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Sustainable forest facts help answer questions

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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email
I am sure all sectors face the same situation and it is true that some people have their ideas about what working in wood manufacturing is and what the work environment might be like.
This is one of the challenges we face when trying to attract new people into the many great career opportunities we have available in our companies. The woodworking sector is challenged by myths and misconceptions about careers in wood manufacturing, or sometimes by a complete lack of awareness of the existence of those careers.  Some of the negative perceptions we hear about our industry is that it is low-tech, male-dominated and antiquated, where you work in a dusty environment that is full of repetitive tasks etc.  
When talking to students or other prospective employees, we need to emphasize what makes our sector special. We need to highlight the great jobs and the innovative technology that is used in manufacturing and designing products. There are also lots of jobs available, post- secondary schools are often faced with the dilemma of having too many employers who want to hire grads, but not enough students in their programs to satisfy this need.    
The environmental impacts of using wood as our primary raw material are also regularly raised in discussions with career seekers. Many young people and their parents shy away from wood products because of negative messaging, communicated by some environmental groups, that have convinced them that wood is not an environmentally-friendly choice. We need to stress that the forest and forest products sectors have been the backbone of the Canadian economy for generations and will continue to provide important economic stability to our country in the future.      
Our various governments have formed the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) and their website provides facts and positions that have been agreed upon by the Feds, the provincial governments and the territorial governments as well. It is a great source of both basic facts and information. It also provides an opportunity for a deeper dive, for someone looking for studies and information about performance indicators, as well as data- gathering systems and related techniques.  The CCFM reminds us that: “Canada is rich in forest resources and a world leader in sustainable forest management. The health of our forests, as well as the communities that depend on them are influenced by a variety of environmental, societal, and economical factors. Because of their importance, Canada’s forests need to be carefully managed, conserved and monitored to ensure that any challenges to their health are addressed for both current and future generations.”
The CCFM website reports that Canada’s forests cover 347 million hectares. Ninety-two per cent of Canadian forests are publicly owned and they comprise nearly nine per cent of the world’s total forest area. These forests are a “vibrant ecosystems of renewable resources that are a major part of the county’s landscape. They provide significant environmental, social, cultural and spiritual benefits, as well as opportunities for sustainable economic development. They enrich the lives of all people living in Canada, offer a place of sanctuary and recreation, and are fundamental to the cultural and spiritual values of indigenous people. They also provide habitat for wildlife, moderate climate and filter air and water”.  
The CCFM stresses that it is important to remember that forests are an essential part of the solution to many global challenges. The ability of forests to mitigate the effects of climate change, provide renewable products and energy, support high-paying jobs, and contribute to a greener economy has received increasing attention.
For those concerned and asking, it may be true that the definition of sustainability is constantly evolving, but Canada has been successful in adapting our standards, practices, policies, legislation, and certification to make the most of our incredible forest resource, while also ensuring we show environmental leadership. Canada leads the world in third-party forest certification, to compliment our already comprehensive forest management regulations.
According to CCFM, “managing Canada’s forests responsibly and sustainably means we need to recognize the connections between the environment, the economy and our social well-being, so that the needs and expectations of all forest users might be met today and in the future. Because of their importance, Canada’s forests need to be carefully monitored to ensure that any challenges to their health are addressed. Canada recognizes the need to balance in a holistic way the demands placed on its forests, so that current and future generations of Canadians can fully benefit.”
Canada uses sustainability indicators, which are helpful tools to assess Canada’s forests and the benefits they provide, reveal the state of and trends in Canada’s forests and forest practices over time, highlight any needs for improvement in forest management policies and practices and supply reliable information for discussions and initiatives related to environmental performance and trade.
The different governments have specific roles in the management of public forest lands. The Federal government is responsible for matters relating to the national economy, trade, international relations, federal lands and parks, and has constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities for indigenous peoples. The provincial and territorial governments have legislative authority over the conservation and management of the forest resources on Crown Lands. The laws and regulations governing forest practices on provincial and territorial public lands are among the most stringent in the world.
Sustainable forest management is a clear priority in Canada and the facts make a compelling argument. Forests all over the country are harvested sustainably. All forests harvested on public lands must be regenerated - it is the law. This ensures that forests remain healthy and that the forest industry can continue to provide Canadians with benefits. This law is the reason that a disproportionally high percentage of the world’s certified sustainably managed forests are in Canada. We are home to nine per cent of the world’s forests, and home to 36 per cent of the world’s certified sustainably managed forests. Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for forest management because the vast majority (about 90 per cent) of Canada’s forests are located on provincial and territorial crown lands. These governments determine 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.
Independent forest certification provides a stamp of approval showing customers they are buying products that come from forests managed to comprehensive environmental, social, and economic standards. A certificate is issued only after a thorough review by third-party auditors determines, among other things, that long-term harvests are sustainable, there is no unauthorized or illegal logging, wildlife habitat is preserved, and soil quality is maintained.  
Three major forest certification programs are used in Canada: The Canadian Standards Association, The Forest Stewardship Council and The Sustainable Forestry Initiative. All three set high thresholds that forest companies must clear in addition to Canada’s tough regulatory requirements. The certification standards are written to take into account global forestry issues as well as circumstances specific to the Canadian situation, such as the livelihood of local communities and the interests of indigenous people.  
Regeneration activities make sure harvested areas regrow as forests and continue to produce timber and maintain ecosystem services.  These include such things as storing carbon, regulating water quality, and providing habitat. Forest type, harvesting method and desired composition of the new forest determine the regeneration method (natural or artificial). In the context of climate change, tree planting allows for the control of species composition and thus can be a tool to regenerate forests that may be better adapted to future climate conditions. Artificial regeneration - planting or seeding - has been applied to about 56 per cent of the area harvested in the past 20 years; almost all of the remaining area is naturally regenerated.  
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 per cent (155.2 million m3) was harvested in 2017. Harvesting of forests on Crown land, the source of most commercial timber, is regulated to provide a sustainable level of wood supply. The area of forest harvested each year is monitored to ensure that the level of industrial activity in Canada’s forests is suitable over the long term.  Forest loss affects biodiversity, soil, air and water quality, and wildlife habitat. Forests store more carbon than many other ecosystems and can be managed to help mitigate climate change. Canada’s low annual deforestation rate has declined even further since 1993.     
There is lots of really good information on Canadian forests and sustainability issues available in one place….so check out

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