By Derek Nighbor – President and CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada
March 21 is International Day of Forests, as declared by the United Nations. It is a time for us to celebrate our forestry families, forestry communities, and our country’s world-leading approach to how we manage our forests – one of our country’s most important and renewable resources.
By any measure, Canada is a global leader when it comes to managing our forests and the ecosystems, wildlife, and communities that depend on them. Most recently, our approach was validated at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) where the Ministerial ‘Declaration on Forests and Climate’ was tabled recognizing the critical role forests and forest management plays in Canada and around the world in helping us achieve global climate change targets.
Today, we salute Canada’s registered professional foresters who look after the country’s forests. This includes not only planning and implementing harvesting and reforestation activities, but also promoting important forest values such as wildlife, biodiversity, and water protection. The meticulous planning that goes into managing Canada’s forests is one of the reasons we harvest less than 0.5% of our forests annually, we replace what we harvest by planting 1,000 trees every minute, and we do not have problems with deforestation and illegal logging as we see in other countries around the world.
It is through the commitment of our people to healthy forests and forest ecosystems that Canada has retained over 90% of its original forest cover. In fact, the vast majority of forest disturbances in Canada are from fires and pests, not harvesting activities.
Consider that our managed forests are carbon sinks, not sources. Natural Resources Canada’s State of the Forests Report (2018) confirms that the forested area under active management in Canada continues to be a carbon sink of 20 million tonnes. Think about that for a minute. The forests we harvest for wood products that store carbon, are replanted and regrown, and turn into the next generation of carbon storing trees. Younger forests absorb more carbon that older ones do.
We are unfortunately growing accustomed to globally-funded activists trying to undermine the contributions that our sector makes to the environment, the economy, and to the social fabric of our forestry communities. The most recent media campaign had us scratching our heads. It claimed that Canadian forests were being ‘destroyed’ to provide toilet paper to Americans. How absurd. Such false campaigns are not only a direct attack on our forestry workers and their families, but they sadly run contrary to the climate change mitigation goals that we should all be rallying around.
They also overlook the important goal of finding value for all parts of the harvested tree. The large majority of tissue and paper products sourced from Canadian forests are derived from wood chips that are left over from lumber production at Canadian sawmills. Using these residuals allows us to turn what would otherwise be considered waste into products that people need, all while providing an important revenue stream to our sawmills. With the move to reduce plastics in our environment, we are very excited about the potential of wood chips, bark, branches, and sawdust to be used even more.
On behalf of our more than 230,000 forestry professionals and their families, and the over 600 forestry communities they live in from coast to coast, FPAC will continue to champion and defend Canada’s forest sector. Our Made in Canada approach to forest management is one that brings real environmental, social, and economic benefits to our country.
President and CEO’s Note: We can’t think of a day more appropriate than the International Day of Forests to pay tribute to Taymouth, New Brunswick’s Peter deMarsh. Peter was tragically taken from us in that heartbreaking plane crash in Ethiopia. Peter represented the very best of the people in our sector. He was the long-time President of the Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners and was Chair of the International Family Forestry Alliance. He was a titan on the global forestry stage bringing his Canadian forestry and family woodlot experience to forestry families and communities around the world. Peter will be sorely missed. We have been amazed to hear of the tributes to Peter coming in from across the globe. Our love and thoughts to Peter’s wife Jean, his son Luke, his extended family, and his many, many, friends.
Derek Nighbor is the President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada.