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Is timber being harvested sustainably?

Sustainable forest management aims to balance society’s need for forest ecosystem services with the need to conserve forest biodiversity and protect forest health. Its principles dictate forest management practices in Canada. About 90% of Canada’s forests are located on provincial or territorial public lands. Those governments are responsible for forest management and have varied regulations and policies. Principles of sustainable forest management apply in all cases.

Key sustainability indicators

Explore the report to find information on the key sustainability indicators:

  • Forest area harvested: Annual trends in forest area harvested on private and Crown land. This indicator is important for understanding the level of industrial activity in Canada’s forests and for assessing long-term sustainability of forests and the forest sector.
  • Forest regeneration: Measure of area seeded, area planted and number of seedlings planted on provincial and territorial Crown land. Monitoring regeneration activities ensures harvested areas regrow as forests and continue to produce timber and maintain ecosystem services.
  • Volume harvested relative to the sustainable wood supply: Information on the annual harvest compared to the supply that is deemed sustainable for harvest. This indicator is important to ensure the volume of industrial roundwood harvested each year falls within sustainable levels.
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Forest area harvested

Forest area harvested on private and Crown land in Canada, 2009–2019

Graph summary

In Canada, the proportion of forest area harvested on Crown lands compared to private lands remained stabled from 2009 to 2019. About 90% of the forest area harvested was from Crown land, while the remaining 10% came from private land. The total area harvested has ranged from a low of about 640,000 hectares (ha) in 2009 to just over 815,000 ha harvested in 2015. In 2019, an estimated 757,000 ha of forest were harvested, which is a 6.6% increase from 2018 levels when 710,000 ha were harvested. This increase is still well below the average area harvested each year during the peak period of 1995 to 2005 (1 million ha).

Graph data

Table showing the area harvested on private and Crown lands, in hectares, for each year from 2009 to 2019.

Year Provincial and territorial Crown land Private land
2009 565,668 75,706
2010 649,314 76,067
2011 647,082 61,337
2012 679,446 59,517
2013 701,957 73,184
2014 675,913 73,693
2015 739,623 75,722
2016 707,013 75,551
2017 716,305 60,809
2018 647,516 62,190
2019 667,658 89,217

Forest regeneration

Area artifically regenerated and number of seedlings planted on provincial and territorial Crown lands in Canada, 2009–2019

Graph summary

Between 2009 and 2012, the average number of seedlings planted per year in Canada was about 505 million. From 2012 to 2016, the number of seedlings planted increased to almost 600 million. Then for the last three years, the number of seedlings planted decreased, to 547 million in 2019.

For each year between 2009 and 2019, about 95% of the total area artifically regenerated was renewed by planting, of which about 5% was renewed by seeding. Between 2009 and 2012, the area artificially regenerated averaged about 370,000 hectares (ha). Between 2013 and 2017, the area artificially regenerated was between 413,000 ha and 432,000 ha per year. In 2018 and 2019, 394,000 ha and 405,000 ha, respectively, were artificially regenerated, down from 420,000 ha in 2017.

Graph data

Table showing the area artificially regenerated in hectares and the number of seedlings planted on provincial and territorial Crown lands in Canada from 2009 to 2019.

Year Area planted Area seeded Number of seedlings
2009 376,132 15,938 537,238,824
2010 348,154 12,063 487,360,562
2011 359,175 11,202 508,301,732
2012 348,973 10,541 487,373,190
2013 420,167 11,638 553,958,916
2014 412,939 17,268 549,768,344
2015 393,317 19,743 572,589,822
2016 395,677 25,960 599,964,720
2017 402,520 17,292 579,527,769
2018 388,000 6,201 549,676,409
2019 397,244 8,620 547,169,531

Volume harvested relative to the sustainable wood supply

Annual harvest versus supply deemed sustainable for harvest, 1990–2019

Graph summary

The total wood supply deemed sustainable for harvest has decreased slowly from 248 million cubic metres (m3) in 1990 to 218 million m3 in 2019. The total area harvested was highest in 2004, at 208 million m3; however, it declined steeply between 2004 and 2009, to a low of 116 million m3 in 2009. From 2009 onward, the total harvest gradually increased to 155 million m3 in 2018 but decreased to 140 million m3 in 2019.

The softwood supply deemed sustainable for harvest was 180 million m3 in 1990. It was highest in 2007, at 190 million m3. Since then, supply has decreased to 159 million m3 in 2019. Between 1990 and 2003, softwood harvest ranged between 139 million m3 and 163 million m3. In 2004, the softwood harvest peaked at 168 million m3 and then steeply decreased to a low of 94 million m3 in 2009. Between 2009 and 2018, the volume harvested gradually increased to 128 million m3 but declined again in 2019 to 114 million m3.

The hardwood supply deemed sustainable for harvest has been stable at about 60 million m3 since 1990. Hardwood harvest was lowest in 1990 at 15 million m3 and highest in 2004 at 40 million m3. In 2019, almost 26 million m3 of hardwood was harvested.

Graph data

Table showing the annual volume of softwood and hardwood harvested, the total harvest, and the supply deemed sustainable for harvest (for all land types: provincial, territorial, federal and private), in millions of cubic metres, for each year, from 1990 to 2019.

Year Total wood supply Total harvest Softwood supply Softwood harvest Hardwood supply Hardwood harvest
1990 247.6 156.4 180.2 141.2 63.6 15.2
1991 246.3 154.2 180.5 138.5 62.0 15.7
1992 241.5 163.7 177.0 146.8 60.6 16.9
1993 238.2 169.6 174.7 150.5 59.7 19.1
1994 238.4 177.4 174.0 154.2 60.5 23.2
1995 234.4 183.2 171.0 157.4 59.5 25.7
1996 234.9 177.9 170.8 151.3 60.3 26.6
1997 237.4 183.6 172.2 153.8 61.4 29.8
1998 235.2 173.9 170.8 142.8 61.8 31.1
1999 239.6 196.7 175.2 162.8 61.6 33.9
2000 234.9 199.5 173.3 163.3 60.5 36.2
2001 236.1 184.4 175.2 149.9 60.7 34.5
2002 237.4 195.4 176.3 159.6 61.1 35.7
2003 239.8 181.4 177.7 143.8 62.0 37.6
2004 246.9 208.1 184.7 168.5 62.0 39.6
2005 245.0 201.3 182.2 165.2 62.7 36.1
2006 248.1 182.5 185.5 148.7 62.5 33.7
2007 252.4 162.1 189.8 134.6 62.6 27.3
2008 251.1 138.3 189.7 114.2 61.3 23.9
2009 241.8 115.8 181.8 94.3 59.9 21.4
2010 237.7 141.0 179.0 117.4 58.6 23.5
2011 232.7 147.0 174.7 121.0 57.8 25.9
2012 230.6 149.3 173.4 124.6 57.1 24.7
2013 228.0 151.1 171.6 126.0 56.5 25.1
2014 230.6 150.1 171.8 124.9 58.8 25.1
2015 228.5 155.6 168.5 128.2 58.8 27.3
2016 222.3 155.2 162.8 126.4 59.5 28.8
2017 219.9 152.4 160.7 125.1 59.0 27.4
2018 219.9 154.9 160.3 127.6 59.5 27.3
2019 218.1 139.8 159.0 114.3 58.8 25.6
Sources and information

See Sources and information in the downloadable report for detailed sources.

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