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Report: Canadian forests are in ‘good health’


September 20, 2018
By PrintAction Staff

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Contrary to a widespread myth, forest harvesting is not synonymous with deforestation and doesn’t threaten the sustainability of Canadian forests, which are, in fact, under-harvested, according to a new report released by independent public policy think tank The Montreal Economic Institute (MEI).

“It can seem counterintuitive to some, but the profit motive protects our forests. By this logic, forestry companies make substantial investments to reduce waste and get the most out of each tree harvested in the forest,” says Alexandre Moreau, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI and author of the publication.

Canada’s forest cover has remained relatively stable since 1990 despite harvesting activities, and innovation has a lot to do with that, the institute says. For one thing, the volume of softwood roundwood needed to produce a given quantity of boards fell by nearly a quarter between 1990 and 2017. For another, recycled sawmill products accounted for only 20 per cent of pulp and paper mills’ supply four decades ago, whereas it’s over 80 percent today.

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“A lot more is produced while cutting down fewer trees. Whether in sawmills or in pulp and paper mills, efficiency gains have allowed more to be done with less. The value added to sawmilling sub-products, with the help of new technologies, has also boosted productivity, with the wealth derived from each tree continuing to rise,” Moreau says.

The forestry sector employs nearly 60,000 workers and generates $6.5 billion in economic activity in Quebec alone, the institute estimates. “The forest accounts for 10 percent of jobs in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, and more than 40 percent in Northern Quebec,” Moreau says. “That’s why it’s so important to seize the opportunities provided by forests, and why it is also important to debunk certain myths regarding the state of the forests and their harvesting.”

“Today’s technology and methods allow the forest to be harvested in a way that respects the environment, meeting both social expectations with regard to respecting biodiversity and the economic needs of the workers and communities that depend on the forest,” says Moreau. “Recent history teaches us that the profit motive will be a great help in this regard.”