Forestry in Alberta: 24 Facts

Alberta Forestry Facts and Statistics cover

When you think of Alberta industry, agriculture or energy likely come to mind. But did you know that most of Canada’s energy powerhouse province - more than 60% - is covered by forests?

Apart from the tree-lined slopes of the Rocky Mountains, not many people think of the vast swaths of forests that cover the west and northern parts of Alberta. These areas underpin a healthy forestry sector - which may not be on the same scale as those sectors in provinces like British Columbia or Quebec - but still supports tens of thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in revenues.

Here are several facts about Alberta’s thriving forestry industry that you may or may not know about. Also see:

Alberta Forestry Sector: 24 Facts & Statistics

60 percent of Alberta's land surface area is covered by forests

#1. Forest resources play a critical role in providing economic opportunities for many rural Albertan and Indigenous communities [1]

#2. Alberta’s forest sector directly employs more than 17,500 Albertans and supports an additional 23,900 indirect jobs, for a total of 41,400 jobs [1]

#3. Alberta’s forest sector paid a total of $1.6 billion in wages to employees in 2021 [1]

#4. The forestry sector in Alberta competes for workers with other industries, such as the energy industry, and as a result, wages and salaries are generally higher than in other provinces [2]

#5. Alberta’s forest industry is the largest employer in many municipalities and contributes nearly 27% of all employment income in the most forestry-dependent community of Mayerthorpe [2]

#6. In the most available census year (2016) there were 91 Albertan communities that derived at least 1% of employment income from the forestry sector, 17 of which were reliant on the industry for more than 10% of employment income [2]

#7. In 2021, labour productivity in Alberta’s wood product manufacturing sector was $76 per hour, compared to the national average of $47 per hour [2]

#8. In 2021, labour productivity in Alberta’s pulp and paper manufacturing sector was $95 per hour, versus $60 per hour for the rest of Canada [2]

#9. In 2020, forestry sector revenues exceeded $8.9 billion from harvesting operations and the sale of various products such as wood panels, lumber, pulp, newsprint, engineered wood products, renewable electricity, wood pellets, and ecosystem services [2]

#10. Alberta’s forestry sector saw expenditures reach a record high in 2020, at a total of $7.9 billion [2]

#11. In 2020, Alberta exported forest products to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the European Union, the United States and other export markets, valued at over $4 billion [1]

#12. Alberta’s largest export markets for forest products (by value) [2]:

> United States – 82%
> China – 9%
> Japan – 5%
> South Korea – 2%
> Philippines – 1%

Alberta's forest industry supports 41,400 direct and indirect jobs

#13. In 2021, Alberta’s forestry sector generated $651.4 million in royalties and fees for governments [2]

#14. Over the past decade, an estimated $6.6 billion of investment was made by Alberta’s forest sector into capital and repair projects [2]

#15. Alberta is home to 21 million hectares of certified forest area in 2021, up from 5 million hectares in 2000 [2]

#16. Today, Alberta has more sustainable forest management certified forest area than most countries worldwide [2]

#17. A total of 19.1 million cubic metres (m3) of coniferous timber and 10.5 million m3 of deciduous timber was harvested on provincial lands in 2021 [2]

#18. Alberta ranks third among Canadian provinces for softwood lumber manufacturing in 2021, accounting for 17.1% of the national total – behind British Columbia and Quebec [2]

#19. An estimated 56% of solid wood products manufactured by Alberta’s forestry sector are sold within Canada – the remainder is exported to international buyers [2]

#20. On an economy-wide basis, the forestry sector represents approximately 1% of Alberta’s economy (Gross Domestic Product) [2]

#21. Alberta’s forest sector is comprised of 40 medium and large mills that hold tenure rights in addition to hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses that manufacture wood products or provide support services for forestry operations [2]

#22. An estimated 434 businesses in Alberta were engaged in timber tract, logging and forestry operations in 2021 [2]

#23. An estimated 242 businesses in Alberta were involved in wood product manufacturing, including sawmills, panel mills, millwork shops and remanufacturing facilities in 2021 [2]

#24. A total of 18 businesses were engaged in pulp and paper manufacturing, including pulp and newsprint operations and packaging, paperboard, and converted paper manufacturing operations [2]

Sustainable Forestry Management in Alberta

Alberta forestry exports were valued at $4 billion in 2020

Alberta’s forestry sector provides immense benefits for communities across the province. Hence, its sustainable management is critical to providing longevity not only to its natural habitats and wildlife, but also to the sector and the jobs and revenues it creates [3].

Alberta has implemented a comprehensive approach to sustainable forest management to promote ecological, economic, social, and cultural benefits for both present and future generations. One key aspect of this approach is carefully regulating timber harvesting activities to ensure they remain within sustainable limits defined by the approved Annual Allowable Cut (AAC).

By adhering to this established AAC, Alberta strives to balance utilizing forest resources and preserving their long-term health and productivity. This commitment to sustainable forest management helps maximize the benefits derived from Alberta’s forests while safeguarding their integrity for the benefit of all. 

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With growing global demand for sustainably produced wood products, Alberta’s forest industry has an important role to play in providing the domestic and international markets with the wood products they need.

If you support the safe and responsible production of natural resources in Canada - forestry, mining, oil and natural gas, fishing, farming, etc. - we invite you to join us today!


1 - Government of Alberta. (n.d.). Forest business overview. Retrieved from Date Accessed: August 2023.

2 - Government of Alberta. (2022). AFRED Alberta's forest economy [dataset]. Retrieved from Date Accessed: August 2023.

3 - Government of Alberta. (n.d.). Forest harvest operations. Retrieved from Date Accessed: August 2023. 

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