At nearly 2.2 million square miles, Canada and Alaska's boreal forest covers an area equivalent to about 70% of the contiguous lower 48 states. It's the world's largest carbon sink (holding 27 years worth of global carbon emissions), a haven for migratory songbirds (nearly 50% of North American bird species rely on the forest for survival) and an Eden of fir and wetland wilderness.
And now, that forest has a team of protectors - an Environmental Justice League of sorts.
These 14 experts, according to Reuters, are charged with monitoring and protecting this vast stretch of critically important wilderness as part of a volunteer scientific advisory board to the Pew Environment Group. And the framework that governs their work should serve as a model for preserving forests elsewhere.
Finding a way to preserve forests is critical to the effort to combat global warming, given that the No. 3 and No. 4 sources of carbon emissions, Indonesia and Brazil, are on the list not because they burn coal and oil like No. 1 China and No. 2 United States do, but because they're clear-cutting forest at such an astonishing rate. Indonesia, for instance, loses a forest the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined each year. (Whether Russia, which is home to the boreal on the other side of the world, and which draws its money and power from oil and gas extraction, would follow Canada's lead is another matter entirely.)
Just 10% of the Boreal is formally protected, leaving 90% open to exploitation by logging, mining and oil and gas companies. Ontario, in July, pledged to preserve half its forest, and restrict development in the other half. Quebec's premier, facing reelection, has pledged to follow suit if voters restore him to power.
Government listening to scientists is the key to success.
Americans can do their part, too. Forest Ethics, a non-profit group, has been successfully pressuring companies to stop making catalogs from trees logged in the boreal. It's focus remains on Sears, the mother of all catalog-senders, which according to Forest Ethics prints an estimated 425 million catalogs every year (270 million under the Lands' End brand). Sears allegedly uses little recycled paper and doesn't shy away from using paper from virgin forests in the boreal and elsewhere.
If you want to stop receiving catalogs and other junk mail, see this One Easy Thing tip.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.