Canada’s western boreal forest is a region of national and international interest due to its immense economic and ecological values. The region’s oil, natural gas, timber, arable land, and minerals are all sources of great economic potential, but they also carry risks to wildlife and their habitat due to the cumulative effects of dispersed and often overlapping impacts of resource development. Oil and gas extraction in the area has drawn a great deal of national and international attention due to its large carbon footprint, particularly the oil sands; however, carbon emissions are only part of the story. The next 50 years of development of multiple, overlapping resources will also change the forests, wetlands, streams and rivers with consequences for wildlife and ecosystem services in the region an area three times the size of the United Kingdom.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation conducted a simulation of the benefits and liabilities of the next 50 years of development in the western boreal to inform a national dialogue on the options for wildlife conservation in this rapidly developing region. The ultimate goal is to create a comprehensive land-use plan for wildlife conservation and resource extraction in the western boreal forest.
We looked at future scenarios for wildlife, the environment, and the economy under three different economic growth rates. We also considered improved industry best practices and zoning large portions of the landscape for wildlife conservation. Overall our simulations of business-as-usual development found the following:
Did You Know?
The Western Boreal Forest plays a critical role in absorbing and storing greenhouse gases which help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Canada needs a comprehensive solution for sustainable use of our natural resources, maintaining the boreal forest’s role in storing carbon, and conserving the wildlife that call the forest home. I support the need to have an open dialogue about the future of the Western Boreal Forest and the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s dedication to meet this challenge. #BorealForestForever
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Industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during simulations of low, moderate, and high development rate, and under moderate development rate with best practices, specifically, 50 per cent reduction in GHG emissions intensity of bitumen sector.
Proportion of the study area covered by watersheds assessed as high risk for fisher, caribou and the index of native fish integrity (INFI) under a range of levels of protection. The range of protection levels was created by successively selecting watersheds for conservation zoning in order of increasing economic cost of avoided disturbance.
Old forest songbird risk index averaged across each tertiary watershed for 2010 and 2060 under the business as usual scenario with moderate development rate.
Simulated fisher habitat risk index under the business as usual scenario with moderate development rate.
Simulated boreal caribou population growth index under the business as usual scenario with moderate development rate. Shaded areas indicate portions of the study area where caribou do not occur and habitat is not suitable.