Cool Forests Conference Puts Boreal Forest on World Stage

The vast Boreal Forest region of Canada and Alaska is one of the world’s greatest treasures. Photo Jeff wells.

A rare event will take place next week in AustriaTweet this.

What makes the occasion so remarkable is the coming together of hundreds of people from around the globe who study and care about the world’s Boreal Forests.  The event, called the “Cool Forests at Risk” conference, will encompass four days of intense learning, listening and collaboration related to the world’s largest intact forest areas on Earth—the Boreal Forest. The global Boreal Forest biome is the world’s largest land-based storehouse of carbon, holds the world’s largest stores of surface freshwater, contains the world’s largest lakes and undammed rivers, supports billions of birds, some of the last populations of large predators and migratory land mammals and more. Within the Boreal Forest are the lands of hundreds of Indigenous nations working toward finding a positive future for themselves and their ancestors through innovate land-use and management plans.

We will be there to discuss the latest findings on a wide variety of Boreal Forest topics, from carbon sequestration to sustainable development to conservation opportunities and strategies.

As the conference theme “Cool Forests at Risk” denotes, the purpose of the meeting is to explore “the critical role of boreal and mountain ecosystems for people, bioeconomy, and climate”.

I am excited to be co-chairing a session on the intersection of science and policy at which I will speak on “The Last Great Conservation Opportunity in Human History: Conservation in North America’s Boreal Forest.”

At least 30 different countries will be represented including Russia, China, the US, Canada, the Nordic countries, Japan and the host country, Austria. The organizers are hoping that this conference will be the start of something special as they describe below:

  • “The cool forest event is much more than a conference – it is the start of a collective effort, initiated by scientists from the International Boreal Forest Research Association (IBFRA), the Pan-Eurasian Experiment (PEEX), and IIASA, supported by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). The event will bring together academia, decision makers, and civil society stakeholders to create solutions for a sustainable future.
  • This is a wake-up call to the world, to raise awareness of boreal and mountain forest ecosystems for people, bioeconomy, and climate. Cool Forest Ambassadors form a coalition of scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders from civil society. They are committed to help maintaining and enhancing the multiple, critical values provided by boreal and mountain forest ecosystems by identifying future pathways and strengthening the collaboration between boreal and mountain ecosystem countries. Thereby they support the initiative and join the coalition of IIASA, PEEX, IBFRA, and IUFRO to concentrate efforts.
  • Associated with the call for Cool Forest Ambassadors we are aiming to develop publications including policy briefs, communiques, and factsheets which will be disseminated among political, public, and private decision makers. Ultimately, we will reach out to relevant international processes such as the SDGs, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Convention on Biodiversity, UN Convention to Combat Desertification, UN Forum on Forests, and many more. The aim of this event is to contribute to the goals set by the above initiatives in order to tackle global challenges, specifically relating to the three main themes of the conference: I am among many Boreal Forest scientists and conservationists who I’m sure are pleased to be attending this inaugural event. Like them, I am looking forward to the synergies of bringing a strong collective voice forward to highlight the importance of the Boreal Forest on the global stage.people, bioeconomy, climate and nature.”

I am among many Boreal Forest scientists and conservationists who I’m sure are pleased to be attending this inaugural event. Like them, I am looking forward to the synergies of bringing a strong collective voice forward to highlight the importance of the Boreal Forest on the global stage.

Wood Lilies are among the many beautiful species found in the Boreal Forest region of North America. photo jeff wells

Originally posted 2018-09-15 00:44:32.

Indigenous leaders of Pimachiowin Aki Are a Beacon of Hope As World Heritage Designation Becomes Official

The Bloodvein River, one of many significant rivers, streams and water bodies within Pimachiowin Aki. Photo Jeff Wells.

It’s part of what may be the largest single block of intact forest in the largest intact forest landscape left in human history and the largest remaining landscape of southern boreal forest left in Canada. Millions of birds fly north from tropical climes to nest here every summer filling the rich forests with a symphony of song. Woodland caribou, moose, wolves, trout, whitefish, walleye and so many other living creatures thrive in its woods and waters year-round.

It is called Pimachiowin Aki and it is and has been for thousands of years, the ancestral homeland of strong and vibrant Indigenous communities.

Those communities came together some years ago with the provincial governments of Manitoba and Ontario to start the long and sometimes difficult process to place these lands on the world stage as the Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site. In the first ever proposal of its kind, the Pimachiowin Aki communities and governments, insisted that the landscape be simultaneously considered and designated for both its cultural AND its ecological values.

Such a request initially sent the international governing bodies that decide on World Heritage Site designations into a bit of a tizzy. They weren’t sure how to handle such a dual consideration of values. But to their great credit, they found a path forward to honor the request of the Pimachiowin Aki communities.

The path wasn’t necessarily an easy one, perhaps a bit like trying to hack a new portage through a thick stand of spruce beside a boreal forest river within Pimachiowin Aki itself! But the people who have lived for thousands of years in that landscape have hacked through many a seemingly impenetrable stand of spruce. A tough pathway through international designations would certainly not be enough to stop them.

That many-year journey started and led with both steely determination and gentle persistence by forward thinking Indigenous leaders of the First Nations of Bloodvein River, Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi , and Poplar River has finally achieved its goal. Together with the governments of Manitoba and Ontario, these First Nations are working to ensure a healthy future for both the Indigenous people and the birds, caribou, moose, fish and all wildlife and plants and the forests, lakes, rivers, and wetlands of the more than seven million acres found within the landscape of Pimachiowin Aki.

That fact has been formally recognized as UNESCO has now (as of July 2018) designated Pimachiowin Aki as an official World Heritage Site for both its globally significant cultural and ecological values.

Congratulations leaders of Pimachiowin Aki and thank you for your vision and strength. You truly are a beacon of hope in today’s complicated world!

Fairy slipper or calypso orchid from near Aikens Lake, Manitoba in Pimachiowin Aki in May 2011. Photo Jeff Wells.

Originally posted 2018-07-02 21:51:18.

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