|The boreal forest, a 55 million acres of which of which will be protected in Ontario (©Scott Weidensaul)|
One of the biggest conservation stories ever emerged last week, but received relatively little press here in the States. The premier of Ontario has pledged to set aside half of the province -- about 55 million acres, an area the size of the entire UK -- for permanent conservation, with requirements that industry work with First Nations and the government to craft sustainable development plans for the rest.
Given that the boreal forest is the great bird factory of North America, producing billions of migratory songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors, this is arguably the single biggest win in history for bird conservation.
Anyone who enjoys the seasonal flow of warblers, thrushes, sparrows and other migrant songbirds passing through in the Lower 48 - and I'm guessing that's most of us -- owes a huge debt of gratitude to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty for his visionary move, which is part of the larger Boreal Forest Conservation Initiative, a collaboration of conservation groups, First Nations and industry that aims to protect at least half of the 1.4 billion-acre Canadian boreal forest.
Here's how my good friend Jeff Wells of the Boreal Songbird Initiative put it on his blog this week, sending an open letter of thanks to McGuinty: