Wildlife Biologist Balances Boreal Forest Conservation and Development

Wildlife Biologist Balances Boreal Forest Conservation and Development

Both Connie and I are northerners
by choice, not by birth. We are not city people.
We don’t like the hustle and bustle. Having a peaceful place that’s relatively
untouched is very important to us. So for us, it was natural– the north was the place that we wanted to be. We’ve said many times driving from the south
that, when we start to get into the bush, that it starts to feel like we’re coming home. My name is Chris Smith I work for the boreal program
of Ducks Unlimited Canada, and I live in Cranberry Portage
in northern Manitoba. One of the things that I really appreciate
about living in the boreal and living where we are– is the fact that it is quiet. You hear every footstep when you’re walking through the forest. It’s one of the largest intact
ecosystems on the globe. Really, there’s not many
places like this left. Many people think of the boreal forest
as sort of just being trees. Evergreen trees that is in the northern part of Canada. The reality is that about 40% of Manitoba’s boreal forest is made up of water and wetlands. Because I work for a
wetlands conservation organization, I’m continually observing these wetland systems that are so prevalent, and
continue to think about the values of these things. They filter and purify our water, they function
almost like a sponge, so they’re great for moderating floods. They create a lot of habitat
for wildlife. Wetlands store more carbon than the
terrestrial environments, and when you look at the size of the boreal forest
in North America, it’s regulating our global climate. More and more scientists are saying that. As Canadians, we have a huge responsibility,
globally, to ensure that these wetlands remain intact, and functioning. For 10 years, I worked in forest planning, helping the company develop
forest management plans. Given that I’ve worked for both conservation
organization and in industry, I’m a strong believer in conservation. But we also have to have a sustainable, sustainably developed, economy. The reality is, we’re a natural
resource-rich country, many of those natural resources
are in the boreal forest, and they contribute millions
and millions of dollars to our national, provincial economies and local economies. It’s unrealistic to think that we can conserve everything, or preserve everything, or develop everything. There’s room for both. Increasingly, people living in the north are
wanting to have a say– in the way their back yard is being developed. The fact that so much of the boreal is intact,
we have this unique opportunity to forward think– and say hey, how might we want to develop
this area going forward – with this notion of conserving while developing. If people are willing to work together wonderful
things can happen. I’m very fortunate to have a wife that also
enjoys living in the north. And she also gets inspired by the surrounding
nature that we have here. We made a decision very early that we wanted
to retain as much of the natural forest around our home as possible. The Provincial Park actually is the water
line right in front of our home. And so the bay that we look across will never be developed because it’s in a park. How do you put a price tag on that? After all these years,
I’ve still remained curious. I guess that’s part of being a biologist. Through my career, I’ve been very fortunate
to have done a lot of aerial survey work and reconnaissance work. The first thing that really strikes me is
how much water is out there, and how connected these systems are. The the other really awe-inspiring aspect
of flying over the boreal is just how big it is. It’s pretty amazing. It sort of goes on forever.

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