On June 25, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) promoted letters that unfortunately misrepresented reality when it comes to forest management in Canada. Such misinformation undermines positive community collaborations on the ground and ignores important work happening in Canada’s forests every day.
Only about 10% of the world’s forests are independently audited and certified. This third party certification work is done to ensure forest management is carried out legally and in an ethical and sustainable way. Canada is heads and shoulders above all others being home to 40% of the world’s certified forests. That makes us a global leader in sustainable forest management. We take real pride in being important stewards of this shared resource that brings so many benefits to Canadians.
Canada has a working forest – a forest that provides significant environmental benefits, recreational opportunities, and economic opportunities for Canadians, especially those families who live, work, and play in rural and northern Canada.
Our rigorous provincial and federal legal frameworks, the 100+ year horizons for which we manage forests, and the informed consultation and engagement with Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and other rights holders and stakeholders as part of forest management planning is a cornerstone of how we do business in Canada.
In a dynamic and changing climate, forest management is becoming more complex. Pest outbreaks are worsening, fire seasons are getting longer and are becoming more devastating, and tree species behaviours, animal nutrition landscapes, predator/prey relationships, and diseases and pathogens are all changing in the forest.
In the global economy, our customers demand sustainably sourced materials and need assurance that we are using active forest management as a way to support all species in Canada’s forests, protect watersheds, preserve wetlands, manage pest outbreaks, and keep communities safe from fire. All this while providing family-supporting jobs to hundreds of thousands of Canadians and encouraging investments in innovation. Canada will continue to uphold its long-standing and world-leading reputation as a leading forest management jurisdiction.
Here are 7 key facts you should know about forestry in Canada today:
- Canadian forestry is sustainable forestry.
- We harvest less than 0.5% of Canada’s forests every year. Every tree that is harvested is replaced. That’s the law in Canada and that’s why we’ll enjoy our forests forever.
- An international report released last year by NEPCon, an international not-for-profit sustainability organization, found that “Canada has a robust system of procedures to ensure its forests are governed in the public interest. Several reports and studies have confirmed that Canada’s forest management policies and practices are among the most stringent in the world.”
2. Climate Change is Changing Canada’s Forests
- What should be of interest and concern to everyone is that we are losing roughly 20 times the amount of the trees we harvest every year to fire and pest outbreaks, which is worsening with our warming climate. In this changing environment, forestry professionals are committed to working with governments, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and scientists to ensure we can better manage these risks to our forests and forest communities in the years to come.
- The map below recently published by Natural Resources Canada clearly demonstrates this call to action. It shows, all things being equal, how natural disturbances are projected to worsen over time across Canada, significantly impacting Canada’s boreal forest.
3. Canadian Forest Management is Key to Fighting Climate Change
- Canada’s forest products sector was the first sector in Canada to make industry-wide commitments to support Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Catherine McKenna and the federal government in reaching its national climate change goals. We are poised to help the Canadian government deliver on 13% of its overall goal under the Paris Agreement through more efficient forest management practices, further innovation at our mill operations, and through the carbon-storing wood products we sell (many of which can be an alternative to more fossil fuel intensive ones).
- In a natural disturbance driven system, such as Canada’s boreal forest, we know that as trees reach a mature age they either burn, rot, or are attacked by pests at which time they turn into carbon and methane emitters. How active forest management can help fight climate change is by sustainably harvesting those trees before they turn into carbon emitters, lock the carbon into a long-lived wood product, and replant or regenerate so a younger tree can restart that carbon absorption cycle. In an actively managed forest, that cycle is encouraged to repeat.
4. Canadian Forestry is on the Front Line Supporting Reconciliation with our Indigenous Peoples
- In Canada, we are on an important path of reconciliation with our Indigenous Peoples. It’s a track that Canada’s forest products sector has been actively on for years.
- Canada’s forest sector is the largest employer of Indigenous Peoples in the country and we work with over 1,400 Indigenous-owned businesses from east to west. In many communities, our environmental, social, and economic successes are inter-twined.
- We will always support informed and meaningful consultation with Indigenous communities across Canada when it comes to forest management.
5. Managing for Multiple Species is Critical
- In the boreal forest alone, our foresters, biologists, and ecologists are managing for over 500 mammals, birds, and fish, not to mention over 1,000 plants and invertebrates. This is comprehensive and important work that helps to maintain the integrity and health of functioning ecosystems.
- One of the main concerns we have expressed to governments with the current federal approach to species recovery is the default to individual species – one species at a time – with no consideration for the impacts of actions on other species. We all know that natural systems are interconnected and that species do not function in isolation of each other. This is further complicated by the existing provincial regulatory context that utilizes a landscape scale management regime. This disconnect is creating significant challenges for our foresters and biologists who are working on a dynamic landscape with multiple species and values to consider. For example, caribou and wolverine tend to prefer more mature conifer stands, while moose, grizzly bears and whip-poor-will tend to prefer younger, more open, and mixed-age forests. The forest sector works to emulate natural disturbance patterns and submits harvesting plans to our provincial governments for approval that balance the needs of multiple species and values.
6. Canadian Forestry is Committed to Supporting Caribou Recovery
- Across the country, Canadian forest products companies have been actively working on a multi-decade lichen enhancement project, caribou telemetry monitoring, adapted forestry practices to support caribou, protection of calving areas and corridors, and continually building a better understanding of why caribou use habitat so we can identify the best areas to restore and conserve over time. Some of these projects and research partnerships were acknowledged in the federal government’s Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population in Canada for the Period 2012 to 2017, and some were described in a recent blog post by fRI Research at: https://www.fpac.ca/partnering-for-caribou-conservation/.
- With the support of experts from across the country, FPAC is at the table as part of the Environment and Climate Change Canada-led National Boreal Caribou Knowledge Consortium (NBCKC) to “share lessons learned, pool capacity and capability to collaboratively address key knowledge gaps to inform conservation and recovery of caribou in Canada.” Through this work we will be able to contribute lessons-learned based on years of on-the-ground applied caribou conservation, support capacity and address knowledge gaps.
7. Supporting Smart Conservation and Biodiversity is Critical
- Canada’s forest sector makes significant contributions to conservation through the development of regional land use plans and through voluntary identification of areas as protected or conserved. This includes protected areas such as Wabakimi Park in Ontario, and the recent Dillon River Wildlands Park in Alberta. Since the early 1980s, in Ontario alone, we have supported conservation of over 1.5 million acres of land in the north and over 70% of caribou habitat is above the area where there is active forest management.
- In addition to protected areas, Canada’s forest sector is contributing to biodiversity conservation within the working landscape. Forest companies conduct careful monitoring of species abundance and ecosystem indicators through regulation and forest certification to maintain biodiversity within actively managed forests. FPAC is a member of Canada’s Pathway to Target 1 initiative, and the recent National Advisory Panel report recognizes that well managed forests can be recognized in contributing to Canada’s biodiversity and Protected and Conserved area targets.
 Environment and Climate Change Canada. 2018. Action Plan for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada – Federal Actions.
Our sector looks forward to continuing our work with Indigenous communities, all levels of government, academics, local rights holders and stakeholders, our employees, partners and customers, as well as conservation groups to support caribou recovery in Canada.
Canada’s forest products sector is rich with knowledgeable professionals who chose their careers because they care deeply for the environment, the future of their communities, and the families who rely on our sector for employment.
We remain committed to helping the federal government achieve its many objectives from GHG emission reductions to biodiversity conservation to wildlife species recovery, while supporting reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and providing good family-supporting jobs to Canadians.