Half of Ontario's northern boreal forests will be protected from unbridled resource development so these trees can continue to fight global warming, under a conservation plan announced today by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
The government of Ontario will extend permanent protection to at least 225,000 square kilometers (86,872 square miles) of the Far North Boreal region under its Far North Planning Initiative, the premier said - an area almost twice the size of England.
Mining and logging will be permitted in the protected area, but only under stricter regulations and providing that local Aboriginal communities approve.
New forestry and the opening of new mines in the Far North would require community land use plans supported by local Aboriginal communities.
Preserving these spaces will help ensure Ontario's biodiversity, said the premier's office in its statement. Still wild, Ontario's northern boreal region is inhabited by more than 200 species of animals such as polar bears, wolverines, and caribou - many of which are threatened or endangered.
Permanently protecting these lands will help a world wrestling with the effects of climate change, as they are a globally significant carbon sink.
The Ontario government says protecting this region is key to its plan to fight climate change. The forests and peat lands in the Far North store about 97 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide and absorb around 12.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the government said.
A 2007 survey of logging, road building and other human disturbances in Ontario's northern forests conducted by Global Forest Watch Canada using satellite imagery showed the rapid conversion of forestlands to logging and road building.
The intact forest habitat required by the threatened woodland caribou is being destroyed, the survey showed.