The Adventure Life with Steve Casimiro O, Canada: Ontario Saves Lots and Lots of Trees

Text by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro

It’s not often you hear good environmental news these days, so let’s pause for a second to appreciate the foresight of the Ontario government, which is preserving a swath of forest twice the size of England to guard against climate change and loss of habitat for its critters. Ontario, in case you’ve forgotten, is a province in eastern Canada. You know, Canada—it’s a big country just north of us? C’mon people, work with me here.

Nearly 90,000 square miles of the Far Northern Boreal region are being permanently protected. "It’s our responsibility as global citizens to get this right, and to act now,” said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The boreal forest makes up 43 percent of Ontario and this protection covers half of the boreal. If my math is correct, Ontario is setting aside between 20 and 25 percent of its land in the interest of the common good. How cool is that?

The land is under threat from mining, logging, and development, and the new protection brings a tighter, more stringent approach to land use. Some mining and logging could be permitted, but only when it’s been vetted according to new regulations and approved by local communities. Although the area is huge, there are just 24,000 people living in 36 settlements. Some 200 species of animals live there, including wolverines, polar bears, and caribou. The latter is severely threatened—a recent study showed that almost 70 percent of the land is no longer suitable habitat for the big ungulates. And on the global warming front, the boreal and other northern Ontario lands sequester 97 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and capture another 12.5 million tons a year.

Meanwhile, in more typical environment news closer to home, President George Bush has lifted the presidential ban on offshore oil drilling, despite widespread opposition. Exxon, one suspects, supports his largely symbolic gesture: Its profits have grown by 125 percent since Bush took office, to $40 billion in 2007.

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