Canada Leads the World … On Forest Degradation

by Rona Fried 

These days, Canada likes to sign environmental pacts and then ignore them, thanks to its ultra-conservative, all-out for energy exploitation Prime Minister Harper.

Back in the good ‘ole days, when the country led the world on environmental consciousness and protection, it was among the nations that signed the Kyoto Protocol. In 2012, Harper tossed that commitment out.

His latest commitment is another sad joke.

At September’s Climate Summit, Canada, along with 30 other countries, signed the NY Declaration on Forests. For the first time, it sets a hard deadline on eliminating deforestation – cutting it in half by 2020 and fully by 2030, while restoring 1 million acres. 

Canada’s Boreal Forest is the world’s largest intact forest:

Boreal Forest

Harper has shifted Canadian priorities toward extraction so completely that Canada now leads the world on forest degradation – responsible for 21.4% of damaged or destroyed virgin forests, says Forest Watch. "Most logging done in Canada is still in virgin forests," Peter Lee of Forest Watch Canada told Canada.com.

While logging and tar sands expansion are largely to blame for forest loss in many parts of Canada – fragmenting and degrading ecosystems – wildfires from climate change are a newer problem, transforming many northern boreal forests into shrub lands, says Lee.

Russia comes in second at 20.4%, followed by Brazil at 14.1%.

What Does Degraded Mean?

Logging, road-building, extractive activities, agriculture and sprawl chip away at forests, fragmenting them into smaller and smaller isolated areas.

Imagine this: 70% of the world’s forests are just a half-mile from an "edge," say researchers.

Not only does this result in crashing biodiversity, it alters nutrient cycles, reducing biomass, productivity, and the capacity to retain nitrogen and carbon. 

About 104 million acres were degraded from 2000-2013 – about 8% of the world’s virgin forests, based on Global Forest Watch satellite imagery

"Business as usual will lead to destruction of most remaining intact forests this century," Nigel Sizer, Director of World Resources Institute’s forest program, told Canada.com.

Forest Watch is calling on the world’s governments to direct logging away from the stands of virgin forest.

Latest Harper Move Guts Protection for Lakes, Rivers

Not satisfied with degrading Canada’s bounty of forestland, Harper has been systematically gutting regulations that protect its water, says a Council of Canadians report. 

"Blue Betrayal," details how mining, fracking and tar sands companies are allowed to dump toxic wastewater into lakes; oil and gas pipelines are no longer subject to environmental review; and corporations can sue for the right to use potable water in fracking and tar sands operations. 

This is the result of the 2012 omnibus bill that stripped protection from Canada’s lakes and rivers and the gutted  Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which immediately cancelled some 3,000 environmental reviews of oil and gas projects, and even exempted pipelines that run under rivers and lakes from environmental review. Canada’s Fisheries Act no longer protects fish.

Bribing Tribes to Accept Tar Sands Pipelines

That’s not all, of course. Harper directed Canada’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs to convince First Nations to give up their aboriginal rights in exchange for "business opportunities" that the tar sands pipelines they are fighting would provide.

Tribes stand in the way of $600 billion of investments planned in mining, forestry, gas and oil projects over the next decade. 94 of 105 projects are located in indigenous areas, reports The Guardian.

"Opportunities for First Nations Prosperity Through Oil and Gas Development," written by the Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank, is funded by the Koch brothers, one of the biggest tar sands companies. 

Oh, Harper, you so disgust me. Will you please lose October’s election?

Read our article, In An Unusual Move, Scientists Take to the Streets to Protest Canada’s Environmental Cuts.

Read more at Global Forest Watch:

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