peat, meaning that the forest has a significant impact on the planet’s ability to regulate the levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

Boreal Species

  • The boreal is home to a rich variety of tree species including Balsam Fir, White Birch, Poplar, Black and White Spruce, Jack Pine, Red Pine and Eastern White Cedar.
  • The region is home to more than just millions of acres of trees and wetlands — thousands of species of animals, birds, plants and insects thrive in its habitat.
  • Millions of land birds call the boreal region home, either permanently or as seasonal migrants. Among other species, the boreal is home to owls, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, vultures, hawks, kingfishers and songbirds.
  • Large mammal species in the Canadian boreal include caribou, deer, moose, wolves, and black bears.
  • Countless smaller mammals also call the boreal home, including foxes, lynx, raccoons, porcupines, hares, beavers, ermines, muskrats, pine marten, squirrels and bats.
  • Then there are the boreal’s insects, which include beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers, bees, ants and—if you’ve had the chance to see them in person – spectacular butterflies.

Sustaining Whole Communities: Economic Impact of the Boreal

  • The forest products industry has been an important part of the Canadian economy for generations, and First Nations communities have relied on the boreal for millennia.
  • The forest products industry has a unique responsibility to understand and protect the forest and to study the best ways to ensure its viability as a source for natural, economic and social development.
  • The forest products industry has an outsized impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of many Canadian communities. It contributed $24 billion dollars to the Canadian GDP in 2012 and provides livelihoods for 600,000 people in Canada.
  • Like many developed countries, Canada has struggled to retain the manufacturing jobs that pay strong salaries and good benefits. The forest products industry has seen difficult times in recent years, but still accounts for 12 percent of the entire Canadian manufacturing GDP.
  • Our industry pays wages that are, on average, 16 percent above the national average, which helps sustain the economic health of hundreds of villages, towns and cities.
  • Lastly, the products we produce are an important link between the United States and Canada, as the U.S. is by far the largest importer of Canadian forest products – used to produce products like newspapers, magazines, books, printing and writing papers, tissues and building materials.

Conservation of the Boreal

  • The sheer size of Canada’s boreal forest makes protecting the forest particularly important to Canada. Given its priceless ecological diversity and importance to Canadian communities, the boreal is closely protected by the Canadian government, its inhabitants, and companies like ours that depend on a healthy and prosperous forest.
  • Every year, 5-6 million hectares of Canada’s boreal forests are disturbed by fire, insects and disease – or about 1 percent of the total acreage.  That’s five times the area affected by commercial harvesting, which is 0.2 percent of total acreage.
  • Membership in Canada’s primary forest products industry association, the Forest Products Association of Canada, requires third-party certification of environmental practices to ensure that all members respect the principles of responsible forestry.
  • The forest products industry operates in a small portion of the forest — much of the boreal is out of bounds for the forest products industry and even more land has been actively set aside by the government and industry to establish protected spaces, parks and conservation efforts.
  • In an effort to protect the boreal, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) was created by 21 forest companies and nine environmental organizations in 2010, making it the world’s largest conservation agreement and the largest conservation agreement in history.
  • The agreement brought environmental groups and forest product companies together in the spirit of understanding and cooperation. Resolute stands by the CBFA and urges a return to its principles and vision.
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