As we begin to enjoy the fall colours and foliage, let’s consider what our forests provide. The short answer is, much more than we realize. The roots of trees, from BC’s hulking cedars to Newfoundland and Labrador’s rare black ash, reach out to us all, connecting Canadians to each other and to this land.
Even if you don’t live in or near a forest, we all benefit from them, and we cannot live without those benefits.
Canada is home to nine per cent of the planet’s forests. Consider the work that trees do every day to keep us safe and healthy: They continuously give! Starting beneath the ground, their expansive root systems help stabilize our hillsides and coastlines. Above, tree trunks offer habitat and safety to thousands of species, while their leaves work to capture the carbon dioxide. From roots to canopy, forests serve as a key nature-based solution in the struggle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Trees warm us, cool us, house us and feed us, all while cleaning the air we breathe and the water we drink. One-third of Canada’s land mass is covered in trees, yet today just 10 per cent of Canada’s forests are protected. Across the country, especially in southern Canada, our woodlands are being squeezed by competing demands, such as development and human-caused impacts to habitat, all at a time when we are relying on trees to help save us from the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
We must also protect Canada’s boreal forest in the North. These habitats provide critical refuge for three to five million migratory birds and store vast amounts of carbon.
With our supporters, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) aims to protect some of the country’s best remaining habitats, including forests. We are focused on ensuring Canada’s exceptional forests are restored, sustained and protected so that we can continue to enjoy the powerful benefits they provide. As part of the United Nations International Decade on Ecological Restoration, individual citizens across the country have a critical role to play by supporting forest conservation efforts and planting trees. You see, when nature thrives, we all thrive.
Since 1962, NCC has worked with landowners, farmers, corporations, governments and generous financial donors to protect private forests through local conservation projects via land purchases, land donations and conservation agreements. The conservation organization also plants trees and conducts many reforestation projects across the country.
NCC acknowledges Indigenous communities for their leadership and stewardship through generations and the major contributions being made by other conservation partners. We can all learn from each other and do more to ensure our protected areas are connected with wildlife corridors, that the health of our streams and rivers are improved by forest buffers and that important habitats for wildlife are maintained.
Conservation organizations like NCC are protecting thousands of hectares of forest coast to coast to support Canada’s goal of conserving 30 per cent of our lands and waters by 2030. There is space for everyone to contribute, through spending time in local forests, learning how to conserve the forests we all love and supporting organizations that work every day to restore forests in our communities.
To do more for Canada’s forests, NCC is launching a first of its kind Nature + Climate Projects Accelerator for Canada. It will be a source of projects ranging from new forms of land partnerships to investment approaches and tools designed to attract private capital, in order to combat rapid habitat loss and climate change.
Canada’s corporations and individuals have a major role to play in forest conservation as governments cannot do it alone. Investing in nature-based solutions means protecting and restoring the forests and peatlands that absorb carbon, and the natural areas that protect communities from disease, flood, fire and other impacts of climate change.
From the food on our tables to our health and well-being, nature provides a myriad of essential, and largely undervalued, services.
(Catherine Grenier is President and CEO with the Nature Conservancy of Canada).