Our forests are in good health: They are not overharvested

Contrary to a widespread myth, forest harvesting is not synonymous with deforestation and does not threaten the sustainability of our forests, which are actually under-harvested. Thanks to innovation, the forestry industry is more and more productive and our forests are doing better, shows a publication launched today by the 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,” explains Alexandre Moreau, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI and author of the publication.

Canada’s forest cover has remained relatively stable since 1990, despite the activities that take place there, and innovation has a lot to do with that. 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% of pulp and paper mills’ supply four decades ago, whereas it’s over 80% today.

“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,” says Mr. Moreau.

The forestry sector employs nearly 60,000 workers and generates $6.5 billion in economic activity in Quebec alone. “The forest accounts for 10% of jobs in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, and more than 40% in Northern Quebec. 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,” points out the researcher.

“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,” concludes Mr. Moreau. “Recent history teaches us that the profit motive will be a great help in this regard.”

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