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U.S. conservation win – in Canada

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There are herds of caribou, healthy populations of bears and wolves, and some of the world's last wild undammed rivers and pristine lakes. Many of the birds either winter in the US or pass through during their spring and fall migrations.

Millions of dark-eyed juncos, white-throated sparrows and Swainson's thrushes are among the songbirds that raise their young in this now-protected region and that will soon be arriving in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Hunters have reason to be happy, too, since those forests also sustain huge numbers of waterfowl like American black ducks, common goldeneyes and buffleheads that grace US waters in the winter.

Placing half of Ontario's boreal forest off limits to development and industrial use helps to ensure that the carbon currently stored there stays put. And it protects the habitat of the abundant wildlife of the boreal forest. Moreover, by protecting large, unfragmented blocks of habitat, McGuinty may help to ensure the survival of still other species that are forced to move north to adapt to our warming planet.

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.

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.

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