A step forward towards a vibrant, healthy Broadback forest

The Broadback is one of the last large wilderness areas remaining in Quebec’s Boreal Forest.

A thriving ecosystem of lakes, rivers and old growth spruce and pine forests, the Broadback Forest covers more than 13,000 km2 (3.2 million acres). Home to First Nations communities, threatened caribou herds and numerous forest-dependent species, the Broadback could be described as one of the last frontiers of intact boreal forest in the province.

The Broadback offers an unprecedented opportunity for conservation in Quebec’s Boreal Forest and in July, 2015, Canopy was delighted to be in attendance to celebrate the announcement of a significant increase in protection for this jewel of the Boreal.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come jointly announced the protection of 1.3 million acres (543,600 ha.) of the Broadback’s globally important forests, lakes and rivers.

BroadbackMelissa4
Photo by Mélissa Filion

This new conservation increment will be added to the existing Assinica Cultural Heritage Park, protecting a total of 2.4 million acres (913,400 ha.) of the Broadback ecosystem. It brings the region closer to providing the level of contiguous intact forest needed to maintain healthy populations of woodland caribou that should curb the species’ decline towards extinction.  This latest increment also brings us one step closer to achieving the levels of conservation advocated for by the Crees First Nation, scientists and conservationists.

Large global forest-product customers who have work closely with Canopy to see conservation of forest hotspots joined in applauding this most recent major step forward in the Boreal Forest. Many of our business partners have consistently encouraged a conservation solution for the region and played a meaningful and influential role in helping to bring about this recent outcome.

For years, powerful interests have aligned in support of protection in the Broadback, with remarkable cohesion between typically divergent parties.

Photo by Mélissa Filion
Don Saganash and Steven Blacksmith, Director of Natural Resources, Cree First Nation of Waswanipi. Photo by Mélissa Filion

The Cree Nations, supported by their regional governance body, have prioritized the Broadback for conservation. Most logging companies in the area have agreed to a deferral on industrial activity. Environmental organizations, scientists and economic stakeholders have voiced their support for action to secure a healthy future for the Broadback. The government of Quebec undertook an assessment of the shortcomings of its’ protected area networks and the pressing need for action to sustain threatened caribou herds.

This alignment has provided a unique window of opportunity to act for the forest and for future generations. It is to the credit of all parties that this moment has been seized upon.

Much work remains, however, to fulfil the ecological needs that will ensure healthy, diverse and fully functioning forests in the Broadback into the future. A significant gap still remains in what scientists recommend is required to fulfill the ecological needs of the region.

Aerial view over forest. Luftaufnahme ueber Waldgebiet.

Canopy will continue to encourage the Quebec government to develop a detailed and time-bound plan to complete the full Broadback conservation package. That package, proposed seven years ago by the Cree, grounded in science and broadly supported, calls for a total of 3.2 million acres (1.3 million ha) of protection. This last outstanding instalment of conservation will be critical in connecting the existing protected areas.

Nonetheless, Canopy and our partners in the corporate world applaud this recent significant step. The Boreal Forests of the northern hemisphere require a series of large-scale, ecologically significant intact forest landscapes to be protected. Quebec’s decision for the Broadback is a meaningful step towards that goal. Other governments with Boreal Forest under their jurisdiction – in Canada and around the world – need to follow suit.

If you are a major lumber or paper purchaser, printer or clothing brand, contact Canopy to learn how you can help secure a future for the Boreal Forest as well as the world’s other remaining temperate and tropical endangered forests.