Boreal Forest in Alberta. 9 Oct, 2009 © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

Two weeks ago, Greenpeace Africa's Irene Wabiwa-Betoko wrote about the need for Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) protection in the Congo Basin, and expressed the hope that FSC's new commitment to IFLs protection could help shift the region's reliance on concession based logging which have damaged the region's rainforest, the people and wildlife that depend on it.

Canada is also a region rich in IFLs. In fact, the Boreal Forest, much of which is in Canada, has the largest IFLs left on the planet. For this reason it plays many of the same functions as the Congo Basin's rainforest. It is the largest terrestrial storage house for carbon in the world; it contains 25% of the planet's wetlands; provides habitat for over one billion songbirds as well as bears, grizzlies, lynx, wolverines, caribou and a multitude of other species. Canada's Boreal Forest is also home to more than 600 indigenous communities, as well as other forest-dependent communities.

Unfortunately – like the Congo Basin rainforest – Canada's Boreal IFLs are at risk. Only 8% are protected from logging and other industrial activities. As a result, species such as the woodland caribou are faced with extinction. In addition, some companies do not respect the rights and wishes of the many indigenous peoples who live in and adjacent to the Boreal IFLs. These companies log their homeland without permission.

Woodland Caribous in Canada. 9 Oct, 2011 © Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

For this reason, FSC's commitment to protect IFLs with a focus on the need for the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples, couldn't come a moment too soon in Canada. FSC certification is widespread in Canada. As the only certification system that enjoys support from environmental and social movements across the globe, it has considerable influence in Canada. Currently, just over 55 million hectares of a total 22% forest area is FSC certified in Canada.

If FSC is serious about this commitment, there could be significant conservation gains in Canada's Boreal IFLs. There are several Endangered Forest regions across Canada that are in dire need of protection. Careful planning must take place to ensure that the values of these forests are not lost to reckless industrial development. Land use decisions must respect First Nations rights through FPIC. Likewise, the communities that depend on forests must have direct access to the benefits that these forests offer.

FSC's commitment to IFLs is an important piece of the worldwide effort to stem the loss of our natural forests. We are looking forward to being a part of this important initiative, and making sure that Canada's Boreal forest gets the protection it needs. 


Catharine Grant is a Forest campaigner from Greenpeace Canada.