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Is timber being harvested sustainably?

Forests all over the country are harvested sustainably. Across Canada, all forests harvested on public lands must be regenerated – it’s the law. This ensures that our forests remain healthy and that the forest sector is able to continue providing Canadians with benefits.

This law is the reason that a disproportionally high percentage of the world’s certified sustainably managed forests are in Canada. Indeed, although Canada is home to 9% of the world’s forest, it is also home to 36% of the world’s certified sustainably managed forests.

Ensuring sustainability over the long term

Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for forest management because the vast majority (about 90%) of Canada’s forests are located on provincial and territorial Crown lands. The individual government determines the annual level of harvest allowed on a particular area of Crown land, called allowable annual cut (AAC).

Because Crown lands harvested for commercial timber must be regenerated, either naturally or by planting and/or seeding, each province and territory has implemented regeneration standards and regulations. The standards address various aspects, including species composition, density and stocking levels.

Only a very small portion of Canada’s forest is harvested each year. Of Canada’s 45 billion cubic metres (m3) of standing wood volume, about 0.3% (155.2 million m3) was harvested in 2017.

In 2017, British Columbia accounted for nearly half (41.5%) of Canada’s industrial roundwood harvest, followed by Quebec and Alberta.

Graphic showing 599 million seedlings were planted on 410,000 hectares of Crown and private forest lands in 2017.

Science to support forests during climate change

With climate change-related disturbances occurring at a faster pace than before, Canada’s forests could be significantly altered. For instance, increased occurrence of pest infestations and wildfires are damaging large quantities of trees. To ensure long-term sustainability for our forests, scientists across the country are working together to understand the impacts of climate change to continue to support healthy and resilient forests. Scientists are developing new tools to detect pests and diseases, as well as new forest management methods.

Ensuring benefits for all Canadians

Sustainable forests benefit all Canadians – from dependable livelihoods to clean air and water. These are the reasons that all orders of governments in Canada recognize the importance of keeping forests healthy and that everything is in place to make sure that harvested forests grow back, whether through natural or artificial regeneration. The regeneration guarantees that Canada’s forests continue to produce wood fibre for commercial use, offer recreational opportunities, and provide ecosystem services, such as storing carbon, regulating water quality and quantity, and creating wildlife habitat.

Sources and information

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

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