Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? Or, from the environmentalists’ perspective, a David-and-two-Goliaths tale.
This was my sixth day with Wildlands League. Earlier that morning, I’d flown over stunning lakes and forests in a tiny plane. The view reminded me why I’m here. How often can one look out an airplane window nowadays and not see a single road, house, power plant, power line, or other scar from humanity on a lush landscape? I’ve only seen this in Canada’s north. Everywhere else I’ve travelled in North America, Western Europe, and Australia—barren deserts aside—humans have parceled out all of the land for agriculture, industry, cities, and suburbs, and crisscrossed the rest with roads, leaving nothing unaltered for our fellow species.
Canada’s north has some of the last intact landscapes left on Earth. Yet, that landscape and many of the species in it are already threatened. One of our iconic northern species, the woodland caribou featured on our quarters, is highly sensitive, staying at least 10 kilometres from human disturbances such as roads. They’re also big enough to be counted from the air, making them a great indicator species for hundreds of others, from wolverines to waterfowl.
Canada’s northern Boreal forests and wetlands are also one of the world’s greatest terrestrial carbon storehouses. The boreal peatlands in Ontario cool the planet. I’d mistakenly thought that due to Canada’s small population, our role in fighting global warming was small. Yet what happens in Canada’s north, especially over the next few years as development gets underway, could impact the entire planet. Of course, we still have a responsibility to cut our emissions from all sources, too.
But today’s meeting was strictly about threatened caribou. A representative from a mining company and a representative from a forestry company were going to explore opportunities to restore caribou habitat with us. They had never met before. Wildlands League brought them together. What a day for me!
Everyone was friendly and efficient. Nobody questioned the importance of restoring habitat. We brainstormed on a new method for prioritizing which roads should be decommissioned to restore the largest parcels of forest closest to where caribou had recently been sighted. Everyone spoke freely and the companies agreed to share data and consultants’ reports with each other.
I was amazed. Was I dreaming this after my early flight? I learned that everyone wants to make a difference and we are happy to help. I’m honoured to have joined a great organization that rolls up its sleeves and works productively with mining and forestry companies on real solutions. I look forward to more days like these!
Apparently, when a miner, a forester, and three environmentalists walk into a room, great things can happen.