U.S. conservation win – in Canada
Forestland half the size of Texas is being saved to help thwart climate change.
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In recent years, scientists have increasingly come to realize that the old benchmark of protecting 10 to 15 percent of an ecosystem is not enough. That level of protection cannot ensure that abundant wildlife, clean air and water, and a stable climate are maintained. Instead, scientists recommend a benchmark closer to 50 percent protection. McGuinty's bold announcement is one of the few instances where a government leader has met these recommended goals.Skip to next paragraph
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Politicians operate within the confines of public support. Without strong public interest in conservation, McGuinty would not have made this move. That's a good reminder for those who care about maintaining and protecting our natural resources to make our voices heard so that politicians, on both sides of the border, have the opportunity for bold, environmentally friendly leadership.
And while strong public interest in and support of conservation was important in making this landmark decision, bold environmentally friendly leadership doesn't come from the polls alone. It comes from strong leaders who, as McGuinty did in this matter, put the greater good over everyday politics.
You've got to admire his courage when, in the United States, many leaders seem intent on trying to weaken laws that protect the country's conservation lands. Consider Wyoming: State officials, with the help of a federal judge, recently took a disappointing step toward overturning the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects roughly the last one-third of the nation's undeveloped national forest lands. Then there is the Bush administration's plans to weaken habitat protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Ontario is setting an example of leadership and large-scale thinking for the rest of Canada and, indeed, for the world to follow. Now it's up to the leaders of the US, whether they work in state houses or the White House, to fight to protect our last wild places.
In the meantime, thanks to the actions of McGuinty, generations of Americans will be able to step out on their back porches this fall and witness the splendor of migration as millions of birds head south from the now-protected lands in Ontario's boreal forest.
• Jeff Wells is the science adviser to The Pew Charitable Trusts' International Boreal Conservation Campaign. David Wilcove is a professor in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Scott Weidensaul has written more than two dozen books on natural history.