Forest harvesting is not synonymous with deforestation and does not threaten the sustainability of our forests, which are actually under-harvested, according to a new report by the Quebec-based think tank MEI.
The report explains that thanks to innovation, the forestry industry is more and more productive and Canada’s forests are doing better.
The report titled How Innovation Benefits Forests was prepared by Alexandre Moreau, Public Policy Analyst at 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,” Moreau said.
Canada’s forest cover has remained relatively stable since 1990, despite the forestry activities that take place, 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 per cent of pulp and paper mills’ supply four decades ago, whereas it’s more than 80 per cent 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,” Moreau said. “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,”
The forestry sector employs nearly 60,000 people and generates $6.5 billion in economic activity in Quebec alone. Forestry accounts for about 10 per cent of employment in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, and more than 40 per cent in northern Quebec.
“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,” Moreau said. “Recent history teaches us that the profit motive will be a great help in this regard.”
The MEI is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications and media appearances, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing reforms based on market principles and entrepreneurship.