How do forests benefit Canadians?

Canadians benefit economically from a number of forest products in addition to timber. Non-timber forest products include forest-based foods, such as maple syrup, blueberries, mushrooms and game meat, which make a significant economic contribution in many rural communities.

Forests provide a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits to both individual Canadians and the communities in which they live.

Forests provide economic opportunities

The forest industry creates economic benefits through jobs and income across the country. These are especially important in rural and Indigenous communities.

In 2016, the industry accounted for 211,075 direct jobs – for foresters, scientists, engineers, computer technologists, technicians and skilled tradespeople – and an estimated 95,000 indirect jobs in related activities. In rural areas, these jobs are crucial to ensuring the economic sustainability of communities, with the benefits trickling down through entire local economies.

Forests provide ecosystem services and other environmental benefits

Forests provide many essential ecosystem services. They preserve soils, cycle nutrients and support biodiversity. They act as natural cleansers, filtering pollutants from air and water. In cities and other urban areas, tree cover in parks and on boulevards helps to reduce surface and air temperatures and improve air and water quality.

Forests also play a key role in the carbon cycle, the constant movement of carbon from the land and water to the atmosphere and living organisms. By absorbing and storing carbon – such as that emitted by human activities like burning fossil fuels – forests help to maintain the global carbon balance and to moderate the effects of climate change.

Forests provide social and cultural benefits

In addition to providing recreational and ecotourism opportunities, forests have cultural, aesthetic and spiritual importance for people living in both urban and rural areas.

Although their social benefits are hard to measure, forests are deeply valued and enjoyed by the 11 million Canadians living in or near forested areas across the country as well as by those who live in urban areas.

  • Data from Statistics Canada’s new Natural Resources Satellite Account (NRSA) are a key source of information on the economic contribution of the forest sector in Canada and will be included in future releases of The State of Canada’s Forests report. The NRSA, the result of collaboration between Natural Resources Canada and Statistics Canada, is able to capture economic activity in forest industry segments that have traditionally been difficult to measure, such as wood furniture manufacturing. According to data from the NRSA, the forest sector directly accounted for $25.2 billion (or 1.3%) of Canada’s nominal GDP, and directly employed 221,623 people across the country in 2016.
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