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Leading bird groups unite to urge greater protection of boreal forest

Boreal wetlands in the Northwest Territories. Photo © Ducks Unlimited, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.
Boreal wetlands in the Northwest Territories. Photo © Ducks Unlimited, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

Leading bird and nature organizations in Canada and the United States have kicked off a campaign aimed at educating governments, industry, and the public on the need to set aside at least half of North America’s boreal forest from industrial development.

The Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited are spearheading the effort, called Boreal Birds Need Half.

Palm Warbler: 98% breed in the boreal forest. Photo © Jeff Nadler, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.
Palm Warbler: 98% breed in the boreal forest. Photo © Jeff Nadler, courtesy of Boreal Songbird Initiative.

National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Environment for the Americas, Nature Canada, Nature Needs Half, Birdzilla, and Wild Bird Centers of America are endorsers of the new campaign.

It’s the first time that a coalition of major conservation organizations have formally embraced the 50-percent benchmark.

In the days ahead, the campaign plans to add businesses to its list of endorsers and collect signatures from individuals in Canada and the United States.

Add your name to the list of campaign endorsers.

“Protecting at least 50 percent of the boreal forest is in line with what modern conservation science contends is needed to preserve the ecological health of the forest and its biodiversity, and we hope that governments will adopt land-conservation policies that reflect the science,” says Jeff Wells, senior scientist for the Boreal Songbird Initiative and International Boreal Conservation Campaign.

Wells is a 2008 recipient of the Partners in Flight National Award and the author of the article List by List, which appeared in the June 2008 issue of BirdWatching magazine. The article described bird species that are, and aren’t, covered by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. He is also the author of the book Birder’s Conservation Handbook: 100 North American Birds at Risk (Princeton, 2007).

“The importance of boreal forest habitat for birds will only increase in the future,” Wells adds. “Climate change has already begun pushing bird ranges farther north, making the boreal forest an important refuge — a ‘Noah’s Ark’ for birds.”

Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America's Bird Nursery and Why It Matters (May 2014).
Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America’s Bird Nursery and Why It Matters (May 2014).

The boreal forest occurs in all of Canada’s provinces and territories except New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.

Often referred to as “North America’s bird nursery,” the forest plays a critical role in providing spring and summer nesting habitat for an estimated three billion birds and more than 300 species — nearly half of all bird species in the U.S. and Canada. Many, including the namesake Canada Warbler, are in sharp decline.

Take a province-by-province look at where birds breed in Canada’s boreal forest.

In addition to protecting at least half of the boreal forest, the Boreal Birds Need Half campaign urges sustainable development in the remaining areas. It emphasizes that both protected areas and industrial activities should proceed only with the free, prior, and informed consent of affected indigenous communities.

The campaign is being launched in advance of the United Nations’ International Day of Forests on March 21, and in conjunction with the release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service video highlighting the importance of the boreal forest to birds. It is also the same week that the documentary “SongbirdSOS,” focusing on the decline of songbirds worldwide, will air on the CBC-TV program The Nature of Things.

The Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited are partners in the International Boreal Conservation Campaign, an effort to protect globally important ecosystems and to restore old-growth forests and wilderness in North America.

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the IBCC is dedicated to public education and advocacy to protect all the world’s boreal forests, but with a special emphasis on the Canadian boreal, where we have the best chance to make major conservation gains.

Read the report: Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America’s Bird Nursery and Why It Matters (May 2014).

Take a province-by-province look at where birds breed in Canada’s boreal forest.

Read Jeff Wells’s article List by List.

Read more news about birds.

  Originally Published

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