U.S. Conservationists, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Visit Manitoba's Heart of the Boreal Forest

Kennedy and Natural Resources Defense Council Will Meet With First Nations

WASHINGTON (June 10, 2004) - NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), a U.S.-based environmental organization, today embarked on a tour of Manitoba's boreal forest at the invitation of two Canadian First Nations, Pimicikamak of Cross Lake and Poplar River First Nation. Earlier this year, NRDC named the region, the "Heart of the Boreal," a BioGem -- one of the top 12 most endangered places in the Americas (For more information on NRDC's BioGem campaign, click here.)

"First Nations have been safeguarding these environmentally significant forests for centuries," said NRDC senior attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of the group's delegation. "We need to support their efforts to keep these forests intact."

NRDC and other U.S. and Canadian conservation groups maintain that protecting the boreal forest is critical for North American waterways, migratory birds and other wildlife, and for combating climate change. The region also is vital to the health and livelihood of the many indigenous peoples that call the boreal forest home. Working in cooperation with indigenous communities and other environmental groups, including Manitoba Wildlands, the Boreal Forest Network and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), NRDC has urged the Ontario and Manitoba governments to protect the boreal forest. (Print quality images of the forest are available. For details on the boreal forest, click here.)

"Our actions as U.S. consumers have a major impact on Canada's boreal forest," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of NRDC's campaign to safeguard the region. "We are educating our members and the broader U.S. public about how our demand for electricity and forest products threaten the health of the boreal forest."

One significant threat to the Heart of the Boreal is hydroelectric power. NRDC members and activists have already have sent more than 17,000 letters to Manitoba Hydro, which sells nearly 40 percent of its electricity to U.S. customers, asking it to conduct an environmental assessment of the existing and planned hydropower development before building new dams or transmission lines.

NRDC launched the BioGems initiative in 2001 to empower citizens in North, South and Central America to save some of the Western Hemisphere's critical natural areas. Since then, NRDC's 1 million members and internet activists have generated more than 3 million messages of protest to corporations and governments. Other new BioGems for 2004 include Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau and Alaska's Western Arctic Reserve. Other continuing BioGems include Castle and Bighorn Wildlands in Alberta, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, Utah's redrock canyons, the Yellowstone-Greater Rockies region, Florida's Everglades, Belize's Macal River Valley, Peru's Tahuamanú Rainforest, and Chile's Olivillo Coastal Forest (click here for details.)