From the letter:
Globally boreal forests are a key carbon pool that has been largely overlooked in the climate change policy debate to date. In fact, boreal forest holds more carbon per acre than any other land-based ecosystem, perhaps two or three times as much carbon as in the tropics. The boreal region is also home to some of the world’s last intact forests, abundant populations of large mammals and birds and home to hundreds of indigenous communities. When boreal soils and peatlands are disturbed by development, major carbon reserves are released.
These facts make it imperative that the world’s policy makers and public now
make a concerted effort to ensure that both the boreal forest and its vast stores of carbon remain intact. To achieve this will require both drastic cuts in industrial emissions and importantly, a vast increase in the areas protected for their carbon values and left undisturbed from industrial development.
Boreal forests are largely going unnoticed in the talks so far at Copenhagen. Because of this, the scientists who signed the letter ask that federal leaders make domestic efforts to protect boreal forests as a part of their larger emissions reduction strategies. They point out that slowing deforestation isn't just an issue for the tropics. Here's part of what they wrote:
Globally, land-use change has accounted for nearly 20% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Because of these emissions, there has been a recent push to find financial incentives and policy instruments that will encourage developing tropical nations to slow deforestation and retain natural forests through environmental service payment schemes and increased protection efforts. This initiative is critical to helping to slow climate change impacts and to protect the incredible species richness and indigenous cultures of these tropical regions and we encourage you to do your part to ensure that this continues. We also urge you to broaden this approach by including the world’s carbon-rich northern boreal forests as a focus for future carbon protection policy solutions.
Read the whole letter here (warning, it's a pdf) or read a more in-depth article in this week's Boston Globe.