Is timber being harvested sustainably?

Canada’s sustainable forest management regime ensures that our forests remain healthy and that the forest industry continues to provide Canadians with a steady stream of benefits.

From Powell River, British Columbia, to Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, all levels of government in Canada recognize the importance of keeping forests healthy so they continue to contribute to Canadians’ well-being and wealth. For example, the governments of British Columbia and Canada, through the Low Carbon Economy Fund, co-funded BC’s Forest Carbon Initiative, which is working to restore forests impacted by the mountain pine beetle infestation and wildfires. The initiative aims to enhance the carbon storage potential of BC’s public forests through a range of activities, including rehabilitation, fertilization, increased planting density and improved utilization.

Timber harvesting is sustainable in Canada thanks to strong laws, oversight and management, and the requirement that all harvested public lands be regenerated.

Most of Canada’s forests are publicly owned

Graphic depicting a seedling next to a mature tree indicating that by law, all forests harvested on public lands must be regenerated.

About 90% of Canada’s forests are located on provincial and territorial Crown lands. The provincial and territorial governments are therefore responsible for forest management. They specify an allowable annual cut, which includes both the annual level of harvest allowed on a particular area of Crown land and the minimum forest age at the time of harvest. Regulating harvest levels in this way helps to ensure sustainability over the long term.

Harvesting is not deforestation

Whether through natural or artificial regeneration, harvested forests grow back. Regeneration ensures that Canada’s forests continue to produce wood fibre for commercial uses, offer recreational opportunities and provide ecosystem services, such as storing carbon, regulating water quality and quantity, and creating wildlife habitat.

Regeneration is required after harvesting

All provincial and territorial lands that are harvested for commercial timber must be regenerated either naturally or by planting and seeding, or by a combination of these methods. Each province and territory has its own regeneration standards and regulations, addressing such areas as species composition, density and stocking levels, and distribution of various forest types across the landscape.

The benefits of natural regeneration include the need for minimal human assistance and generally lower costs than for artificial regeneration. But planting and seeding provide more control over what grows, so they are often used to ensure that provincial and territorial regeneration standards and forest management objectives are met. More than half of Canada’s harvested areas are regenerated through planting and seeding activities.

In 2016, about 155 million cubic metres (m3) of industrial roundwood – or approximately 0.3% of Canada’s total standing wood volume (47 billion m3) – were harvested in Canada.

British Columbia accounted for nearly half (43%) of Canada’s industrial roundwood harvest on provincial crown land (by volume), followed by Quebec and Alberta.

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