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Boreal ecosystems in danger: forester

Canada's future tied to health of our forests

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Scott Tarof, a science advisor with The Earth Rangers Foundation, holds a red eft newt that he found in the Happy Valley Forest in King Township.


Scott Tarof, a science advisor with The Earth Rangers Foundation, holds a red eft newt that he found in the Happy Valley Forest in King Township.

The call is out to strap on your roller blades, take a bus, carpool with colleagues, clean up a beach or take a hike in a national park starting June 5 to help celebrate Canadian Environment Week.

Now marking its 40th anniversary, Canadian Environment Week is the time to set aside a few days "for grassroots action to help preserve, protect and restore our environment," according to Mark Johnson, a spokesperson for Environment Canada.

This year's theme is Preserving our Forests, Protecting our Future, which was chosen to reflect the United Nations designation of 2011 as the International Year of Forests. Canadian Environment Week also includes a number of other noteworthy events, such as Clean Air Day and World Oceans Day on June 8 and a week-long Commuter Challenge.

It's a fitting theme, given that Canadians count on our forests to sustain our economy, our environment and over 140,000 plant, micro-organism and animal species. According to Natural Resources Canada, our forests represent 10 per cent of the world's forest cover and 30 per cent of the world's boreal (i.e. northern) forest. Within Canada itself, forests and other wooded land represent 53.8 per cent of the country's total surface area.

As an economic contributor, the forest industry is the main economic driver in nearly 200 Canadian communities and employed 238,200 people in 2009, according to Statistics Canada. Canada also ranks as one of the world's largest exporters of forest products, 70 per cent of which are exported to the United States.

"There are many ways to view our forests," says David Browne, director of conservation, Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) in Toronto. "They're very valuable as a store for carbon and play an important role in keeping our world the way we know it. And all those migratory songbirds we love to hear waking up in the morning need forests to survive. So do insects, plants, small mice up to moose, deer and wolves. Basically forests are a big storehouse for biodiversity."

The commitment to sustaining Canada's forests is widespread and spans people and groups of all ages and experience. Efforts range from projects dedicated to preserving specific sites or species to all-encompassing replanting and education initiatives.

A key project for Toronto-based Earth Rangers for example is the protection of the Happy Valley Forest in King Township about 60 kilometres north of Toronto in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. This 2,850 acre property is home to 110 bird species and amphibians, including the Jefferson salamander, a particular favourite of Earth Ranger's science adviser Scott Tarof.

"The unique thing about this deciduous forest region is that it's within the greater Toronto area and yet is relatively intact," Tarof explains. A concerted effort to keep ATVs out and alert people to proper forest etiquette is helping to stabilize -- and even rebuild -- certain habitat such as vernal ponds and species.

In B.C., the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in Victoria is currently focused on protecting what's in place, and introducing new species to maintain the right balance to mitigate the effects of global warming. Chief forester Jim Snetsinger reports that global warming has not only played a role in the mountain pine beetle infestation, it is changing the ability of existing tree species to survive.

"The mountain pine beetle has been around as long as we've had pine trees," he says. "The problem, however, is that we don't get the deep colds we used to reduce the population. Right now they have affected almost 700 million cubic meters of wood across our land base."

Whether putting your best foot forward while hiking through the woods, preserving local properties, educating the next generation or environmentalists or planting seedlings, many Canadians are doing their part to preserve our forests and protect the environment.

As CWF's Browne puts it, whether it's woodlands or water, "We want to keep the world we live in around."


-- For Postmedia News

What you can do during

Canadian Environment Week


Clean Air Day (June 8): This day raises awareness and encourages action on clean air and climate change issues. Canadians can show their support on this day by committing to sustainable transportation, such as public transit, cycling, walking or rollerblading.

Oceans Day (June 8): Citizens can do their bit to help turn the tide by organizing a beach cleanup, or taking the time to learn about the threats to our fresh- and salt-water environments through events such as the Canadian Wildlife Federation's Rivers to Oceans Week (June 8 to 13).

Commuter Challenge (June 5 - 11): This nationwide event encourages organizations and municipalities to compete to see who can get the highest percentage of employees out of their cars and into clean modes of commuting (walking, cycling, transit, car pooling, teleworking, etc.)

Geocaching Contest (April 30 - June 11): Organized by Environment Canada and Parks Canada, this hide and seek treasure hunting event is played uses GPS devices to find clues in National Parks, National Historic Sites and National Wildlife Areas throughout the country.


For more information on what you can do to help the environment, visit Be sure to check out the 40 ways to take part in Canadian Environment Week page.

You can also visit the Environment Canada's Facebook page for activities happening in your community.


-- For Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2011 B3

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