by Craig Cantin | November 29, 2011 11:30 am
Canada’s incredible forest heritage – 300 million hectares or 10% of all the world’s forests – is a source of enormous national pride and economic value. Thirty per cent of the world’s boreal forests grow in Canada and this great northern forest ecosystem, covering half of our country, acts as a huge carbon reservoir and sink.
The value of these forests is difficult to measure, but can be expressed in several ways: the wood and paper products industries directly employ over 350 000 people and generate over $58 billion in sales annually – more than half our annual trade surplus. Economists estimate the value of carbon stored in Canada’s boreal forest at $3.7 trillion, but arguably it is priceless.
The Green Party understands that forests are the foundation of complex ecological systems performing important services that purify our air and water, prevent floods and erosion, and stabilize our climate. Two-thirds of Canada’s plant and animal species live in forests. Large expanses of forest, especially old growth forests, must remain intact to maintain natural habitats and biodiversity. Our forests also sustain subsistence hunters and those who seek recreation and rejuvenation in the wilderness.
Canada cuts about 500 000 hectares of forest a year. While the forest industry has taken serious hits over the last decade, its economic impact is important to communities across Canada. Although forest management is under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government once played an important role in R&D and technological innovation. The federal government has largely withdrawn from its historical role in primary research with the closure of Canadian Forest Service research centres across Canada. The lapsing of funding for the Model Forest Program is another sign of the Harper Administration’s lack of commitment to the forest industry.
Canada is devoting very little attention to improving wood quality relative to Europe and UK, which would be a legitimate target for research by Industry Canada, the Canadian Forest Service (CFS), and National Research Council (NRC).
Working within the Canadian Boreal Initiative’s corporate, First Nations, and conservation framework, we will also ensure that at least half of Canada’s boreal forest is protected, while all is maintained in a state of ecological integrity. Its value as a carbon reservoir will far outweigh short-term economic gains from logging it.
Green Party MPs will:
Work with Industry Canada and NRC-industry partnerships to encourage more value-added manufacturing, including products that would benefit from a greater focus on timber quality;
Work to make funding available for research (by CFS) into improved timber quality, including making timber quality an explicit objective of silviculture and diversifying the mix of exploited species;
Address the unused potential in Canada’s hardwood forests and private woodlots. Moderate climate change may bring opportunities to restore and increase federal funding into climate change adaptation in Canada’s forests. Work with the CFS to reinstate funding for a reinvigorated Canadian Model Forest Network;
Restore funding to the Climate Adaptation Network working with partners in universities and other levels of government on adaptation measures for Canada’s forests. Adaptation can encompass scenario modeling, silvicultural practices to foster resilient forests, changing the species composition of selected forests, and (acknowledging the inevitability of some level of climate change) using assisted migration of forest trees in the service of these goals;
Promote the use of ‘Triad’ zonation of forest exploitation. Triad zonation proposes to zone forest estates into protected areas, standard (extensive) silvicultural zones, and intensive or even super-intensive silvicultural zones. Faced with rising transport costs over time and increasing demands for environmental protection (e.g. the Boreal Forest Agreement), as well as regional timber supply shortages, it is clear that intensification of silviculture on some part of the forest will have to occur for current production levels to be maintained. ‘Intensification’ can run the gamut from intensified wood production using silvicultural methods, including thinning, through to the growing of short rotation crops for biomass fuels;
Provide tax relief, either through taxes foregone or through reduced interest rates on money borrowed for capital equipment, that would ease the path from our current extensive exploitation of cheap and usually low quality wood to a future in which (some) companies would focus on value-added and intensive silviculture on smaller areas of forest, located relatively close to processing facilities;
Support enhanced wood quality from the 450 000 small woodlot owners in Canada. These private woodlots could be an important source of timber, a means to achieve future conservation goals in rural areas, and a proving ground for climate change adaptation strategies;
Expand the range of some valuable hardwoods on small woodlots, which would benefit the development of industries dependent on hardwoods (e.g. some types of flooring, veneer etc.);
Renegotiate trade agreements so that Canada has the power to encourage more domestic value-added manufacturing of wood products by restricting the export of raw logs with a substantial whole log export tax;
Within the on-going Forest Accord process and in partnership with the provincial and territorial governments who have primary jurisdiction, shift all economic forests to eco-forestry practices, including certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC);
With the provinces, First Nations and the logging industry, devise incentives that promote the use of single stem selection logging and longer rotations that conserve natural forest ecosystems and grow higher value wood;
Support the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework agreement finalized in 2010 between a number of major forestry companies, First Nations, and environment groups to protect at least half of Canada’s Boreal Forest in a network of large interconnected protected areas, and institute state-of-the-art ecosystem based management and stewardship on the remaining landscape;
Provide more federal funding to research the best way to harvest pine beetle-killed trees, while leaving unaffected trees, and to mitigate the economic impact of the pine beetle epidemic;
Develop a Genuine Forest Health Indicator (GFHI) that assesses the state of the forests every decade and measures changes in all forest values, including those that mitigate climate change directly or indirectly;
Promote hemp and agricultural cellulose waste as sources of paper fibre to reduce the pressure on standing forests;
Promote the use of wood waste, rather than foods such as corn, to produce bio-fuels.
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