Two recent articles in The Telegram (May 5 and 8) describe a science-based report published by the conservation groups Boreal Songbird Initiative and Ducks Unlimited on the importance of the boreal forest as breeding grounds for migratory songbirds.
“Boreal Birds Need Half,” states that some 300 bird species nest in or move seasonally between more southerly wintering grounds and the boreal regions. We enjoy their presence and songs and benefit from the many ecosystem services they provide. Their movements and changing numbers also reveal that all is not well in their breeding grounds.
Across the Canadian boreal region bird populations are in decline, with iconic species such as the Canada warbler and evening grosbeak down by some 80 per cent. Fourteen bird species are on the endangered list in this province, many of them boreal forest dwellers.
As the report makes clear, principal among the threats to bird species is alteration and destruction of their habitat by human activities.
It was once thought that setting aside 10 per cent of boreal forest area for protection might be sufficient, but recent evidence shows that much more space is needed to sustain our boreal bird populations and other wildlife, such as caribou.
Newfoundland and Labrador still has extensive boreal wilderness areas that include critical wildlife habitat, but these are under pressure and lacking sufficient protection.
We have yet to see from the government a natural areas system plan that would secure that protection.
An example is being set in Labrador, where the Innu Nation has designated more than 50 per cent of its land claim agreement area for protection of ecological or cultural values. Additional protected landscapes, including critical George River caribou calving grounds, make up 40 per cent of the proposed Labrador Inuit Settlement Area.
After nearly two years’ delay, the provincial government still has not responded to the Labrador Inuit proposal.
Perhaps someone in the government will take note of this latest important conservation report and put protected areas back on their list of priorities.
John D. Jacobs
Nature Newfoundland and Labrador