by Christopher Smith, Head Boreal Conservation Programs, Ducks Unlimited Canada

The boreal forest is a global treasure. It is the largest terrestrial ecosystem in Canada, stretching from Newfoundland to Alaska. It represents about 30 per cent of Canada and holds 75 per cent of our forest. It contains the majority of Canada’s freshwater and 85 per cent of Canada’s wetlands.

I have lived in the boreal forest for close to 40 years and am constantly reminded of how this vast region contributes a host of health and wealth benefits to Canadians. It purifies our air and water. It stores carbon and regulates our climate. It is home to 50 per cent of Canada’s birds and 85 species of mammals including the threatened woodland caribou. And it contributes significantly to our national economy, supporting a variety of natural resource industries and communities that rely on the forest for their livelihood.

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has been working with partners to conserve wetlands for nearly 80 years, with a focus on the boreal forest for 20 years. The reason for our interest in the boreal forest is simple – this region is rich in wetlands and provides breeding habitat for 40 per cent of the continent’s waterfowl.

We knew from the beginning that partnerships with industry were required to achieve our conservation goals. Forestry, with sustainability as a foundational principle, was the first industry to step up to work with us.

The forest sector’s commitment to wetland conservation has been significant. Investments have been made in wetland mapping projects, boreal hydrology, research on birds and wetland carbon stores. Forest companies have worked with us to learn more about wetlands in order to build better roads that minimize their impact. Most recently we have been working with a coalition of companies and FPAC to develop guiding principles and operational best practices to conserve boreal wetlands.

Conserving this northern ecosystem is now more important than ever. Freshwater resources are under increasing pressure, and the majority of wetlands have been lost in southern Canada. As boreal development pressures increase, it is critical to look at innovative and collaborative ways to ensure sustained economic, social and environmental benefits.

There is no single approach to achieving sustainable land use in the boreal forest. Success requires collaboration between governments, industry, indigenous communities, academic institutions and the conservation community. By understanding the value of investing in collaborative solutions, the forest industry has demonstrated leadership in the face of important conservation and sustainability challenges.

To learn more about Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Boreal Forest Program visit: