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Forest Renewal

Canada is a forest nation.

From coast to coast we boast over 250 million ha of productive forest lands that span 8 main forest regions and represent 10% of the earth’s forests. Our forests provide habitat for countless wildlife species, serve as a filter for the earth’s largest supply of fresh water, and provide unique recreation and spiritual values. All this while creating more than 200,000 Canadian jobs in the lumber, pulp and paper industries.

This is why responsible, sustainable forest management remains a top priority for the forestry industry and our federal and provincial governments.

This focus on good forestry practice has allowed forestry professionals to evolve and develop over time while remaining true to their core mission: ensuring the careful and sustainable management of the environmental, economic, and social value found in our forests. By considering all options and individually evaluating each stand throughout its growth, forestry professionals create long-term 80-100 year plans that ensure our forests are renewed and healthy for generations to come.

Economic benefits and jobs related to the use of our forest resources are derived through the harvesting of about 740,000 ha across Canada each year (0.3% of our productive forest land-base). This is less than 1/5 of the annual area consumed by wildfires and less than 4% of the area affected by insects. The amount of forest that is considered available for harvest is carefully calculated by taking the annual growth of the forest, and subtracting the losses to fire, insects, diseases and other causes. Like a bank account, the forest is considered to be managed sustainably when the capital (growing stock) is maintained and no more than the interest (net growth) is harvested.

The use of thoroughly researched best practices allows our forests to be sustainable, healthy and productive throughout their lifecycle. Some examples of these best practices include:

Canada has many different forest types within 8 main forest regions. Spruce and pine species make up nearly 60% of our forest cover, by volume (http://nfdp.ccfm.org/), and provide important raw materials for the forest industry, as well as critical wildlife habitats for many species. (Photos: Doug Pitt).

Selection Harvesting 

  • Partial cutting of select trees to create conditions that allow species including maple, cedar and white pine to thrive.
  • This harvest type provides similar light and soil conditions to relatively small natural disturbances in the forest such as light ground fires, scattered disease or high winds.
  • Forests harvested in this way are generally left to regenerate naturally from the seeds of surrounding trees.
  • In Canada, this type of harvest is done on approximately 60,000 ha of land each year.
Some conifers require partial sunlight to survive and grow, such as white pine and red spruce. Selection harvesting, like this shelterwood cutting, create small openings in the mature over-story, similar to those created by small disturbances such as light to moderate fires, scattered disease and wind-throw. (Photos: Doug Pit).

Clear Cutting

  • Removing all trees from a given area to create conditions that allow hardwood species such as poplar and birch, as well as softwoods including spruce and hard pines to thrive.
  • This harvest type provides similar light and soil conditions to natural disturbances including larger forest fires, widespread insect outbreaks, or severe wind events.
  • Forests harvested in this way are either seeded or planted with seedlings of desired species, or left to regenerate naturally from available seed or coppice growth. Across Canada, 2% of the area harvested is direct seeded, 53% is planted, and 45% is left to regenerate by natural means.
  • Approximately, 680,000 ha per year are harvested in Canada this way.

However, forest management continues through the entire lifecycle of a stand of trees. Forest Managers use many other techniques to help ensure forest stands remain healthy from seedling to mature forest. These can include:

A spruce regeneration site, re-planted following a clear-cut harvest.

Tending (Vegetation Management) to reduce competition through use of tools such as controlled burns, cutting, and herbicides;

  • On sites where it is determined that the best approach for forest renewal is to plant trees, it is important to ensure that the planted trees have sufficient resources (sunlight, water, nutrients and space). Many pioneer plant species (grasses, raspberries, pin cherry, poplar) will quickly compete with the planted trees and significantly limit the availability of resources necessary for the planted tree to survive and grow. Forestry professionals use several methods to lessen the impact of competition from pioneer plant species including: site preparation before tree planting, planting high quality seedlings, and herbicide treatments.
  • Each planted site is monitored to ensure it is not being threatened by competing vegetation. If planted trees are determined to be suffering due to competing vegetation, a tending treatment will be used. A planted site will typically receive 1 or 2 tending treatments in its 40-80 year lifetime.

Thinning to control species composition and tree spacing for good growth through selective cutting;

Protection from fire, insects and disease.

By using a carefully planned and regulated set of these techniques, forest managers ensure that Canadian forests remain a healthy patchwork mosaic of different forest types and ages. This allows forests to be naturally resilient to disturbances, while also providing native wildlife, such as moose and deer populations, with the diversity of habitats they need to thrive.

Canada continues to be a world leader in sustainable forest management practices. Through continued scientific research, government oversight, and responsible use of these best practices, our forests can continue to provide sustainable economic, recreational, and conservation benefit for generations to come.