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Is timber being harvested sustainably?

Forest management in Canada is based on the principles of sustainable forest management, which support the production of ecosystem services while maintaining the health and diversity of forests. In 2018, the harvested area represented 0.2% of the total area of forest land.

The majority of Canadian forests are owned by regional governments

Approximately 90% of Canadian forests are located on provincial or territorial public lands. Those governments are responsible for forest management. Although rules, regulations and policies that guide forest management vary from one province and territory to another, they are all based on the principle of sustainable forest management. For example, sustainable management is at the heart of the Sustainable Forest Development Act of Quebec.

A black spruce seedling planted amongst other plants, including Labrador tea. Photo: Nelson Thiffault
Across Canada, over 440 million seedlings were planted in 2018.

Harvesting rates take into account the growth of the forest

The forest management process involves conducting resource inventories. Data produced through these inventories provide information about the composition of tree species in forests, their age, and their structure, and allow planners to calculate the volume of wood that can be harvested sustainably. High-tech tools, such as satellite remote sensing or airborne laser (LIDAR), now contribute to forest inventories in Canada.

Forest management plans outline management objectives and strategies

Forest management plans describe planned forest activities for specific time periods and areas. For each region, they are prepared by governments, forest companies and other forestry stakeholders, in accordance with the laws, rules and policies of that place. The process of creating management plans takes into account the interests and concerns of First Nations and of organizations and individuals affected by forest management on public lands. Public consultations are part of the planning process.

Regeneration after harvesting is a key element of sustainable forest management

The forestry regimes across Canada require regeneration of forests, either through natural or artificial means. The success of regeneration is assessed by using criteria that describe species composition, density, and stocking of free-to-grow stems after a specified number of years following harvesting.

Natural regeneration is often the most economical method of re-establishing forest tree species after harvesting. However, its success depends on the availability of seeds and propagules on sites and on past disturbances.

Artificial regeneration requires investments in seed collection, seedling production and planting. Nevertheless, it results in productivity gains thanks to tree breeding programs. Planting trees makes it possible to control the composition of regeneration and, therefore, offers an opportunity to adapt Canadian forests in response to global change.

Sources and information

Table of contents — The State of Canada's Forests Report

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