Canadian forests are everywhere. With about 38 per cent of Canada's landscapes covered by forests, they are an integral part of life for 23 million Canadians who live in or near them.
The importance of forests for our environment and the livelihoods of families across Canada is why we must appropriately address myths that just aren't true. Forests are inherently part of our identity as Canadians, therefore having balanced and fact-based discussions around one of our most important natural resources is the responsible thing to do.
Here are some of the biggest myths about Canadian forestry everyone should be aware of debunked with several facts that also show why we should be a global supplier of choice for forest products!
MYTH: Canada's deforestation rate is increasing
FACT: Canada has one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world
> In 2010, the annual deforestation rate in Canada was less than 0.02 per cent of our forested land and the rate has been dropping for more than 25 years.
> In 1990, 63,100 hectares were deforested across the country, while in 2014 this figure dropped by nearly half, to 34,200 hectares.
> As of 2020, Canada's 348 million hectares of forest represented about 9 per cent of the world's forests but accounted for only 0.3 per cent of global deforestation.
> Canada is the fourth-largest exporter of forestry products in the world, and has world-class forest management practices that have allowed it to continue exporting forestry products steadily over several decades.
MYTH: Canada's boreal forest is threatened by forestry
FACT: Through Canada's responsible forestry practices, our boreal forests are managed sustainably
> Between 1990 and 2008, deforestation in Canada's boreal zone was very low – just 0.3 per cent of its total area.
> On average, 600 million seedlings are planted across Canada each year, helping forests that don't self-regenerate from harvesting operations to do so accordingly.
MYTH: The oil sands have made Canada a global leader in deforestation
FACT: Oil sands innovations have decreased deforestation rates
> Innovations such as Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) have allowed large reservoirs in the oil sands located in-situ under forested lands to be developed with little disturbance. SAGD operations typically disturb only 10 to 15 per cent of the surface when compared to mining operations.
> Between 2009 and 2018, major oil sands producers planted more than 26 million trees as part of reclamation efforts.
> The total area of mineable oil sands is 480,000 hectares. In comparison, Canada has 348 million hectares of forests; that's just 0.14 per cent of Canada's total forested area, a tiny fraction of which will actually be developed as a mining project at some point in the future. SAGD is projected to account for the lion's share of future oil sands development.
> As mentioned before, Canada has a world-class record when it comes to reducing deforestation rates and sustainably managing its forested lands.
MYTH: Harvesting lumber from forests equates to deforestation
FACT: Harvesting for forestry purposes is not equivalent to deforestation
> By law, all harvested public lands in Canada must be regenerated through a natural or planned system such as planting operations.
> Harvesting, forest fires, and insect infestations are not considered deforestation because these affected areas will grow back. About 75 per cent of forested lands disturbed by industry grow back on their own, while roughly 25 per cent are replanted.
> With approximately 90 per cent of Canada's forests found on public lands, deforestation concerns are mitigated through Canada's world-leading forestry practices that include mass planting initiatives which saw 427 million seedlings planted across 350,000 hectares of provincial forest lands in 2018.
MYTH: Canadian forestry cannot continue operations if we are to preserve our forests and keep them healthy
FACT: There is no such thing as untouched forest in Canada
> Canada's managed forested land typically grows for 60 to 100 years between harvests, so most managed forest areas return to a natural state for several years.
> Even without harvest practices, a forest is continually changing as it is made up of many living organisms. For example, forests can be affected by diseases, floods, drought, insects, and fire. Canada's sustainable and strategic harvesting methods aim to imitate these environmental life cycles of the forest and encourage natural regrowth.
MYTH: Forestry in Canada doesn't create that many jobs
FACT: In 2019, the Canadian forestry sector supported 300 communities
> Canada's forestry sector supported approximately 302,489 direct and indirect jobs for Canadian families in 2019, including roughly 12,000 Indigenous Peoples.
> Canada's forest industry generated roughly $11 billion in wages and salaries for people across the country in 2019.
> The forestry sector is the primary source of economic wellbeing for 300 communities across Canada.
> More than 70 per cent of Indigenous Peoples in Canada (1.1 million) live in or near forests, making them critical to both cultural traditions and economies.
MYTH: Canada lacks leadership in sustainable forest management
FACT: Canada is a global leader in sustainable forest management
> Research conducted by the University of British Columbia's (UBC) Faculty of Forestry, The State of Canada's Forests: A Global Comparison, illustrates key indicators showing how Canada's forestry practices stacked up with seven global competitors via the Montreal Process criteria.
> Formally agreed upon in 1995, the Montréal Process Criteria was instated for data collection and reporting for temperate and boreal forests' conservation and sustainable management. It is used to monitor and assess national trends in forest conditions and forest management.
> The peer-reviewed study found that Canada is a leader globally in sustainable forest management. Additionally, they state that our nation conducts some of the world's most rigorous forest management seen through legal and policy frameworks at national, provincial, and local levels of government.
> Today, about half of Canada's forests are certified to third-party standards of sustainable forest management.
MYTH: Canada's rate of lumber harvesting is unsustainable
FACT: Through environmental practices set in Canada, forest managers set the quantity of timber being harvested to be within sustainable levels
> In 2017, Canada harvested 155.2 million cubic metres (m3) of industrial roundwood, which was significantly lower than the estimated sustainable wood supply level of 219.6 million m3 that could have been harvested.
> The amount of harvesting in Canada each year equates to less than half of 1 per cent of Canada's 347 million hectares of forested land, significantly less than the areas affected by insects and forest fires.
MYTH: Harvesting forests directly translates to CO2 being released into the environment
FACT: Timber production, through the emissions captured from harvested wood products, continue to be an ongoing carbon sink
> The production of lumber in Canada is estimated to have removed 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the atmosphere in 2018.
> A carbon sink is any reservoir, natural or man-made, that accumulates and stores CO2. This means that our homes and other products built with timber stores captured CO2.
> A conservative estimate of Canada's existing carbon-absorption capacity, based on land area and the global carbon-absorption average, indicates that Canada could already be absorbing 20 to 30 per cent more CO2 than we emit.
MYTH: Canada's forestry sector doesn't think about the global environment
FACT: Canadian forestry companies are some of the most responsible on the planet
> Between 2005 and 2015, Canada's forest industry reduced its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions output by 49 per cent.
> Of Canada's 347 million hectares of forest land, more than 200 million are managed with a long-term management plan of 10 years or longer, an increase of 8 percent since 1990.
> Compared to other major forested nations, Canada has the largest amount of forests certified to third-party standards of sustainable management.
MYTH: Forestry isn't a significant contributor to Canada's economy
FACT: The forestry sector is an essential pillar for countless Canadians and communities and contributes to the economic and social welfare of all Canadians
> The forestry sector generated roughly $1.9 billion in revenue for provincial and territorial governments in 2018 and $23.7 billion to Canada's nominal gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.
> Canada's forest product exports were valued at roughly $33 billion in 2019, two-thirds of which were sent to the United States.
MYTH: Canada's forestry sector lacks diversity within its workforce
FACT: Although we can always do more to promote diversity and inclusion within workforces, Canada's forestry sector is making strides
> Canada's forestry sector's workforce is diverse, and is getting even more diverse as the years pass by. Approximately 17 per cent of workers are women, 12 per cent are immigrants, and as mentioned earlier, about 7 per cent identify as Indigenous.
MYTH: Canada's forestry sector is not a leader in new and innovative technologies
FACT: High-tech tools, such as satellite remote sensing and airborne laser (LIDAR) are now being used to determine forest inventories in Canada
Natural Resources Canada is working with the Canadian Space Agency to create WildFireSat, the first satellite explicitly built to observe wildfires. This will replace human experts flying over a fire in an aircraft and provide much more accurate data for analysts.
WildFireSat has many benefits compared to traditional methods. A few examples are the artificial intelligence software to analyze satellite images as it provides information such as the intensity of the fire, how fast it is moving, where the fire it is going to spread to and emitted carbon emissions
This data will predict how much time until a fire reaches a community, providing essential information to carry out safe and effective evacuations more accurately. This innovation is not only out of this world (pun intended), but it also can save lives as well.
Canadian Forestry Myths: Debunked
Canada is a global leader in innovative, inclusive, and sustainable forestry practices. As one of the most sustainable producers on the planet, Canada should be a global supplier of choice! We should be proud of our forestry sector workers and their commitment to environmental leadership!
Back to Forestry in Canada.
Canadian resources support families, small businesses and communities across our country — while supplying all of us with the physical materials we all rely on each day... 🍞🚑⛽️🏡📱#CanadianForestry#CanadianAgriculture #CanadianMining#CanadianEnergy pic.twitter.com/918ISLOjwU— Canada Action (@CanadaAction) October 16, 2021
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