CBFA helping combine both industry and conservation

Jodi Schellenberg
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A giant map of Canada helped teach students about boreal forest conservation.

On Wednesday morning, a Grade 5 class from Red Wing School gathered at the Forestry Centre in Prince Albert to learn not only about the boreal forest, but also about caribou conservation.

A giant map, measuring about 8 metres by 11 metres, helped students understand the size and importance of the boreal forest.

“Welcome to our On the Move campaign,” said Aran O’Carroll, executive director of Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Secretariat (CBFA). “I hope you enjoy our map, our students certainly have.”

O’Carroll explained the giant map is an educational tool to illustrate the scale and significance of the boreal forest and CBFA.

“The folks at the Royal Canadian Geographic Society who publish Canadian Geographic magazine, they are geographers -- that is their passion,” he said. “They really came to us with this great idea of let’s get out and tell the story of the boreal forest … in a way that students can really connect with.”

The Red Wing students were excited to learn through activities on the map.

“It is really cool and really big and fun to play on,” student Angelica Gobeil said. “ We got to go to British Columbia and places on it. It was a lot of fun.”

Her friend, Libby Huffman, said using the map to learn about the boreal forest made her interested to find out more about the subject.

Not only did students from Red Wing School get a chance to use the map -- it was also taken to both St. Marys High School and Carlton Comprehensive High School during the week.

“In Canada, there are few issues that are as vast and vital as the boreal forest,” explained Sara Black, education programs co-ordinator for Royal Canadian Geographic Society. “In fact, in our opinion, the issue is so big that we only have one possible response -- if we want Canadian students like the ones we taught this morning to engage in the great big boreal forest, then we are going to need a great big travelling map.”

“The giant map encouraged students to take a walk in the woods, if you will, and to consider vital questions from wildlife conservation to biofuels,” she added. “In the process of exploring and discovering the boreal forest, students will strengthen their critical thinking skills and become more spatially and geographically literate.”

The map has travelled all across Canada and will be headed up to Whitehorse next, O’Carroll said.

“We are going to be meeting with scientists who are actually working on caribou conservation from all across Canada and we will have the scientists in their stocking feet running around on the map,” he said. “It is a very engaging tool -- students love it but it is also really engaging for the general public to get to experience how significant the boreal forest is and how big the country is and how ambitious the CBFA is trying to find solutions all across the country.”

The CBFA was created to help bridge the conflict between the forestry industry and the environmentalists or conservationists.

“The forestry companies were focused on their role, which was translating Canada’s rich supply of natural resources into products people demand and need and creating jobs in communities that rely on those natural resources for their prosperity,” O’Carroll said.

“Environmental groups were traditionally focused on their goal -- protecting Canada’s wilderness and the species that make that wilderness their home -- species like the woodland caribou in the boreal forest,” he added.

The two sectors came together through CBFA and are now working in tandem to come up with solutions. Environmental groups agreed to stop boycotts of forestry products and the forestry industry committed to suspend logging on nearly 29 million hectares of boreal forest.

In Saskatchewan, CBFA is focused on the conservation of the woodland caribou, a species now on the federal government’s Species At Risk list.

“Caribou are an important species because it is an indicator of whether the ecosystem as a whole is healthy,” O’Carroll said.

Since the population is on a decline and they are a species at risk, it is an indication something has to be done.

“That tells us that the whole boreal forest ecosystem is facing challenges,” he said. “Here in Saskatchewan, we are conducting research to help develop recommendations for protected areas for woodland caribou recovery measures around the Pasquia Porcupine Forest Management Agreement area, which is east of here, around the Manitoba border around and north of the community of Hudson Bay.”

He explained they are working on solutions for woodland caribou conservation is a way that will ensure the sustainability of the wood supply for the community of Hudson Bay and the mills in the community.

“We are trying to find solutions that will work both for the conservation and companies that depend on the resources coming out of the boreal forest,” O’Carroll said.

Both conservation and forestry industry representatives agree with the model CBFA is providing.

“Almost without exception, everybody who works in the forestry operation, works there because they have a strong appreciation for the natural environment,” said John Daisley, planning co-ordinator and environmental manager at Weyerhaeuser Hudson Bay. “ Some people’s focus is on hunting and fishing, some people’s focus is on hiking and camping in the forest, but all of them have chosen to work in the forest because they love it there.”

Since the employees all love the forest, they are all committed to conservation and the company has an environmental management system in place.

“When you think of forest companies and Weyerhaeuser is not the only one, any forest company that works here in Saskatchewan, try to remember that the environmental management system that they have is very important for them and the people who work for them spend a lot of time thinking about we can minimize the effect on the environment and ensure that we have a sustainable forest for the future,” Daisley said.

Gord Vaadeland, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wildlife Society and member of CBFA’s Saskatchewan Regional Working Group, is happy to see the collaboration between the two sectors.

“Forestry has such an opportunity to be that link that we need between jobs and solid management of the environment of the boreal forest,” he said. “It is a huge opportunity to do some really large things and it has been a pleasure to work with the companies on this. I am looking forward to completing our work in the next while.”

The CBFA has also been working closely with First Nations and the Prince Albert Model Forest.

“In the summer of 2013, we were granted an opportunity to work along with the CBFA and the communities of Cumberland House, Red Earth and Shoal Lake,” said Mika Carriere, projects officer for Prince Albert Model Forest. “What we are looking at doing here is something the Model Forest works towards -- working together and helping each other.”

They worked closely with the people who were on the land and had first-hand knowledge of the woodland caribou, she said.

“That is truly a gift that can be given to our youth from today because that knowledge needs to be passed on and we focus not only woodland caribou but also on the cultures and traditions of what those people are doing in their communities because they are the ones that are on the land and know what is going on,” Carriere said.

“When you look at the woodland caribou, they are a very rare species to be seen in those communities and it is special to see them,” she added. “The people we have talked to, interviewed and shared information with, give us a bigger picture of what is going on out on the land.”

Organizations: CBFA, Prince Albert, Red Wing School Royal Canadian Geographic Society Forestry Centre Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement Secretariat Geographic magazine Marys High School Carlton Comprehensive High School Weyerhaeuser Saskatchewan Chapter Canadian Parks and Wildlife Society Saskatchewan Regional Working Group First Nations Cumberland House Red Earth

Geographic location: Canada, British Columbia, Saskatchewan Hudson Bay Whitehorse Manitoba Shoal Lake

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Recent comments

  • John Daisley
    May 13, 2014 - 17:00

    Excellent report on a project close to my heart.

  • Anne Dawson
    May 08, 2014 - 12:38

    Excellent reporting on a great event.