PARKS:

Canada to protect sprawling boreal area in Labrador

NEW YORK -- Canada will establish North America's newest national park in an isolated corner of Labrador, the government announced Friday.

At a press conference in the mining community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Canada's environment minister and top officials from the federal government and province of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the planned Mealy Mountains National Park.

The areas includes boreal forest, bogs and tundra and is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bear, moose, red fox and an endangered herd of caribou.

The park will be bigger than Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined, with about 3,800 square miles -- 2.65 million acres -- of land set aside.

"It is fitting that we are working to establish a national park reserve to protect this spectacular boreal landscape for all time, for all Canadians," the Canadian environment minister, Jim Prentice, told reporters. Newfoundland and Labrador's government also says it will establish a new provincial park adjacent to Mealy Mountains to protect an important waterway there.

Both governments also promised to consult closely with aboriginal communities as they move to establish the parks.

Green groups in Canada and the United States hailed the decision.

"This is an outstanding boreal landscape with a rich and diverse ecological and cultural history," said Larry Innes, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Boreal Initiative. "We are very pleased to recognize the achievement of the governments."

Officials at the Pew Environment Group's International Boreal Conservation Campaign said Canada's new Mealy Mountains National Park will be roughly the size of New York's Adirondacks and twice the size of the Everglades. Conserving the Mealy Mountains is important for preserving some of the world's oldest slow-growing boreal forest, the group said.

"This is a great leap forward in efforts to complete the Canadian National Park system," Pew's Steve Kallick said in a release. "Prime Minister Harper's leadership has been critical to the protection of Canada's boreal forest -- considered by scientists to be a top global conservation priority."

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