Media Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Petitioners call on Premiers to protect boreal forest

60,000 Join in Call to Increase Protection for Breeding Grounds for Billions of Birds

Toronto, May 12, 2009: With spring bird migration in full swing, Ontario Nature and other environmental groups across Canada will deliver 60,000 petitions today calling for increased protection of Canada's 1.3-billion-acre Boreal Forest. Referred to as the "Bird Nursery of the North," the Canadian boreal is the breeding and nesting grounds for billions of migratory birds. Serious declines of many bird populations have prompted calls for large-scale protection of this critically important habitat. Simultaneous media events are planned in Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec City, with participation in six other provinces and territories (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Alberta, and British Columbia).

The petitions - to be delivered to Premier Dalton McGuinty, other provincial Premiers, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper - urge Canadian governments to adopt the principles of the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework. Developed with some of the world's leading scientists, the Framework calls for protecting at least 50% of the Boreal Forest and supporting sustainable development practices in the remaining areas. Signatures were collected via the Save Our Boreal Birds website (www.saveourborealbirds.org), a collaborative effort by more than 20 conservation groups from across Canada, the United States, Central and South America.

"The Boreal Forest is widely regarded as the songbird nursery for the Americas," says Caroline Schultz, Executive Director of Ontario Nature. "Millions of birds migrate there to nest and breed in Ontario alone. We cannot afford to lose any more of this precious habitat than we already have."

In Ontario, logging, mining and other industrial activities have already carved through the southern Boreal Forest, fragmenting the landscape and destroying wildlife habitat. Logging alone can destroy an estimated 45,000 migratory bird nests in a single year in Ontario. The intact northern Boreal is situated north of the line where commercial forestry currently takes place, roughly along the 51st parallel. Last summer, Premier McGuinty made a landmark commitment to protect at least 50% of this region - an announcement lauded in Canada and internationally.

There is an urgent need for the Ontario legislature to pass legislation that fulfills the Premier's promise. At present, less than 10% of Ontario's Boreal Forest is protected, and only 5% of the northern Boreal in protected. Many boreal-dependent birds have been in steady decline for decades. Provincially, olive-sided flycatcher numbers have decreased by almost four-fifths over the past 4 decades - with 46% of the decline in the last decade alone. The rusty blackbird has been decreasing by an average of 12% a year over the past three decades.

"The dramatic decline in migratory songbirds warns us that our forests are under siege," says Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology at York University. "We urgently need to safeguard what remains for songbirds and ourselves."

"We have grown increasingly alarmed by the drop in boreal bird populations," adds Ms. Schultz. "To reverse this disturbing trend and conserve biodiversity, we are anxious to see strong legislation and funding for protection and sustainable land use planning, with Ontario and First Nations working in partnership to ensure that Premier McGuinty's promise is realized."

Scientists have also called for protection of Canada's Boreal Forest in recognition of its importance as the world's largest carbon storehouse. Carbon equivalent to 27 years' worth of the world's fossil fuel emissions is stored in the lakes, soils, peat lands, and trees of the Boreal Forest, but can be released due to industrial disturbance of these lands.

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For further information and interviews please contact:

Victoria Foote, Director of Communications, Ontario Nature 416-444-8419 ext. 238; 647-290-9384 (cell)
victoriaf@ontarionature.org

Additional Facts and Resources:

View a backgrounder and additional facts about boreal birds here.

All press materials, including boreal bird migration maps, boreal bird decline fact sheet, photos, B-roll, and audio of boreal bird songs, available at: http://www.borealbirds.org/borealbirdspetition.shtml or contact David Childs, Boreal Songbird Initiative, at 206-956-9040 ext.7

Ontario Nature is the Province's leading conservation organization. Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement.

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