July 15, 2008
Ontario places vast boreal area under protection, 22% of province off limits to development.
Ontario has made the largest conservation commitment in Canadian history, setting aside at least half the Northern Boreal region – 225,000 square kilometres – for permanent protection from development, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced yesterday.
It’s an area almost the size of the United Kingdom.
“It is, in a word, immense. It’s also unique and precious. It’s home to the largest untouched forest in Canada and the third largest wetland in the world,” McGuinty said.
The announcement is globally significant in the fight against climate change, advocates say. Nearly 100 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in the Northern Boreal region and another 12.5 million tonnes are absorbed each year.
These lands remain, for the most part, untouched by development. But with increasing world demand for resources, it was just a matter of time before mining and logging inched up from the south.
Now, those resource industries will be barred from half the land and have to work with the government and local First Nations communities to create sustainable development plans for the rest, McGuinty said.
Over the next 10 to 15 years, the province will work with scientists and communities to map out the specific lands that are the most valuable as carbon storehouses and for species protection and which lands have the greatest resources and should be developed.
The government will introduce legislation in the fall to reform the outdated mining act so all future mine developments will need approval of local First Nations, which will get a share of the revenues.
“We get to say to our aboriginal communities: if there is some mining exploration here, and you permit that, you get a piece of the action,” McGuinty said, adding that the government would give them a cash down payment this fall.