Conservation: DU's Boreal Forest Initiative

Conserving one of the earth's most valuable ecosystems and a crucial breeding ground for North America's waterfowl

By Fritz Reid, Ph.D.

North America's Boreal Forest is the world's largest remaining intact, productive ecosystem, encompassing more than 1.5 billion acres of pristine forests, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and streams. A keystone habitat for this hemisphere's migratory waterfowl and songbirds, it also supports vast populations of fish and other wildlife. Moreover, this region is the world's most extensive terrestrial carbon sink and reservoir of fresh surface water.

Unlike the world's other great wilderness areas—such as the Amazon rain forest or Siberian taiga—North America's Boreal Forest is governed by two of the world's most stable democracies: the United States and Canada. This makes the Boreal the best place on earth to implement large-scale conservation efforts and sustainable development through the proactive application of sound science and enlightened resource management principles.

The World's Most Ambitious Conservation Campaign

The Boreal Forest Conservation Framework was established by leading industries, First Nations, and conservation groups—including Ducks Unlimited in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts—more than a decade ago. By employing a mix of protection and sustainable development, this partnership is working to achieve a balance between conservation and development in the Boreal Forest. Comprehensive ecosystem protection of this vast region will require additional conservation commitments to fill landscape gaps where relatively less habitat has been secured.

While significant progress has been made in protecting Canada's Boreal Forest, much work remains to be done, especially in Alaska's portion of this region, which is equally deserving of conservation. Long-term oversight and management and strong partnerships are crucial to ensure the continued success of what is the most ambitious terrestrial conservation campaign on the planet. The 10-year conservation goal is to secure 1 billion acres of protected and sustainable habitat throughout the Boreal. At least 50 percent of this habitat will be protected as large contiguous blocks, and the other 50 percent will be sustained through leading environmental practices.

DU's Plan for the Boreal

Ducks Unlimited is focusing its conservation work in the Western Boreal Forest, which encompasses the Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory, the interior of Alaska, and northern portions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. This ecosystem and the Prairie Pothole Region are North America's most important waterfowl breeding areas. The Western Boreal Forest supports up to 40 percent of all surveyed breeding ducks each year. Molting and migration habitats in this northern biome are also crucial to millions of waterfowl. DU is encouraging leaders of industry, First Nations, and nongovernmental agencies to work together to conserve wetlands and other vital Boreal wildlife habitats. But we also need your help.

SASKATCHEWAN CREATES BOREAL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE Saskatchewan has designated a new protected area in its portion of the Western Boreal Forest. Comprising more than 900,000 acres, the Pink Lake Representative Area Ecological Reserve is the largest provincially-designated protected area in Saskatchewan. This pristine area, which is located 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of the community of La Ronge, consists of intact Boreal Forest and rich wetland resources that provide important habitat for many wildlife species, including waterfowl and threatened woodland caribou. The Pink Lake ecological reserve was proposed for designation within the recently approved Misinipiy Integrated Land Use Plan. This plan was developed in partnership with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band with extensive public and stakeholder involvement. At the request of the Saskatchewan Forest Service, Ducks Unlimited Canada was actively involved in the planning process to establish the Pink Lake ecological reserve. DU Canada participated in numerous stakeholder meetings and contributed to planning documents promoting land-use activities that protect wetlands and watershed health. The approved Misinipiy plan and the designation of Pink Lake as a Boreal protected area is a significant milestone in Saskatchewan history, demonstrating the province's recognition of the value of integrated planning with First Nations to protect important components of a healthy Boreal Forest.

Since 1937, Ducks Unlimited has worked across North America to ensure a bright future for ducks and for waterfowl hunters. Your contribution to DU's Boreal Forest Initiative will support important waterfowl habitat conservation on both sides of the border in the Western Boreal Forest of Canada and Alaska, a region utilized by millions of breeding waterfowl, especially scaup, scoters, ring-necked ducks, American wigeon, green-winged teal, and mallards.

Ducks Unlimited is seeking $20 million in charitable gifts to achieve its Boreal Forest Initiative conservation goals. Your support will enable DU to conduct important science, public policy, and outreach efforts to conserve some of North America's most important waterfowl breeding habitats. Make a difference today for waterfowl and future generations of wildlife and people by directing your gift to DU's Boreal Forest Initiative. For more information about how you can support this initiative, visit or call DU Managing Director of Development Steve Schmitt at 360-991-7461.

Dr. Fritz Reid is director of conservation programs in DU's Western Region.