SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE BOREAL FOREST
COMPETING REALITIES: The Boreal Forest at
Report of the Sub-Committee on Boreal Forest of the Standing
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
Chair of the Subcommittee : The Honourable Nicholas W. Taylor
Deputy Chair : The Honourable Mira Spivak
During its study the
Subcommittee acquired considerable data relating to the boreal forest in tabular and
graphic format. This data includes detailed descriptions of current allocations of the
boreal forest, trends in provincial expenditures and revenues, herbicide and pesticide
use, harvesting levels, forest fires and stumpage rates.
THE SENATE SUB-COMMITTEE ON THE BOREAL FOREST
36th Parliament, 1997-98 First Session
The Honourable Nicholas W. Taylor, Chair
The Honourable Mira Spivak, Deputy Chair
The Honourable Senators:
*Graham (or Carstairs)
*Lynch-Staunton (or Kinsella)
Robichaud, F., P.C.
*Ex Officio Members
The following Senators also served on the Committee during its study:
The Honourable Senators Adams, Atkins, Cohen, Deware, Gill, Mahovlich, Rossiter, Whelan.
THE SENATE SUB-COMMITTEE ON THE BOREAL FOREST
35th Parliament, 1996-97 Second Session
The Honourable Doris Anderson, Chair
The Honourable Senators:
The following Senator also served on the Committee during its study:
The Honourable Senator Gustafson.
ORDER OF REFERENCE
Extract from the Journals of the Senate, Tuesday, November 18,
The Honourable Senator Gustafson moved, seconded by the Honourable
That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry be
authorized to examine the present state and the future of forestry in Canada; and
That the Committee present its report no later than December 15, 1998.
The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.
Clerk of the Senate
Extract from the Minutes of Proceedings of the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry of February 19, 1998:
That a subcommittee be created and that it be authorized to inquire
into issues related to the harvest of the Boreal Forest and other matters relating to
forestry which may be referred to it from time to time by the committee;
That the subcommittee be given powers extended to the Standing
Committee on Agriculture by rules 89 and 90 of the Rules of the Senate of Canada with the
exception of the power to report its findings to the Senate directly;
That the subcommittee be comprised of five (5) members, three of whom
shall constitute a quorum;
That the initial membership of the Subcommittee on the Boreal Forest be
as follows, The Honourable Senators Robichaud, Spivak, Stratton, Taylor and Whelan;
That substitution in membership be communicated to the clerk of the
Clerk of the Committee
Extract from the Journals of the Senate, Tuesday, November 24,
The Honourable Senator Taylor moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mahovlich:
That notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on November 18,
1997, to examine matters relating to the present state and future of forestry in Canada,
the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry be empowered to present its
final report no later than June 30, 1999; and
That the Committee be permitted, notwithstanding usual practices, to
deposit its report with the Clerk of the Senate, if the Senate is not then sitting; and
that the report be deemed to have been tabled in the Chamber.
The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.
Paul C. Bélisle
Clerk of the Senate
Extract from the Journals of the Senate, Thursday, April 29,
The Honourable Senator Taylor moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator
That the papers and evidence received and taken on the subject of the
harvest of the boreal forest during the Second Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament be
referred to the Subcommittee on the Boreal Forest of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry.
The question being put on the motion it was adopted.
Paul C. Bélisle
Clerk of the Senate
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Boreal Forest in Canada
Climate Change and the Boreal Forest
The Worlds Boreal Forest Today: An Overview
The "Working Forest"
Table 1: Ownership, Allocation and Protected Area - Western Boreal Forest
Mills and pollution
Wood Supply and Cutting Rate
Cumulative Impacts of Developments
Table 2: Fisheries Act Enforcement Personnel - 1998.
Recent Development in Sustainable Management of the Working Forest
The "Forgotten" Forest
The "Protected" Forest
Provincial Protected Areas
Will Protected Areas Protect What is Important?
Traditional Land Use Issues
Other Uses of the Forest: Business and Employment Opportunities
Jurisdictional Issues and Recent Developments
THE ECONOMIC REALITY
Table 3: TOTAL FOREST INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT
Table 4: VALUE OF FOREST INDUSTRY SALES
Table 5: FOREST HARVEST
Table 6: Canadian Forest Industry Sales and Exports (1993-1997)
Table 7: Payments to Government by Forestry Sector
THE GLOBAL REALITY
THE BASIC QUESTIONS
Appendix A - 35th Parliament
Fact Finding Visits
Appendix B - 35th
Appendix C - 36th Parliament
Witnesses & Field Trips
Appendix D - Hearing Summaries
The Subcommittee believes that we can and must develop strategies that
can ensure the survival of our threatened boreal forest while still enhancing traditional
forest use and preserving economic and industrial benefits.
Our report examines the state of the boreal forest, the very real
threats to its survival and options we have to define and modify the footprint humans
leave. In studying the boreal forest we have drawn upon the advice and experience of the
aboriginal community, the forestry industry and scientific community, conservationists and
environmentalists, and other users of the forest such as tourists and recreation
interests. Finally, the Subcommittee drew on the experience of Sweden and Finland,
countries which lost most of their original forests nearly 100 years ago. They have
regained production through a form of intensive management of their largely privately
owned forests. Numerous public hearings were held both in Ottawa and in other locations
across the country at which we heard the views of a wide variety of people with an
interest in the boreal forest. The Subcommittee also visited forest communities and
industry sites across the country, as well as in Sweden and Finland.
We have not limited our recommendations to the purview of the
Government of Canada alone. Much of what we observe and suggest affects action by the
provinces, by industry, by boreal communities and municipalities and many other interests.
This is intentional.
The Subcommittee must stress, in reporting our findings to Canadians,
that though there are no quick fixes and many of the actions we must take may have a
substantial transition period, the window of opportunity for preserving all of the values
offered by the boreal forest is closing rapidly. We must put our words into action very
Nicholas W. Taylor
The worlds boreal forest, a resource of which Canada is the major
trustee, is under siege. It faces threats such as climate change that may reduce it
substantially, ozone depletion, and acid deposition. Portions of Canadas remaining
natural, undisturbed boreal forest and its areas of old growth are now at risk, from both
climate change and over cutting. In addition, the demands and expectations placed on
Canadas boreal forest have escalated to the point where they cannot all be met under
the current management regime. Highly mechanized timber harvesting is proceeding at a
rapid pace, as is mineral and petroleum exploration and extraction. At the same time, the
boreal forest is being asked to provide a home and way of life for aboriginal communities,
habitat for wildlife, an attraction for tourism and a place where biodiversity and
watersheds are protected. Consultations across the nation by the Canadian Council of
Forest Ministers as well as by this Subcommittee have left no doubt that this wide range
of functions is not only not being met, but is vitally important to the people of Canada
to whom this forest belongs.
In the face of these demands, expectations and threats, Canadians must
come up with new and better ways to manage our activity in the boreal forest to meet the
competing realities of preserving the resource, maintaining the lifestyle and values of
boreal communities, extracting economic wealth, and preserving ecological values.
The Subcommittee believes that we can and must develop strategies that
can help to ensure the survival of our beleaguered forest while still enhancing
traditional forest use and creating economic benefits. We further believe that it is
important to move in this direction very soon, before certain opportunities are lost
In order to accommodate all of the competing realities of the boreal
forest without placing the survival of the forest at further risk, the Subcommittee
recommends that serious consideration be given to apportioning the boreal forest into
three distinct categories.
One category, comprising up to 20 per cent of the total boreal forest
area, would be intensively managed, on the Scandinavian model, for purposes of timber and
fibre production. Judging by the Scandinavian examples that the Subcommittee saw,
intensive management could boost timber yields per hectare by eight or more times those
presently obtained in Canada. This increased productivity would free up more of our
forests for ecological preservation, aboriginal use, tourism, wildlife protection and
other uses, and at the same time, preserve our industry. The supply of timber and fibre
for mills from the intensively managed area could also be supplemented by sustainably
grown timber from private lands, including reforested marginal farmland near the forest
fringe. Our tax laws have to change from the last centurys incentives for converting
forests to farms to laws that do the exact opposite. Alternative fibres could also be used
The second category would be managed at a less intensive level over a
broader area, with long-term leases, audited regularly by community groups assisting
forestry experts. This zone would retain a relatively natural mixture of tree species and
ages, for the sake of preserving biodiversity. It would also accommodate the full range of
forest users and communities, including aboriginal hunters and trappers, tourist
outfitters, and recreational users.
The third category, which should constitute up to 20 per cent of the
boreal forest, would be set aside as protected areas. It would include areas of old growth
boreal forest, areas used traditionally for native trapping, representative ecological
areas and areas of significant wildlife habitat.
The public is making increasing demands to be included in forest
land-use decisions. The Subcommittee supports this desire and believes that the forest use
designations outlined above should be made with the full participation of representatives
of all forest stakeholders, at the local or regional level. The Subcommittee would foresee
that forest management of the first two zones would be the responsibility of the forest
companies under long-term tenure reform, based on stewardship and meaningful community
involvement in audit and decision-making. The Subcommittee could not agree on an
appropriate length for such tenure, with terms from 25 years to 99 years being suggested.
Continuation of tenure on Crown Lands would be subject to regular, rigorous audits by
independent, qualified experts assisted by local members of the public. Conservation laws
should apply equally to privately owned and publicly owned forest land.
The Subcommittee realizes that the system of designation recommended
here would not happen overnight. It will take some time and a great deal of co-operation
between different jurisdictions, to fully implement such a system. However, we firmly
believe that such a long-term goal is essential and that a start must be made towards it
very soon. In pursuing this goal, the federal government must, at all times, live up to
its responsibilities, particularly with regard to aboriginal peoples. The tax system
should be used as a mechanism to promote sustainable forestry practices.
In reaching these conclusions, the Subcommittee is not advocating that
we mimic the Scandinavian situation in its entirety. Unfortunately, there is very little
untouched forest left in that part of the world. We do, however, believe that we can learn
much from their expertise in intensive forest management and apply that experience to our
intensively managed areas. If we do so, we will then be able to sustain a healthy forest
industry and still preserve undisturbed, large tracts of boreal wilderness, which we are
fortunate enough to still have. In effect, we can have our cake and eat it too if, and
only if, we move quickly and decisively.
- In order to accommodate all of the competing demands on the boreal forest, the
Subcommittee recommends that serious consideration be given to a natural landscape-based
forest use regime that apportions the boreal forest into three distinct categories. One
category, comprising up to 20 per cent of the forest land base, would be managed
intensively for timber production. A second category, which would comprise the majority of
the boreal forest, would be managed less intensively for a variety of values, but with
preservation of biodiversity as the primary objective. The third category, comprising up
to 20 per cent of the forest land base, would be set aside as protected areas to preserve
ecologically and culturally significant areas.
- In order to conserve boreal forest wilderness, a valuable and vanishing resource in
Canada, the network of protected areas, that was promised for completion by the year 2000,
should be completed no later than 2002.
- The federal government should accelerate the identification, interim protection and
establishment of six new national parks within the boreal forest zone.
- The federal government should not issue timber or other development permits in candidate
park sites. Co-ordination between departments is required to ensure that everyone is aware
of the location of such candidate sites. Provincial governments should be encouraged to do
- Once established, both national and provincial parks must be truly protected, with no
industrial development being allowed.
- The federal government should initiate discussions with the provinces to negotiate a
formal agreement committing both levels of government to managing not just parks, but also
adjacent lands, on an ecosystem basis.
- Maximum road and trail density standards appropriate for the area should be established
and enforced within the boreal forest.
- Adequate logging buffers need to be established around parks in the boreal forest, to
prevent adverse impacts on the park ecosystems.
- In both protected areas and managed forests, governments must ensure the preservation of
wildlife habitat, taking into account the size and connectivity requirements of wildlife
- The federal government must use its existing Constitutional authority regarding
aboriginal rights, fisheries, endangered species, migratory birds, navigable waters and
environmental impact assessment to ensure a strong federal involvement in Canadas
- Canada needs a strong Endangered Species Act that also recognizes the importance
of preserving the habitat on which endangered species depend for their survival, as has
been the case in the United States since the 1960s.
- In those parts of the boreal forest approaching the tree line, where adequate
silvicultural methods have not been developed, logging should not be allowed.
- In order to protect the boreal forest the federal government must ensure the rigorous
enforcement of the Fisheries Act and the Migratory Birds Act, and should use
its environmental assessment powers to address unsustainable logging and trans-boundary
impacts of logging.
- Because of the vital role they play in preserving biodiversity, cutting should be
limited in old-growth sections of the boreal forest.
- The tax system should be used to promote sustainable forestry management.
- Tax incentives should be considered for landowners who forego cutting of woodlots to
protect endangered species and/or their habitat.
- Tax incentives should be established to encourage the reforestation of marginal
- Small woodlot owners should not be taxed on the potential commercial value of standing
trees, but only when they are cut and the income is realized.
- Small woodlot owners should be allowed to hold money earned by harvesting their timber
in interest-bearing trust accounts, and income tax would only be paid on that money when
it is withdrawn and used for purposes other than the sustainable management of the
- The federal government should review the tax treatment of transferring a family owned
woodlot from one generation to the next. At the present time, some woodlot owners find
that the only way to pay the taxes arising from such a transaction is to harvest the
trees, precluding preservation of the family forest.
- The impact of woodlot ownership on eligibility for the Guaranteed Income Supplement for
seniors should be reviewed as the current treatment can encourage, or necessitate, the
"liquidation" of the forest asset.
- The federal government should change the way in which forest management expenses of
small woodlot owners are handled, since the benefits of such investment may not be
realized for decades. Revenue Canada still uses the realization of regular income every
several years as the test of "a reasonable expectation of profit" from these
expenditures. In forestry, a longer time horizon is needed.
- The Finance Minister should look at modifying the restricted farm loss rules to take
into account the longer time frame needed in forestry to realize a profit.
- Governments should consider investment incentives to encourage business to undertake
value-added wood manufacturing in Canada using Canadian wood.
- Other Recommendations:
- The federal government should fund a comprehensive nation-wide forest inventory,
including forest soils and soil organisms.
- Data for the National Forestry Database should be collected and recorded on an ecosystem
basis. The Subcommittee found it difficult to address certain issues because data are
generally available on either a national or a provincial basis. Data for the boreal forest
alone are not readily available.
- All herbicide and chemical pesticide use in the boreal forest should be phased out as
soon as possible.
- Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the Canadian Forestry Service, and other
federal agencies must live up to the federal governments responsibilities regarding
Métis and First Nations in all of their programs dealing with aboriginal forestry issues.
- Governments should not grant timber harvesting rights to forestry companies on
traditional lands used by aboriginal peoples for centuries or in areas of disputed land
claims without adhering to the most recent court decisions. The Subcommittee also supports
the timely resolution of aboriginal land claims.
- The Crowns fiduciary duty to protect and honour aboriginal rights must be clearly
acknowledged by the provinces as being a shared responsibility with respect to forestry
matters. This includes the responsibility of governments to participate in negotiations
between aboriginal people and forest industry representatives.
- Forestry companies must include traditional aboriginal land uses in planning on any
forested area that is a traditional aboriginal use area, or where forestry practices might
infringe upon treaty rights.
- Continued and expanded mechanisms for partnering between government, industry and
aboriginal peoples with regard to forestry training, business development, access to a
forest land base, and employment opportunities must be found.
- Government and industry should work together to increase the amount of value-added wood
manufacturing taking place in the boreal forest communities with a view to increasing
employment in the forestry sector.
- Retraining programs aimed at allowing displaced forestry workers to stay in their
communities and involved in the forest industry be strengthened.
- At the international level, Canada should promote the integration of the various
forest certification systems. Having a plethora of systems would render them all less
A vast evergreen forest lies like a mantle across the shoulders of the
northernmost land areas on earth Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia. Named for
Boreas, the Greek god of the North Wind, the boreal forest accounts for almost one-third
of the earths forested land and has been called the worlds largest ecosystem.
It also encompasses the worlds largest expanses of wetlands and lakes. Like other
forests around the world it is under increasing pressure from human use. As the World
Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development expressed the situation:
"We are drawing on the worlds natural capital for more
rapidly than it is regenerating. Rather than living on the "interest" of the
"natural capital", we are borrowing from poorer communities and from future
Canada has a significant role to play in addressing this issue, being
one of the major keepers of the boreal forest ecosystem. From the Yukon and northeastern
B.C., this forest stretches across the northern parts of the Prairie Provinces and
southern NWT, northern Ontario and Quebec, and the forested parts of Labrador and
Newfoundland. A small portion also occurs in northwestern New Brunswick.
Unlike the forests of the United States, Scandinavia and most nations
of the world, Canadas forests are publically owned with only 6 per cent being
privately held. On a national basis, provinces have jurisdiction over 71 per cent and the
federal government over 23 per cent.(2) Within the
boreal forest New Brunswick, with 50 per cent private ownership is the exception to the
While most of the forest is on Crown land managed by the provinces, the
federal government is responsible for many forest-related matters. These includes a
fiduciary responsibility to aboriginal peoples, responsibility for protection of
endangered species, migratory birds, navigable waters, fisheries, environmental
assessment, and forest research and technology development. Its role as a signatory to the
Biodiversity Convention of 1992 and its commitment at Kyoto to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions (such as carbon dioxide) are also closely related to the management of our
These "north woods," home to moose and wolf, caribou and
bear, are our wilderness, our frontier, and homeland to many of Canadas aboriginal
peoples. Its wildlife, trees, lakes and streams belong to all Canadians -- a public legacy
of biodiversity found in few other countries.
Over the centuries, it is a legacy that has been the very foundation of
the development of this country. Conversely, it has been increasingly affected by this
very development. Before European settlers arrived in what is now Canada, First
Nations people hunted, fished and trapped in the forests and cleared small areas for
growing crops. They lived in harmony with the forests and did not have a large-scale
impact on them. As European settlers arrived in the 1600s they began to clear the forests
to establish farms. The forest was seen as a barrier to settlement as well as a convenient
source of building material. In the 1700s trade in white pine logs began with Europe,
especially Britain, which needed them as masts for its large naval fleet. At the same
time, a saw-milling industry began in Canada to satisfy the ever-increasing supply of wood
needed to construct the growing settlements in Canada and the north-eastern United States.
Exports to Europe also continued to increase. Throughout this period the forest management
approach was one of unregulated resource exploitation. Trees had economic value when cut,
and they had to be cut in any event to make way for the growing settlements. Supply was
not a concern, as the forests seemed endless., (3)(4)
In the early 1800s the lumber trade was joined by a growing pulp and
paper trade and income from license fees, stumpage fees and other user charges imposed on
the thriving forest industry was viewed by the provinces as essential to finance their
economic development. The British North America Act of 1867, recognized this fact, giving
the eastern provinces control over natural resources, including the forests, and
permitting them to retain all revenues from Provincial Crown Lands. These rights to forest
resources followed development west.
Provincial governments continue to this day to derive significant
financial benefit both directly and indirectly from the forest industry. (See Table 7, p.
68) During the late 19th century people started to voice concerns about the
rate at which the forests were being depleted. Perhaps they were not "limitless"
after all. At that time, the first large forest reserves were established and other areas
were set aside to be preserved in their natural, forested state. Forest management changed
dramatically with scientific input becoming more important and organizations and
government departments being established to manage the industry.
This "conservation era" was followed in the 1930s to 1980s by
a forest management approach aimed at maintaining the "sustained yield" of
timber. Sustained yield policies were designed to achieve a balance between net growth and
There is ample evidence to show that "current" forest use and
management practices are destroying our legacy, that we are cutting too many trees over
too large an area and that our forest policies have been ill-advised. Yet, on paper at
least Canada has an enlightened, sustainable forest policy. Can these conflicting visions
both be correct? What is the status of sustainable forest management in Canada today? Are
we on the right track and where do we go from here?
The Subcommittee on the Boreal Forest undertook this study to answer
these questions. In particular, we focussed on forestry matters related to the
environment, aboriginal peoples, and international issues.
We have been amazed at the breadth and complexity of the issues facing
the boreal forest today issues such as climate change, Treaty and aboriginal
rights, world trade and biodiversity. We have found that peoples views of the
"value" of the boreal forest are evolving, and forest management in this country
is in the midst of a major re-evaluation.
Many Canadians would be surprised to see how much is going on in the
boreal forest today. Activities include not only industrial forestry, but also energy
development, agricultural clearing, road construction, and recreation and tourism in
previously inaccessible areas. These developments have been proceeding on a large scale
over the past few decades.
In recent years, activity in the forest has been paralleled by activity
in boardrooms and meeting halls as people interested in the forest have sought to chart a
course balancing development and preservation. Under the auspices of the Canadian Forest
Service and the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, two consecutive five year plans
(National Forest Strategies) have been drawn up in consultation with the public.
Consisting of a vision, principles, and action plans for Canadian forests, they represent
a significant step towards achieving sustainable management of our forests. As defined by
the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, the goal of "sustainable forest
management" is to:
"Maintain and enhance the long-term health of our forest
ecosystems, for the benefit of all living things both nationally and globally, while
providing environmental, economic, social and cultural opportunities for the benefit of
present and future generations."(6)
In 1992, Canada became the first major nation to have a Forest Accord.
Its 25 signatory organizations (the National Forest Strategy Coalition) are a broadly
based coalition of federal, provincial and territorial governments, labour, industry,
aboriginal peoples, environmental groups, academics and private woodlot owner
organizations. They have overseen the implementation of two five-year National Forest
Strategies and framed a second Canada Forest Accord, which was signed in 1998 by 39
organizations. In it the signatories confirm that:
"Our forests will be managed on an integrated basis, supporting a
full range of uses and values including timber production, habitat for wildlife, and areas
allocated for parks and wilderness."(7)
Canadian Forest Service scientists have developed a set of criteria and
indicators by which to measure progress in sustainable forest management.
The provinces, as signatories to the Accord, have developed their own
forest accords and strategies with a great deal of public involvement, and some provinces
have codes of practice for forest operations. Industrial signatories have also been
working on plans for sustainable forest management.
Thus, it appears that we have reached the point where potentially
transforming concepts are widespread. Yet institutions, management planning, and forestry
practices on the ground have not, in most cases, seen significant change.
A "change of course" does not quickly become evident in the
forest. Many of the decisions being made will affect the forest that our
grandchildrens grandchildren inherit, not the reality that we see. However, it is
the present reality that concerns many people. There is a sense of urgency, a sense that,
at least in some parts of the boreal forest, time is running out for saving some of the
vital functions that the forest provides such as wildlife habitat, watershed protection
and carbon sinks. There is a sense that we are rapidly foreclosing on some of the many
benefits and services which people want and expect from their forests.
The Subcommittee also heard a great deal of testimony about the
continuing importance of forestry to the economic well-being of the country. Even though
management systems may have changed over the years, the forest industry still holds a
pre-eminent position in Canadas economic life. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians
are still employed in the forestry sector and the industry contributes over $30 billion
annually in foreign exchange to the Canadian economy. This is the "economic
reality" of increasing demand.
The task of reconciling the ecological and economic realities of the
boreal forest is a huge challenge. However, in the course of this study, the Subcommittee
identified additional "realities" that must be added to the equation and made to
balance at the end of the day. The one about which the Subcommittee heard the most, and in
which the federal government has a potentially large role to play is the "aboriginal
reality". Many of Canadas aboriginal peoples still live off the land. For many
of them the boreal forest is their home, and its continued health is essential to their
very survival. They must have a greater say in the management of their forests, and a
greater share in the wealth that they generate. The federal government has a
responsibility which many think has been overlooked or forgotten, to speak up on behalf of
our aboriginal people when the provinces set out their development plans for our forests.
During the course of its study, the Subcommittee was also made acutely
aware of the "international reality" of forest practices. As a major player in
the international trade in forest products, Canada must respond to growing consumer
demands for proof, probably via internationally recognized certification, that its forests
are being managed in a sustainable way.
This report is the outcome of our investigations. We hope that it will
increase awareness and understanding of the "competing realities" that are vying
for use of the boreal forest. We further hope that it will illustrate the ways by which
seemingly unrelated decisions affect the forest. We trust that it will stimulate public
debate as to how best all of us can proceed in managing this great legacy.