By Derek Nighbor
In Canada, the forest industry has been part of our lifeblood and a cornerstone of the economy for decades. The issue of how we manage our forests has also been the topic of healthy debate for generations.
However, what is often overlooked is Canada’s global leadership in sustainable forest management and the positive role Canadian forests and the forest products industry play in addressing climate change and providing socio-economic benefits.
As we celebrate the sixth annual UN-declared International Day of Forests on March 21, it seems only fitting to highlight six areas in which our industry shines internationally.
- Canada’s forest laws are among the strictest in the world. They protect our forests and ensure that sustainable forest management practices are followed across the country. For example, every tree that is harvested in Canada must be replaced. This means consumers can be confident that the forest and wood products they buy from Canada were obtained legally and harvested under a system of sustainable forest management.
- Canada boasts nearly 40% of the worlds certified forests, far more than any other country. From Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador, the forest sector is benefiting local communities, boosting our economy, helping to advance reconciliation with Indigenous communities and showing us what we can accomplish when working together.
- In 2016 Canada harvested less than 0.5% of our harvestable forests. The careful and planned management ensures we can enjoy the environmental, social and economic benefits of Canadian forests forever.
- Canada’s Forest sector is leading the way in bio-economy. In the bio-economy, renewable resources such as wood-fibre are being converted into many types of consumer and industrial products which range from construction materials, auto parts, bioplastics, bio-chemicals and fuel for vehicles and planes. They also provide a way to generate more value from trees while minimizing waste. When used as a substitute for non-renewable materials and energy sources, bio-products can help reduce dependence on fossil fuels, cut greenhouse gas emissions and minimize environmental impacts from industrial operations.
- Canada’s forest sector is one of the largest employers in the nation. Nearly one million Canadians are employed directly and indirectly in the forest products sector.
- Canada’s forest sector is one of the largest employers of Indigenous peoples in the country. Nearly 10,000 Indigenous peoples worked in the forest sector in 2016.
Canada’s forest products sector has long taken pride in balancing environmental and economic goals. With 160 million hectares of internationally certified forests — more than any other country — Canada is widely recognized as a responsible supplier of forest products from legal and sustainable sources.
By embracing world-leading environmental standards, spending hundreds of millions every year on forest management planning, and committing to continuous improvement using the latest research, the responsible way in which we manage our forests is very much a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
Keeping our forests healthy and sustainable is vital – to preserve their beauty for generations to come, to leverage them as a critical resource in the fight against climate change, and to support good-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers across rural and northern Canada.
On this International Day of Forests, I would like to salute the nearly one million Canadians who are employed directly and indirectly in the forests products sector and are working every day to build a better future for all of us.
Derek Nighbor is the CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, the national industry voice representing Canada’s forest products industry.