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Ulf T. Runesson

Faculty of Natural
Resources Management,
Lakehead University

955 Oliver Road,
Thunder Bay, Ontario,
Canada P7B 5E1

     (807) 343-8784

     (807) 346-7769


"We do not inherit this land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."
— Aboriginal saying

A fair portion of the national debate over sustainable forestry and improved ecosystem management of the last 20 years has been initiated from within Northwestern Ontario.

Starting in the 1970s, the Hartt (later Fahlgren) Royal Commission on the Northern Environment was sparked into existence over the fate of the last big stand of unallocated productive forest in Ontario, the so-called Reed Tract. The 10-year commissionˇ¦s exhaustive report documented both the physical and social environment of the Far North of Ontario and delivered dozens of recommendations, many addressing forest practices and conservation.

Another policy-making marathon was the Class Environmental Assessment for Crown Land Timber Management in Ontario. Centred in Thunder Bay for much of its seven-year life, the assessment involved months of hearings and testimony by hundreds of experts and advocates.

The 560-page document delivered by Ontarioˇ¦s Environmental Assessment Board in 1994 set new rules for forestry and ecosystem management across the province. It imposed more than 100 conditions on public timber management, including protection of old-growth red and white pine forests and a cap on the size of clearcuts.

Other initiatives have taken place since. Two with regional roots are the first independent audit of Ontario timber reserves by former Lakehead University Forestry Prof. Ken Hearnden and Diversity, the report of the Ontario Forest Policy Panel led by Peter Duinker, another Lakehead Forestry professor and Margaret Wanlin, a community development worker from Thunder Bay.

Much of this paper debate has been put into forest practice.

In 1995, the Government of Ontario passed the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The Act provides for the establishment of the Forestry Futures Trust and the Forest Renewal Trust. Each trust is funded by monies generated by the Ontario forest industry. The Renewal Trust is used to carry out forest renewal work by companies on areas which they have recently harvested. Projects funded by the Forestry Futures Trust focus on improving future wood supply. Eligible projects fall into three categories: stand improvement, remedial (for example recently burned areas), and preventative (forest areas that for example are susceptible to insect infestation). The five-person Committee that reviews applications and approves funding functions at arms-length from the government. Chaired by Dr. John Naysmith of Lakehead University, the Forestry Futures Trustˇ¦s annual income is in the order of $8 to $10 million.

The land and water area of Northwestern Ontario south of the 51st Parallel totals 250,000 square kilometres. More than 70 percent of this, or 18 million hectares, is productive forest. The productive forest is further broken down into 14.7 million hectares of regular production forest, managed primarily for timber, 2.6 million hectares of production forest reserve and 740,000 hectares of protection forest.

In this forest, the total volume of growing stock is estimated at 2.33 billion cubic metres. The volume of the production forest alone is calculated to be just over 2 billion cubic metres. Of this, roughly 1.6 billion cubic metres is softwood, the balance tolerant and intolerant hardwoods.

By species, the growing volume of the production forest is spruce: 1.1 billion cubic metres; trembling aspen: 378 million cubic metres; jack pine: 358 million cubic metres; balsam fir: 111 million cubic metres; white birch: 82 million cubic metres; other conifers: 15 million cubic metres; white pine:

6.4 million cubic metres; red pine: 4.7 million cubic metres.

During 1996-97, the volume of wood scheduled for harvest within the region was 8.7 million cubic metres. Of this, 41 percent was spruce, 37 percent was jack pine and nearly 17 percent aspen. This compares to a total actual harvest of 9.3 million cubic metres or 73,795 hectares cut during 1994-95. This was only a fraction of the planned harvest of 17.25 million cubic metres which, in itself, constituted only 44 percent of the Maximum Annual Depletion.

The timber harvested in 1996-97 accrued $46 million in stumpage fees to the provincial government and contributed $42.4 million to the Silvicultural Renewal Trust Fund, used to regenerate Ontarioˇ¦s forests.

In 1995-96, silvicultural work in the Northwest included: 8,820 hectares clear cut for regeneration purposes, 473 hectares were seed tree cut, 245 hectares strip cut and 49 hectares shelterwood cut. In the same period, 5,750 hectares were planted with bare root stock totalling nearly 9.7 million trees and 21,980 hectares were planted with container stock (almost 35 million seedlings).

Broadcast aerial seeding was used on a further 12,250 hectares, seeding with site preparation on 2,778 hectares and natural scattering of seed from site preparation over 289 hectares.

Mechanical site preparation was used on 38,145 hectares and chemical preparation on 4,032 hectares. Prescribed burns were employed to treat 1,220 hectares. Manual tending was used on 76 hectares, chemical ground selective tending on 1,142 hectares and chemical aerial broadcast tending on 17,219 hectares. Uneven-aged stand improvements cuts were used on 1,206 hectares.

Last Modified: January 20, 2014 20:01:06. 
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