I’m standing in a spectacular foyer architecturally designed to fuse sky and trees with space and wood. Here at the Forest Centre in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the indoors feels like the outdoors.
As birds fly by the floor to ceiling windows of the centre’s giant atrium, I hear what I think is a flock of gregarious birds traveling their spring migration route to the north where the wealth of the Boreal Forest will support the habitat and food needs of its resident and returning creatures like it’s done for the past 10,000 years.
The excitement resounding off the timber frames is actually coming from the grade five students whose voices now animate the building as they enter. They are here to see the largest traveling map in the country, perhaps the world. The Royal Canadian Geographic Society, along with the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, are touring the nation with a map of the Boreal Forest and informing the public about the importance of preserving ecological biodiversity while maintaining viable and prosperous industry.
The unlikely partners leading the charge are member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and important non-governmental environmental organizations. They are charting a new course to finding solutions by rethinking historic divisions and merging worlds that are often thought of as not only separate, but in contradiction of one another. While not child’s play – the issues are complex and the challenges significant – they are succeeding. The Pasquia Porcupine Forest License Area is just one example.
Today the children have experienced just how vast and important the Boreal Forest is to them and their communities – for clean water and fresh air, for jobs and the economy. What they don’t yet realize is that a diverse group of caring people have come together to begin thinking and planning for their tomorrow.
Chanda Hunnie is the regional co-ordinator for the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement’s Regional Working Groups in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.