Building on these successes, it's conceivable that a substantial portion of Canada's boreal forest can be protected or conserved within the next decade. But much of the region's wetlands and watersheds remain threatened by various forms of development, pollution, and climate change. Going forward, we must continue to raise funds for protection efforts and garner support from conservation-minded industries; indigenous nations; and federal, provincial, and territorial governments. We must also continue to conduct research to gain a better understanding of where and how waterfowl use boreal wetlands to guide future habitat protection and land management. DU will continue to focus on conserving important wetland landscapes and watersheds of the boreal forest and raising greater public awareness about the importance of these habitats. Many waterfowl species including scaup, American wigeon, green-winged teal, scoters, goldeneyes, black ducks, and white-fronted geese depend on this effort.
Dr. Fritz Reid is director of conservation planning at DU's Western Regional Office in Sacramento, California.
Protecting the best of the boreal
A top priority of Ducks Unlimited and its partners in the boreal forest is conserving key wetland systems that support high densities of breeding, molting, and migrating waterfowl. Through the visionary efforts of conservationists, 22 million acres were protected in 1980 in seven new national wildlife refuges established under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Today, boreal habitats in Alaska's national wildlife refuges now comprise more than 85 percent of the land mass in the entire U.S. national wildlife refuge system.
In comparison, less than 6 percent of Canada's boreal forest had been permanently protected by the late 1990s. Only one-third of the Yukon's world famous Old Crow Flats has been secured, while the vast Peace-Athabasca Delta remains unprotected just outside Wood Buffalo National Park. There is also a paucity of national wildlife areas in Boreal Canada, especially in critical, wetland-rich areas like the MacKenzie River Valley, Saskatchewan River Delta, Manitoba's Great Lakes, and the Hudson and James Bay lowlands. DU and its partners are working closely with conservation-minded industries; indigenous nations; and federal, provincial, and territorial governments to ensure these important waterfowl habitats receive the protection they deserve.