Is timber being harvested sustainably?

Canada’s sustainable forest management regime ensures that our forests remain healthy and continue to provide a steady stream of benefits for Canadians. With strong laws, oversight and management, timber harvesting in Canada is sustainable.

Most of Canada’s forests are publicly owned

About 90% of Canada’s forests, by area, are located on provincial and territorial Crown lands. Forest management on these lands falls under the purview of provincial and territorial governments.

Pie chart displaying the percentage forest ownership in Canada by: Provincial governments (77%); Territorial governments (13%); Privately owned (6%); Indigenously owned (2%); Federal government (2%) and Other (1%).

In 2015, about 161 million cubic metres (m3) of industrial roundwood were harvested in Canada. This is equal to approximately 0.3% (47 billion m3) of Canada’s total standing wood volume.

British Columbia accounted for nearly half (42%) of Canada’s industrial roundwood harvest, followed by Alberta and Quebec.

Forest management planning is a key sustainability tool

Forest management planning is one of the primary tools used to ensure that Canada’s publicly owned forests remain socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Forestry companies operating on Crown lands must, by law, draw up a forest management plan in consultation with the public and have it approved by a provincial or territorial government before any harvesting can begin on Crown land. Forest management plans outline access plans, harvesting, regeneration and other standards that must be followed. Forestry practices are subject to ongoing monitoring to ensure the plans are followed.

Provinces and territories regulate harvest levels in forest management plans

To ensure forest sustainability over the long term, provincial and territorial governments regulate harvest levels through forest management plans. This is done by specifying an allowable annual cut (AAC): the annual level of harvest allowed on a particular area of Crown land over a set number of years (5 to 10 years in most cases).

Regeneration is required after harvesting

All Crown lands that are harvested for commercial timber must be regenerated naturally, by planting and seeding, or by using a combination of these methods. Each province and territory has its own regeneration standards and regulations, addressing such factors as species composition, density and stocking levels. These standards are also addressed in forest management plans.

Natural regeneration offers many benefits. For example, it needs little human assistance, and it generally costs less to do than artificial regeneration (through planting and/or seeding). But the latter may be needed to accelerate the regeneration process and ensure that government regeneration standards are met.

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