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The Rainforest of North America

Referred to as the "rainforest of North America," the boreal forest of North America is the largest remaining intact ecosystem in the world. The boreal forest stores 11% of the world's carbon and provides nesting grounds for 30% of North American song birds and 40% of North American waterfowl.

The boreal forest houses the world's largest populations of caribou, wolves, grizzly bears and lynx along with thousands of other critters.

The North American boreal forest also holds 25 percent of the planet's wetlands and contains almost 200 million acres of unspoiled lakes and rivers. These waterways support many of the world's sea-run migratory fish, including half of the remaining populations of North American Atlantic salmon. The forest's waterways are critical to maintaining Arctic sea ice and steadying our global ecosystem.

According to a recent Pew Charitable Trust report, the forest "provides an estimated $700 billion value annually as a buffer against climate change and food and water shortages-storing more than 400 trillion pounds of carbon in lakes and river delta sediment, peatlands and wetlands-more than any other terrestrial source in the world."

Wilderness in Peril

Currently, North America's boreal forest is being threatened by large scale tar sands development and the American thirst for oil.

Tar sands are one of the most toxic and destructive forms of oil on Earth. For decades the oil industry largely ignored the tar sands, but ever increasing prices of oil have led the industry to undertake a massive extraction project in Alberta Canada, in the heart of the boreal forest.

Today, as a result of tar sands extraction, open pit mines dot the landscape, pipelines crisscross miles of forest, toxic waste ponds leak into the soil, and fish wash up on the shores of the nearby rivers with open sores covering their bodies. If tar sands development proceeds unchecked, an area the size of England will be destroyed.

Take Action

We need your help to protect one of the last untamed wildernesses in the world. Please support the Sierra Club's Tar Sands Initiative and join our efforts to move American beyond oil and onto cleaner alternatives.

  • To learn more about alternatives to oil, read about our Green Transportation Initiative
  • To learn more about the horrors of tar sands development check out our recent publications
  • To learn more about the boreal forest visit these sites:
    • The Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to outreach and education about the importance of the Boreal Forest region to North America's birds, other wildlife, and the global environment.
    • Based in Ottawa, The Canadian Boreal Initiative brings together diverse partners to create new solutions for Boreal Forest conservation and works as a catalyst supporting on-the-ground efforts across the Boreal by governments, industry, First Nations, conservation groups, major retailers, financial institutions and scientists.
    • The Pew Charitable Trusts: A Forest of Blue, Canada's Boreal

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