The Boreal region of Canada stretches across more than a billion acres, and is one of the largest intact forest ecosystems on Earth.

“There’s not many places like this left,” says Chris Smith, wildlife biologist. “It’s pretty amazing!”

With more than 35 years of experience, Smith heads Ducks Unlimited, Canada’s Boreal conservation program. He manages the non-profit group’s science-based efforts to protect forest and wetlands in the region.

“Many people think of the Boreal forest as sort of just being Evergreen trees.” Says Chris. “The reality is that about 40 percent of Manitoba’s Boreal forest is made up of water and wetlands.”

Chris and his wife Connie live in Cranberry Portage in northern Manitoba.

“One of the things that I really appreciate about living in the Boreal and living where we are is the fact that it is quiet. You hear every footstep when you’re walking through the forest. Having a peaceful place that’s relatively untouched is very important to us.”

He considers his role here as “Having a huge responsibility, globally, to ensure that these wetlands remain intact and functioning. They filter and purify our water, they function almost like a sponge. So, they’re great for moderating floods. They create a lot of habitat for wildlife.”

Chris continually observes these wetland systems. “Wetlands store more carbon than the terrestrial environments. When you look at the size of the Boreal forest in North America, it’s regulating our global climate.”

Chris is a strong believer in conservation and is inspired by how the natural systems connect in the Boreal.

“We have to have a sustainable, sustainably developed economy. If people are willing to work together, wonderful things can happen.”