A letter signed by more than 100 scientists is urging the Canadian government to take action to stop the degradation of its previously undisturbed forests from large-scale industrial logging.

The letter, signed by several prominent Canadian and American climate and forest scientists, also calls on the government to help, rather than obstruct, global policies intended to curb industrial expansion into old-growth and primary forests.

It comes as Canada moves to draft its own definition of forest degradation after the European Union passed a law earlier this year intended to limit the availability of products that contribute to deforestation and degradation.

Environmental groups have called out Canada's efforts to lobby the EU to drop references to forest degradation from the law.

While Canada has often boasted about its low rate of deforestation – when forest land is converted for another use – the letter places attention on the degradation associated with logging old-growth and primary forests previously undisturbed by large-scale industrial activity.

The letter, penned by the chief scientist for the California-based conservation group Wild Heritage, says although forest degradation does not have a formally agreed upon definition, it's widely understood to refer to effects on forest ecosystems that might not amount to full-fledged land-use change but that have negative impacts on things such as native species, ecosystem quality and its carbon stores.

"We urge Canada to now recognize and address forest degradation domestically, properly defined according to ecological, rather than economic, indicators and to support, rather than hinder, global policymaking that advances efforts to halt and reverse forest degradation," said the letter, penned by Dominick DellaSala.

Canada is a signatory to the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use that commits to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030.

The letter says Canada's identification of forest degradation should use "ecological indicators," such as biodiversity declines, rather than economic ones.

Scientists call on #Canada to adopt ecologically minded forest degradation definition. #Deforestation #ForestDegradation #OldGrowth

The letter says degradation, "properly construed," would include industrial impacts on primary and old-growth forests, and the conversion of naturally regenerating forest to planted forests or plantations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2023.

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