Saving the Earth's forests, 25 million acres at a time
Meet Steve Kallick, director of Seattle-based International Boreal Conservation Campaign. Recent coup: Canada agreed to preserve 25 million acres...
MEET Steve Kallick, director of Seattle-based International Boreal Conservation Campaign.
Recent coup: Canada agreed to preserve 25 million acres of boreal forest and wetlands.
"Audacious" goal: 1.5 billion acres of Canadian boreal kept partly wild, partly sustainably developed, despite pressures from uranium, gold and diamond mining and oil and gas booms.
What's boreal? The planet's largest land-based carbon storehouse; Canada's boreal is the world's largest remaining undeveloped forest. Boreal, or great northern forest, circles the northern tier of the globe, from Sweden to North America.
How'd you get into this work?
I was a stringer for my hometown newspaper, and I stumbled on a hazardous-waste-dump story. The editor spiked it in favor of a story on a massage parlor that had just opened up. He said, "Kid, sex sells; nobody wants to read about that damned environmental stuff." I thought, "I'm in the wrong business. I'm going to law school and figure out how to bust people like this."
Is the growing awareness of global warming helping you?
We certainly hope that. The Canadian boreal stores the equivalent to 27 years' worth of the world's carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. If that escapes into the atmosphere, our carbon problem will be much worse.
You've compared it to the Amazon and Siberia.
It's one of the three great wilderness forests left, along with the Amazon and Siberian taiga. I was hired 10 years ago by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Environment Group to do forest conservation. We decided to make the boreal a priority because, of these three, it's the only one in a country with a tradition of conservation, so the most likely to be protected on a scale to preserve the ecosystem and yet allow people to benefit from the natural resources...
Is the boreal too far away for most Americans to connect with?
You can get in your car to northern British Columbia and be there in a day and a half. By the time you get to Prince George, you'd be on the edge of the boreal.
Why a Seattle headquarters? Pew's based in Philly, and there's no boreal here.
There's an enormous, slow, quiet movement of conservation groups to the Northwest. Not just regional but international efforts. It's easier to travel to Asia, the Far North, even South America than from the East Coast, which is so congested ... Plus, funny enough, people really wanted to come to Seattle for meetings.
You've knit together a coalition of some industry and environmental groups, First Nations, birders, scientists. Interesting bedfellows?
We're a little post-boomer in our approach. It's not "spotted owl vs. timber." It's "let's work together, how can you benefit from green credentials and credibility?"
How do you see your relationship to First Nations, which have treaty rights in the boreal?
We work directly with them, which is fairly unusual for environmental groups. We give them money and support. You have to bridge the cultural divide. On both sides.
First Nations tend to think all environmentals are Greenpeace, and against trapping.
You're not against trapping?
I'm a hunter. I have caribou in my freezer right now.
This interview was conducted, condensed and edited by Carey Quan Gelernter, Footprint editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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