get to know canada's forest sector

What exactly is “sustainable" forestry?

Sustainable forestry is more than just harvesting at sustainable rates. The Montreal Process Working Group — formed in 1994 to develop and implement internationally agreed-upon criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests — defines the term as “a dynamic and evolving concept, intended to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations".[33]

Put plainly: It’s ensuring we have a long-term plan to keep our forests healthy while recognizing and realizing the economic and environmental value of the world’s most renewable resource. And Canada is a leader in doing both.[7]

Since 1990, less than 0.5% of Canada’s forests have been lost to deforestation, and we harvest less than 1% of forests designated for harvesting per year while replanting between 400 and 600 million seedlings annually, all while promoting the wildlife habitats, biodiversity and water protection that will help keep our forests as forests forever.[5][6][8] These practices not only help our forests retain their carbon-capture potential but, in providing environmentally friendly alternatives to the products and resources Canadians use every day, sustainably-sourced wood products have the potential to address one of the most significant social and economic challenges of our time: climate change.[18]

How does Canada’s forest sector compare to other countries in terms of sustainable practices?

Canada is a leader in sustainable forest management. Not only do we have some of the strictest federal and provincial regulations, but Canada leads the world in forest certification, managing 36% of the world’s certified forests, more than twice the area certified in any other country.[2][3][4] These voluntary standards include commitments to reforestation, promoting wildlife habitats, biodiversity and water protection, and add a layer of validation so Canadians know that we’re doing our part to keep our forests as forests forever.[7]

How does sustainable forest management help fight climate change?

Everyone knows that as a forest grows trees absorb and store carbon. But As trees age they become susceptible to natural disturbances such as fire, pest outbreaks and disease that can release CO2 and other GHGs back into the atmosphere. Though these disturbances are normal in the forest, they are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of climate change, turning our forests from climate change assets into liabilities.[10][11]

That’s where our sector comes in. When we manage our forests through carefully planned harvesting and replanting, we remove the decay and debris that can accelerate these natural disturbances and strengthen our forests capacity to store carbon for another generation.[29] What’s more, because carbon stays locked in wood products long after trees leave the forest, sustainably-sourced wood products can create the renewable biofuels, fibres and sustainably-sourced everyday products we need to reduce our carbon footprint and power our country towards a cleaner, greener economy.[18]

How do wood products help in our fight against climate change?

As carbon captured over a tree’s lifetime stays locked inside the wood, sustainably-harvested wood products continue to represent a carbon storing solution long after they leave the forest and can provide more environmentally-friendly alternatives to materials and products with a heavier carbon footprint.[26][27]

Innovation in our sector also has the potential to help; as climate change and global warming become more urgent, Canada’s forest sector is exploring new ways to solve the challenge of delivering sustainable energy by converting wood waste into the bioenergy that can help reduce our country’s reliance on fossil fuels.[18]

That sounds like a “zero-waste” approach. Is Canadian forestry a zero-waste sector?

We aim to be—and as a sector that generates some $73 billion annually, represents 11% of our country’s GDP from manufacturing, and employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians, that’s no small feat. By exploring new uses for every part of a harvested tree, Canada’s forest sector could help address some of our most pressing climate change challenges.[25]

So you support the development of a “green economy”?

Yes. But part of growing a green economy is developing a more inclusive economy, one that values sustainability alongside diversity and opportunity.

With nearly one third of the forest sector’s workforce retiring within 10 years, our sector is investing in the next generation of Canadians who will help shape a greener future. Through programs like #TakeYourPlace, Women in Wood, the Greenest Workforce, Free To Grow in Forestry, Outland Youth Education Program and Project Learning Tree, we are working to build a more inclusive sector, one that supports the growth of women, Indigenous Peoples, new Canadians, and youth as innovators in a sector that has a key role to play in realizing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — including providing clean water, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.[24]

Let’s go back to sustainable harvesting and regeneration. What is Canada’s forest sector doing to “keep our forests as forests forever”?

Understanding the future impacts of climate on our forests and planting the right trees in the right places to reflect co-benefits of climate mitigation and increased resiliency is incredibly important. [35] Canada’s Two Billion Trees initiative is an example of continuous improvement in the selection of areas that would benefit the most from an incremental tree planting program. We are partnering with federal and provincial/territorial governments, Indigenous Peoples, forestry companies, and established silvicultural companies to help determine the most effective ways to deliver this program.

You mentioned sustainable forestry provides “nature-based solutions” to climate change. What does that mean?

Building tall with wood is a perfect example. As a natural, sustainably-sourced, and renewable building material — one that not only stores carbon but can reduce pollution during construction and requires less energy to heat and cool long-term — mass-timber construction can help us build more sustainable communities, creating the kind of carbon storage we need in the communities where we live while addressing issues like housing supply in urban centres.[16][17]

How is the Canadian forestry sector working in partnership with Indigenous individuals and communities?

It is widely recognized that Indigenous Peoples have an integral role in furthering the objectives of sustainable forest management through the application of Indigenous knowledge and an intrinsic awareness of community values on the land base. Not surprisingly, Canada’s forests have played a central role in meeting the cultural, spiritual and material needs of this community.

Recent decades have seen a steadily expanding role for Indigenous peoples in the management of Canada’s forests through a wide variety of approaches. Notably, in recent years, Canada has seen an increase in the forest land and resources under Indigenous management, both in terms of fibre volume allocations and area-based tenures.

We are working to facilitate greater Indigenous participation in a thriving Canadian forest sector as it brings significant opportunities to existing and emerging Indigenous-owned businesses and initiatives. Today, there are over 1,400 Indigenous-owned businesses that typically employ between 10 and 30 people, many generating revenues of more than $1M a year. And with more than 11,600 Indigenous Peoples working in the sector, we are one of the largest employers of Indigenous Peoples in the country, supporting jobs in more than 400 Indigenous communities.

The growing need for diversity of skills in the forest sector requires creation and delivery of training and education opportunities like the Outland Youth Education Program that will enable Indigenous people – particularly youth – to consider and pursue forestry-related careers.

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