Defending Canada’s forest management

The Canadian industry has made important strides over recent years toward improving its practices.

I am writing on behalf of the Forest Products Association of Canada regarding the article titled “Perspective and questioning the paper we’re printed on” in the Sept. 15 issue of The Minnesota Daily.

I commend the author for drawing your readers’ attention to the importance of recycling and of managing our natural resources effectively. However, the author makes a number of sweeping generalizations about forestry in general, and Canada’s forest management practices more specifically, that simply have no basis in fact. For example, he claims that newspaper production is the single largest “eater” of forests in North America. The truth is that after nearly 100 years of forestry and papermaking the amount of forest cover has experienced little or no change and it is, in fact, the ever-expanding borders of our cities and urban sprawl that are the leading causes of deforestation.

In Canada, our forest products industry has realized a number of improvements over the past two decades that have positioned the industry as a world leader in progressive forestry practices, wildlife conservation and efficient utilization of resources and raw materials. By way of example, Canada maintains 92 percent of its original forest cover and has the largest amount of protected forest in the world. Only one-fourth of Canada’s forests are managed for commercial use, and only 0.5 percent is harvested annually, including in the boreal. All harvested areas, by law, must be regenerated.

A January 2002 landmark decision by FPAC committed its membership to achieving sustainable forest management certification on all lands under their management by the end of 2006: the only industry association in the world to require this. To date, FPAC members have achieved 90 percent of their certification commitment. And, with 113 million hectares (279 million acres or an area almost the size of the states of California and Texas combined) of certified forest, Canada has the most forest in the world that is third-party certified for sustainable forest management.

As part of its sustainable forest management approach, the Canadian forest industry uses a mix of harvesting methods in its woodlands operations across Canada. The choice of system depends on the ecological, social and economic considerations of a given region.

It is important to note that forest management is also about more than simply cutting trees. All silviculture systems take into consideration the complete life cycle of a forest, from harvesting to the establishment of new forests, through natural regeneration, planting and seeding.

The Canadian industry has also modified its practices over the past 15 years to adopt an ecologically based approach to sustainable forest management and is continuing to incorporate new data and science into its practices. Clear-cuts, for example, have been modified particularly their size, shape and amount of retention. This means emulating the nature and scale of natural disturbances such as “skips” left by fires – particularly relevant in the boreal – and in all areas protecting key values such as sensitive moist areas, particular wildlife habitat and managing for age classes.

The story with respect to recycling is equally good. Canada is a global leader in wastepaper recovery. When recycled-content newsprint levels were mandated in the United States in the early ’90s, Canadian suppliers needed substantially more recycled content than was available in the sparsely populated Canadian market and they worked to develop reliable sources of supply. In 1989, only one mill in Canada could manufacture recycled-content newsprint; today there are 22. There are 63 mills in Canada that use recovered paper for all or part of their supply to make printing papers, packaging, tissue papers and newsprint.

Thanks to new technology, recycled paper and sawmill residues (chips, shavings, and sawdust) account for 80 percent of the fiber in new paper and paperboard made in Canada. That’s up from 62 percent in 1990 and just 23 percent in 1960. It is important to note that FPAC members support all programs that encourage greater recovery of wastepaper and have an objective that “no usable paper be sent to landfill.”

The Canadian industry has made important strides in recent years toward improving its practices, yet some challenges remain that must be addressed. As such, the industry has integrated continual improvement into its operational and strategic plans, and it is collaborating with environmental and conservation groups to protect and restore sensitive habitats and endangered species. The industry is making changes every day to ensure that its practices continue to improve.

Avrim Lazar is president and chief executive officer of the Forest Products Association of Canada. Please send comments to [email protected]