If you’re a Canadian, you probably won’t be surprised by these statistics. 42% of the land in Canada is covered in dense forests made of poplar, spruce, and pine, and the country contains a massive 10% of the entire world’s forested land.
By percentage of area covered, that puts Canada behind only Russia in terms of total forest coverage. Canada makes good use of the large amount of high-quality wood that grows just about everywhere, too – Canada is the second-largest exporter of forestry products in the world, despite its relatively small population.
But how did this happen? What factors went into making the forestry industry so large, well-maintained, and easily scalable? And how is it possible that Canada remains the world’s second largest forestry exporter – while less than 1% of its forests are affected by logging each year?
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that have contributed to Canada’s massive success in the forestry industry, and have allowed the natural resources of this country to remain profitable – and sustainable.
Conservation – The Key to Success
The very beginning of what we now call “foresting” in Canada can be traced back to explorer Leif Ericson in the 11th century. Though this Viking explorer didn’t exactly set up a global supply chain, he certainly began harvesting Canada’s bountiful wooden wilderness for shelter, boats, and firewood.
True forestry began with the arrival of European settlers several centuries later – and this is when the huge, beautiful forests of Canada came under threat.
These early settlers had no sense of conservation – they would clear-cut massive areas of forest simply to have maximum resources for farmers available at their need. During the 18th and 19th centuries, large areas of what is now Canada experienced massive deforestation on a scale that was unprecedented in the country.
This was only stopped in the 20th and 21st centuries. The modern people and government of Canada began to realize that deforestation was sure to rob them of one of their most valuable natural resources, and pushed through legislation and regulation that were able to stop the trend toward deforestation.
This goes to show that it doesn’t matter how rich a country’s sustainable resources are if they’re harvested at an unsustainable rate. Conservation is the key for natural resources like forests.
The Canadian Forestry Service is also dedicated to maintaining high levels of biodiversity within their forests. The Canadian government signed the Convention on Biological Diversity treaty in 1992, and takes extensive efforts to preserve each and every species of tree within their large, expansive forests.
This can take a counter-intuitive form – Lodgepole Pine is an important breed of evergreen in Canada, and in recent days has been attacked by the Lodgepole Pine Beetle, causing tremendous loss of trees, especially in the western reaches of Canada.
The Canadian Forestry Service has made use of logging, controlled burning, and pest control programs in an attempt to reduce the spread of this parasitic beetle. Controlled burns are especially important, as large stands of dead pine pose a major wildfire risk if struck by lightning, or ignited by careless humans.
While these efforts are still underway, the fact that Canada is so dedicated to conserving important trees is certainly one of the reasons their forestry industry is so successful.
Modern Techniques and Sustainable Logging
Sustainable logging is absolutely crucial to developing a successful logging and forestry industry. As mentioned briefly above, Canada is the second-largest exporter of forestry products, yet harvests less than 1% of its forests annually.
Government legislation is key to ensuring that foresting remains at sustainable rates. Around 8% total forested area is completely protected by legislation, and cannot be harvested at any time. Of the areas that are harvestable by private companies – less than 1 percent – said companies are required to reseed and reforest the area after removing trees.
By keeping tight controls on the actions of foresting companies, the government allows them to extract maximum profit – while still maintaining the rich biodiversity of the country’s natural resources.
In addition, many modern techniques are changing the products created by foresting companies. Biorefineries are a relatively new concept. As opposed to traditional mills like pulp mills and other paper-making industries, biorefineries create a huge range of biologically based products such as Nanocrystalline Cellulose and Cellulose Filaments, which have vast potential to integrate with textiles, specialized plastics, and other advanced materials.
Conserve, Sustain – And Grow
Canada’s dedication to preserving the wild forests that cover the nation is nothing short of fantastic. By allowing these resources to be harvested sustainably, private companies can enjoy profits and large exports of wood-based products, and the natural beauty, biodiversity, and richness of Canada’s forests can be maintained.