Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, Canada’s forest products industry has been hard at work delivering urgently needed, critical products that are helping Canadians and Americans weather this unprecedented crisis. Our industry is a vital part of supply chains that produce a range of in-demand goods like masks and gowns for the health care sector; packaging for food, pharmaceuticals, and online purchases; and hygiene products like tissue and toilet paper. Because of its important role, the Government of Canada designated the forest sector an essential service, to prevent shortages of key items we need and use every day.
Despite the value placed on our products, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a U.S.-based lobby group, has chosen this time to release a report critical of Canada’s forest sector. Regrettably, this report misrepresents our industry and makes numerous false claims and accusations. It states, for example, that toilet paper production is putting the boreal forests at risk. In reality, forest products from Canada’s boreal region can be counted among the most responsibly made in the world.
The NRDC ignores some basic facts. For one thing, most fibre in toilet paper is made from waste materials – the byproducts of making lumber for home-building and other uses. For another, in Canada, sustainable forest management is the law. And it’s easily enforceable, because most timber is harvested on publicly-owned, government-controlled land, subject to a strict regulatory environment. Forest companies operating in Canada’s publicly held forests are required to harvest at sustainable rates – this means they harvest less than 0.5% of available timber per year. To put that into perspective, we lose 25 times more trees annually to natural causes like drought, pests and wildfires than we do to harvesting. It also means companies are required, again by law, to restore harvested areas, planting about 500 million seedlings every year and monitoring these areas to ensure establishment of healthy forests.
Through planning cycles that extend over 150 years, Canada’s forest sector must keep our forests as forests forever – all while managing for biodiversity, providing family-supporting jobs, and delivering essential, high-quality products that are in demand in Canada, the United States, and around the world. FPAC member companies must have third-party sustainable forest management certification – further proof of their commitment to the environmental, social, and economic pillars of sustainability.
FPAC has reached out to NRDC on several occasions, to try to correct erroneous assumptions and misinformation and to engage in constructive dialogue. So far, the NRDC has not responded, but our invitation stands. We welcome opportunities to discuss how, every day, our companies and people are striving to do better – investing in research to protect species at risk, launching bio-energy projects that significantly cut carbon emissions, building more with carbon-storing Canadian wood, and developing innovative and environmentally friendlier paper-based and bio-products. History has shown us that we can do better by working together.