Forests Environmental Initiatives

The boreal forest, also known as the taiga in Russia, is the world's largest terrestrial biome, stretching from Western Alaska throughout most of Canada to Northern Europe, Siberia, and the Russian Far East. It is a unique and fragile ecosystem, submitted to extreme climatic conditions and providing a wide range of crucial ecosystem services (watershed protection, climate regulation, etc.). The boreal forest is also home to some of the most threatened species on the planet, such as the Amur tiger, the Far Eastern leopard, the red wolf, and the sikha deer. According to the World Resources Institute, Russia and Canada host more than half of the world's remaining frontier forests, defined as large, ecologically intact, and relatively undisturbed areas of primary forest. Russia is the world's most forested country with 22% of the world's forests and Canada ranks third after Brazil with 7% of the world's forests. The sheer extent of forest cover makes the boreal forest an important strategic natural resource providing raw material for the wood, pulp, and paper industry, one of the leading industry sectors in the boreal countries. The boreal forests provide 60% of the world's supply of industrial roundwood. Canada is the world's largest exporter of wood and wood products. Russia is the world's largest exporter of raw logs, after the United States. For decades, the forest industry has been the backbone of the Finnish and Swedish national economies. However, forestry practices in the boreal region are primarily based on large-scale industrial forestry techniques, leading to habitat loss and degradation, dependent local economies, and culturally and socially impoverished indigenous communities. Forest-dependent indigenous peoples around the Arctic are confronted with the depletion of the resources they rely on, weak rights to the ownership, control and management of their traditional lands, and lack of political power resulting in a loss of traditional knowledge and social disruption.

One of the most challenging environmental issues facing humanity at the dawn of the 21st century is to stop the loss and degradation of the world's forests, halt the exploitation of the boreal forests further and further north into areas that had been previously left untouched, and ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are fully respected. The boreal countries should and can set an example in promoting ecologically sustainable, economically viable, and socially responsible forest management. This paper explores some of the initiatives that have been taken at the intergovernmental level as well as in the market place to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the world's forests, including boreal forests.

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