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Canadian National Forest Strategy


The present document begins by describing the importance of our forests. It then restates the values we hold with respect to forests and presents a vision for the future. It outlines ways of encouraging the various constituents of the forest community to develop their own action plans to ensure its success, and includes a commitment to monitoring our progress. Finally, it updates each of the nine strategic directions defined in 1992, reflecting reconsidered guiding principles, objectives and a framework for action.

Canadian Forest View

Canada: A Forest Nation

The forests and other natural features symbolize Canada. It always has. From the earliest times, the inhabitants of this land have relied heavily on the forest. Covering nearly half the Canadian landscape, some 418 million hectares, forests are integral to our environment, our economy, our culture and our history. They are instrumental in the realization of our aspirations as a society and as a nation.

Most of our forests are owned by the public, with 71 percent controlled by the provinces. Twenty-three percent are federally owned, some are managed by or in cooperation with the territorial governments and the balance is in private hands. Of the 417.6 million hectares, 22.8 million are recognized as "heritage forests" and as such are, by law, to be left in their natural state. Another 27.5 million hectares are considered "protection forests," where timber harvesting is excluded by policy. Commercial forests capable of producing timber along with a variety of other benefits cover 235 million hectares. Of these, 119 million hectares (28.5 percent of the total forest area) are managed primarily for timber production, while the remainder has not been accessed. The balance is made up of open forests comprised of natural areas of small trees, shrubs and muskeg.

Deer Our forest ecosystems provide habitat for wildlife, which includes plants, animals and micro-organisms. They moderate the climate and provide clean air and water. They enrich the soil, prevent its erosion, and regulate water flow. They provide wild and managed areas for the cultural, spiritual and recreational benefit of everyone in Canada.

Historically, the forests have met the cultural, spiritual and material needs of the Aboriginal people of Canada, who therefore bring a unique perspective to forest management. Their role in forest management will evolve as Aboriginal title, Aboriginal and Treaty rights, and the Crown's fiduciary duty to protect these rights are further defined.

Truck Load About 337 communities in Canada depend largely on forestry and more than 830 000 Canadians work in the wood and paper industries or for organizations associated with it. The wood and paper industries pay out more than $11.1 billion a year in wages. In 1995, shipments of manufactured forest products were valued at $71.4 billion, making Canada one of the world's largest suppliers of wood and paper products. In 1996, exports contributed $32.1 billion to the country's net balance of trade -- almost as much as energy, fishing, mining and agriculture combined.

Wood and paper product manufacturers in Canada are making protection of the environment an integral element of daily business. Pollution abatement expenditures by the pulp and paper industry alone total $5 billion since 1990.

Competition is increasing in what have traditionally been our core markets, and a number of former customers are now turning into competitors. Industrial adaptation, a sustainable wood supply and a positive attitude to innovation are crucial to the forest industry, as they are to Canada's economy as a whole.

In addition, Canadian forests support industries providing billions of dollars in sales, including tourism, recreation, wild foods, fur trade, Christmas trees and maple products. Forest-based recreation continues to increase dramatically. For example, the number of visitor-days to forested national parks reached 29.7 million in 1994. Opportunities exist to expand the economic benefits from these forest-based activities, on a sustainable basis.

All of these considerations are important in applying the concept of sustainable development -- meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. The 1992 National Forest Strategy answered Canada's forest-related commitments made at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development. This present Strategy furthers that work and responds to commitments made since then, under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and reflects Canada's foreign policy objective of supporting discussions aimed at an international agreement on forests.

Sustainable development is an approach by which human activities account for long-term health, wealth and equity, through respect for the tolerance of the environment, of the economy and of social acceptance, including fairness toward future generations. Because such an encompassing and value-laden approach lends itself to interpretation and to varied applications, the adoption and evolution of sustainable forms of development hinge on public acceptance, and therefore on the public's trust in decision-making. This requirement essentially defines the nature and precision of the information required for decision-making. It also brings a further requirement, to incorporate society's changing views and values into decisions about planning processes, research priorities, forest practices, manufacturing practices, marketing and consumption.

Adopting sustainable development in forestry has meant broadening our overarching goal, from sustained yields to healthy forest ecosystems. This goal encompasses Canadians' objectives for the conservation of forests as a source of economic wealth, of habitat for wildlife and fish, of gene pools for biological diversity, and of water and carbon. In short, today's use and conservation practices must not reduce prospects for future generations.

Faced with public concerns about timber harvesting, and in response to the 1992 National Forest Strategy and UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) developed a framework of criteria and indicators to define and measure progress towards sustainable forest management, in consultation with the entire forest community. The framework reflects the values of Canadians and identifies the forest features and uses they want to sustain or enhance, and includes indicators of environmental, social and economic health. In October 1997, the CCFM released its first report, on data availability and reporting capacity, Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Canada: Technical Report 1997, with a companion implementation plan to produce a forest comprehensive report by the year 2000.

Canada is also playing a leadership role internationally to define and measure forest sustainability. Canada and 11 other countries have collaborated in the development of criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of boreal and temperate forests outside Europe (known as "the Montréal Process"). The First Approximation Report on the Montreal Process, released in 1997, provides an assessment of the member countries' ability to report.

At the national level, scientists are now working with policy-makers to develop the new tools and methodologies required to measure and report on forest sustainability by the year 2000. Their work will also contribute to continued progress at the international level. Because of the breadth of application of criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management, many commitments to action for advancing their progress are found throughout this Strategy.

This current Strategy is a collective attempt to develop a workable formula that reconciles the range of expectations placed on the forest and forest managers. Economic pursuits, environmental resilience and social progress define those expectations. Forest managers are expected to help produce the desired results in all three areas, and at all scales, from individual landscapes and community forests to watersheds, ecozones, forest types, the country and the planet. Assigning priority among uses and objectives is therefore essential.

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Values and Vision

The consultation meetings held across the country in 1997-1998, as in 1991-1992, encouraged people to express their values and to describe their view of the desired uses and state of their forests in the short and the long term. It is evident that we, as Canadians, have deeply held values that shape our vision of the future for Canada's forests: our values and our vision represent our national and our global commitment toward sustainable forests. The following statements attempt to render those shared views.

Our forests are part of our national heritage and our national identity. They are a rich resource, fundamental to life on our planet, and they stand between us and the extinction of many life forms, possibly our own. Treated with care and respect, they offer immeasurable rewards, ranging from the spiritual to the material. Our forests come to us as a legacy, to be sustained and passed on in that spirit. Ensuring that we have forests will in itself help ensure that there are future generations.

We Believe

  • Healthy forest ecosystems are essential to the health of all life on earth.
  • Our forest heritage is part of our past, our present and our future identity as a nation.
  • It is important to maintain a rich tapestry of forests across the Canadian landscape that sustain biological diversity.
  • Continued economic, environmental and social benefits must be maintained for the communities, families and individual Canadians who depend on the forest for their livelihood and way of life.
  • The spiritual qualities and inherent beauty of our forests are essential to our physical and our mental well-being.
  • As forest stewards, we must ensure the wise use of our forests for the environmental, economic, social and cultural well-being of all.
  • All Canadians are entitled to participate in determining how their forests are used and the purposes for which they are managed.

Our Vision

  • All measures within our means will be taken to ensure healthy forests are passed on to future generations.
  • We will fulfill our global responsibilities in the care and use of forests, maintaining their contribution to the environment and the well-being of all living things.
  • Our needs will be met through developing and applying the best available knowledge, and through cooperation.
  • Our forests will be managed on an integrated basis, supporting a full range of uses and values including timber production, habitat for wildlife, and parks and wilderness areas.
  • We will participate in setting objectives and priorities for managing our forests, based on how we value them and using the best available knowledge of their environmental, economic, social and cultural features.
  • A strong economic base for varied forest products, tourism and recreation will be supported within a framework of sound ecological and social principles and practices.
  • Advanced training, skills and education will be provided to those employed in forest-related activities, and stable, fulfilling employment opportunities will add to the quality of life in their communities.
  • Through consultation, mutual respect, sharing of information and clear and harmonious relationships among all those involved with forests, trust and agreement will be brought about and the effectiveness of forest conservation, management and industrial development will be improved.

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Sustainable Forests

Our goal 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.

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Making it Work

This Strategy sets out in broad terms what is needed to continue the pursuit of the primary goal that Canadians have given themselves -- sustainable forest management nationwide.

This 1998 document identifies strategic priorities that, over the next five years, will guide the policies and actions of Canada's forest community. It applies to governments, industries, non-government organizations, communities and concerned individuals who have an interest in Canada's forests. This Strategy is also intended to influence and complement other national initiatives for economic, environmental and social progress. A few examples include: Technology Partnerships Canada, the Centers of Excellence Network, the Wildlife Policy for Canada, the Migratory Bird Convention Act, the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, the Whitehorse Mining Initiative and Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan. Other natural resource-based sectors, all of which have an impact on our forests are also invited to contribute to this Strategy's success.

Agreement on the values and vision, and acceptance of the principles and goals represent a common starting point. As this Strategy is voluntary in nature, precisely how the objectives are achieved is largely up to the members of Canada's forest community.

The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) will act as public trustee of the Strategy. The signatories of the Canada Forest Accord will oversee its implementation from planning to evaluation.

Individually and collectively, the signatories to the Canada Forest Accord commit themselves to develop their own public and measurable action plans in response to the Strategy and appropriate to their respective circumstances and capabilities and to release them by the end of 1998. They will also encourage others in Canada's forest community to do the same, and to contribute to the Strategy's success in their own way, within their respective spheres of activity and authority.

The collective success of Canadians in implementing this Strategy and in advancing the application of sustainable forest management will be measured and reported. As trustee, the CCFM will ensure that progress is reviewed at its annual meetings. The Strategy will be formally evaluated by an independent third party at the mid-term and at the end, and the results will be published.

This Strategy is intended as a guide for the entire forest community in Canada. Everyone who contributed to it has a role in making it work and is represented by the "we" in this document.

Canada's forests are the heritage and responsibility of all Canadians. This strategy serves as a guide in the pursuit of their goal of sustainable forests nationwide.

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