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Canadian National Forest Strategy

FOREST MANAGEMENT: Practicing Stewardship

Canadian forest values range from wilderness and wildlife to wood supply, and from recreation to water quality. Priorities among forest values differ from one geographic region to another and will continue to shift over time. The challenge is to continually refine land use and forest management practices so that they reflect Canadian values and maintain the health of the ecosystems. Sustainable forest management, therefore, takes an integrated and adaptive approach to planning.

Because over 90 percent of Canadian forest land is publicly owned, forest management plans and operations must meet the many broad needs and goals of Canadians. Legal accountability for forest sustainability lies primarily with provincial governments, with responsibilities for forest management planning and forest operations more and more often contracted out to forest companies.

Consideration of identified forest values requires knowledge and information about them, as well as of natural disturbances such as fires, insect and disease epidemics and wind throw. Forest management planning is, therefore, a continual cycle of assessing, learning and making changes. Planning considers information at several scales to address both strategic and site-specific concerns, and both short- and long-term needs and goals. Much of the information needs to be depicted on maps and the maps overlaid to help managers see the interrelationships and changes.

In Canada, timber is harvested on approximately one million hectares of forest land annually. This represents less than one-half of one percent of the total commercial forest land. Allocations of timber resources are based on long-term goals of land use and forest management, and regional analyses and estimates of wood supply. On public (or Crown) lands, tenure arrangements with forest companies or communities to harvest timber are usually issued through contracts or licences. Recent changes to legislation and tenure arrangements include provisions to license the harvesting of other forest resources such as blueberries or mushrooms. These complement or integrate management objectives for wildlife, water, subsurface resources, hydroelectric energy and transportation.

Several silvicultural and timber harvesting systems are employed in Canada. Selection of an appropriate silvicultural system depends mainly on the type of forest ecosystem, management objectives, as well as on costs and worker safety. The most common timber harvesting method continues to be clearcutting, the complete felling and removal of a stand of trees. With new information and a better understanding of natural disturbances and diversity, clearcutting practices are changing to emulate natural disturbance patterns and frequencies, and reflect post-disturbance characteristics of stands and landscapes. In forest regions where species regenerate under some cover, partial cutting or silvicultural systems such as shelterwood or selection cutting may be appropriate.

Reforestation systems include treatments such as natural renewal from existing seed sources, or supplementation by seeding or planting tree seedlings. Renewal efforts should help maintain the natural diversity, productivity and structure of the forest landscape and ecosystems. Tree planting will continue to be important for ensuring prompt renewal, for reforesting difficult sites or for intensive management to meet specific needs for wood supply. Better methods of encouraging natural regeneration in selected areas will ensure that those areas reflect their inherent diversity and productivity, and may help to control costs. These activities will also contribute to increased carbon sequestration.

Fire is part of the natural life cycle of most forests, and periodic fires in some forest types are necessary to maintain forest health. Each year, however, fires burn an average of two million hectares of forest in Canada, posing a threat to commercial wood supplies, rural communities and recreation areas. Canada is a world leader in fire detection and suppression technology. Canadians also recognize the natural and important role of fire in maintaining the health of the ecosystems. Fire suppression changes the characteristics of forest stands, and there is a challenge to find a level of fire suppression that balances short-term and long-term needs.

Insects and disease are also natural and necessary to forest ecosystems in Canada. Although insects and disease are a natural part of forest ecosystems, they sometimes cause major losses to forest values. Each year, millions of hectares of forest are affected by disease and insects such as budworm and bark beetles. Weeds, brush and other vegetation may hinder prompt regeneration and growth of commercial tree species. Attention is being focused on integrated pest management and alternative ways to handle vegetation that take a more ecological and sustainable approach. In addition, inspections and quarantine measures are taken at Canada's boarders to prevent the entry of pests.

Breeding and genetic techniques can also help to develop trees that are resistant to certain insects and diseases. Breeding and genetic improvement are also used to improve growth rates. In addition, silviculture and harvesting methods can be adapted to maintain conditions that naturally reduce the risk of losses from fire, insects, disease and competing vegetation.

Our vision of sustainable forest management includes integrated land use and forest management plans for important values at appropriate scales from the whole landscape to the local site, for short- and long-term goals. It will require research, continual learning and adaptation, using ecologically sound and scientifically advanced tools and practices, to realize the concept.

The commitment of all those who work, live or have an interest in the forest, particularly those who are entrusted with its stewardship, is important to realize our vision. Resource management professionals and technicians have a responsibility to ensure that their work reflects knowledge, competence and dedication.

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Ethical conduct on the part of all those who direct, practice or judge performance in forest management is essential.

Sustainable forest management recognizes a forest's potential to sustain a range of values and the needs and rights of all users, and strives to find the best balance of uses based on the relative benefits and impacts of management alternatives.

Sustainable forest management requires an adaptive management approach, following exemplary forest practice that is grounded on the best available scientific knowledge.

Coordinated direction, applied to objectives from broad land use plans to local site-specific goals, must guide all forest operations.

Forest land tenure systems must balance rights with responsibilities, encourage sound stewardship, sustain a supply of resources and provide opportunities for a fair return on investments.

Forestry practices must be based on a sound understanding of ecological prin-ciples and of the goals established for the forest.

Framework for Action

We will plan for a full range of environmental, social, economic and cul-tural forest values, guided by goals defined at appropriate scales and for appropriate time horizons:

2.1 By giving priority to research that assists resource managers in analysing information on a variety of forest values, and in assessing the impact of management options; and by pro-viding information and tools that are spatially explicit; include timber, non-timber and non-consumptive values; assess feasibility and risks; and transfer technology.

2.2 By using forecasting models and techniques to predict potential outcomes as they relate to desired goals in forest management planning.

2.3 By developing and implementing forest management strategies and guidelines to ensure long-term genetic, species and habitat diversity, and to conserve critical characteristics such as old-growth forests in the landscape.

2.4 By reviewing and where necessary revising the processes of land use and forest management planning, to encompass public involvement and input; landscape-level planning; national and international commitments goal setting for sustainable production of forest resources; the management of other land-base and subsurface resources; protection of sites with cultural or spiritual significance; protection of genetic, species and habitat diversity; conservation of valued characteristics in the landscape; Aboriginal values; and assessments of sustainability of land use and forest management options.

2.5 By ensuring that forest management plans include monitoring and reporting on measurable objectives and indicators, consistent with the CCFM Canadian framework of national criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management (1995).

2.6 By using the best available knowledge of local ecological conditions, including soil, climate, water, terrain, vegetation and wildlife habitat, as part of the planning process for forest roads, harvesting systems and silvicultural activities.

2.7 By assessing the quantity and area of forest resources to be harvested and replaced, based on forecasts of needs, forecasts of supply, opportunities for intensive silviculture and sustainable forest management goals.

2.8 By ensuring that agreements to harvest various forest resources from public forest lands promote an ecosystem approach to forest management, consistent with land use and forest management plans and with commitments 2.1 to 2.7.

We will review and improve our silvicultural systems and practices:

2.9 By seeking the views of appropriate agencies, organizations, communities and interest groups with responsibilities and knowledge of wildlife, hydrology, soils, ecology and other forest values for inclusion in silvicultural guidelines

2.10 By implementing the best available silvicultural systems and practices for ecosystem renewal and for maintaining or enhancing ecosystem health for each site type.

We will ensure the prompt renewal of disturbed forests:

2.11 By ensuring that silvicultural systems and timber harvesting plans include provisions for regeneration and tending that encourage the natural biological diversity, successional patterns and productivity of the forest ecosystems and which make provision for natural disturbances as well as other forest uses and conservation.

We will manage forests with concern for the economic, social and ecological impacts of fire, insects, disease, competing vegetation and climate change:

2.12 By reviewing fire policy, developing fire management strategies and determining appropriate levels of protection, based on increased understanding of fire, ecology and on economics.

2.13 By expanding the use of integrated pest management and alternative vegetation management, maintaining import quarantine controls, and emphasizing non-chemical approaches and biological controls, where appropriate.

2.14 By developing predictive models for climate change and their impacts on forest ecosystems.

We will encourage forest stewardship and the use of the best forestry practices:

2.15 By maintaining model and demonstration forests, with emphasis on advancing sustainable forest management decision making, planning and techniques, transferring knowledge and technology.

2.16 By defining and communicating ethics, general rules of conduct, and roles of all professions involved, in support of sustainable forests.

2.17 By encouraging the establishment of legislation where it does not already exist, regarding the professional practice of forestry and the registration and accountability of professional foresters.

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