Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Labrador Eco Map a Blueprint to Guide Conservationists and Developers

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Labrador Eco Map a Blueprint to Guide Conservationists and Developers

Article excerpt

Labrador map charts pristine wilderness

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Labrador sweeps across nearly 300,000 square kilometres, including one of the world's largest intact boreal forests and some of Canada's most pristine wilderness.

Its massive tracts of unspoiled landscape are home to the grey wolf, migrating caribou herds and a vast array of fish, plant, bird and rare species.

As mining developments expand and commercial interests eye the Big Land, researchers are for the first time drafting a comprehensive eco map or blueprint for Labrador that could guide future money-making and conservation efforts.

The three-year project wrapping up later this year is led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The private non-profit group has partnered with individuals, corporations, governments and other non-profit organizations to conserve more than one million hectares of "ecologically significant" land since 1962, according to its website.

Labrador is more than significant, says NCC conservation planner Lindsay Notzl. She has made 10 trips exploring its woodlands and tundra, wetlands and rivers for the unique mapping project.

"Labrador is a very special place," she said in an interview. "Coming from Toronto, where our conservation opportunities are so slim, it takes your breath away to be able to fly in a helicopter over vast tracts of forest where there's absolutely no human disturbance.

"It's magical."

The project is using cutting-edge Geographic Information Systems, computer-based tools that store data on everything from water fowl to sandy beaches. Notzl hopes that technology will help create a final product by early next year that's an interactive document on Labrador ecology.

"If it's ecologically relevant, we've mapped it," she said. "One of the most useful products I think will be the human footprint index where people can actually start to look at what the picture looks like now and then potentially use that information to forecast into the future.

"What we're producing is not a silver bullet map -- you know, these are the areas of high conservation value that are no-go zones. We're looking at what are the different options for conservation and development, given the variety of goals. …

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