There are more than
425 000 woodlot owners in Canada. Together they own more than 18 million hectares of
commercial productive forest land, or more than 12 percent of Canada's total. Woodlots are
an important source of commercial timber, providing an annual harvest of 39,6 million
cubic metres, or 21 percent of the national harvest. Woodlots are important as wildlife
habitat, as reservoirs of biodiversity, as carbon sinks and as a source of clean water,
since they are often the only forest in inhabited rural areas. Woodlots are important for
their environmental and recreational values, and as a source of many specialty products.
Canadian woodlots produce annually more than four million cubic metres of fuelwood, more
than four million Christmas trees and 15 (DL) million litres of maple syrup. Other food,
medicinal and ornamental products are growing in importance. Serving as windbreaks and
shelterbelts, farm woodlots help increase crop yields, reduce fuel consumption and promote
Woodlots are much smaller than management units on publicly owned forests. Owners who harvest trees typically derive part-time income from their woodlots, carrying out small-scale, less mechanized operations than those on public and industrial land. Although larger-scale
operations are normally associated with a processing facility, most woodlot owners require
the woodlot itself to show reasonable profit potential.
Owners' objectives for woodlots are highly diverse. A woodlot may
be a source of income or of firewood and other products for home use, a long-term
investment, or perhaps an insurance policy or retirement savings fund. Recreation,
spiritual renewal, wildlife conservation and a sense of commitment to future generations
are other common objectives. An individual owner will often combine a number of these
objectives, and change their priority over time according to family circumstances.
This diversity of objectives results in an unplanned, natural
mosaic of varied forest conditions in the rural landscape. Differences are accentuated by
variations in the quality of harvesting and other management practices from one owner to
another. Besides reflecting owners' objectives and levels of commitment to good
stewardship, woodlot management is influenced by local market conditions, availability of
financing, silvicultural programs, technical services and a mixture of government
policies. Those are the factors accounting for the diversity which woodlots contribute to
the rural landscape.
In nine provinces, woodlot owners have formed associations as a
tool for promoting cooperative efforts in managing their resources, marketing their
products and providing other services.
The challenges confronting woodlot owners, their associations,
and other agencies seeking to encourage sustainable development of woodlots have changed
over the five-year span of the 1992 National Forest Strategy. At the beginning of the
period, finding profitable markets for timber was a challenge. Prices and demand have
since risen in many areas for some species, so that harvests have increased in some cases
above sustainable levels.
The end of federal-provincial Forest Resource Development
Agreements (FRDAs) which provided direct funding for silviculture has resulted in large
reductions in the amount of intensive silviculture practised on woodlots. Development of
alternative funding mechanisms for silviculture programs has been a major challenge. In
some provinces, stakeholders have developed methods for sharing the cost of investment in
Services for transfer of education and knowledge on woodlot
management to woodlot owners have ended or been reduced since the end of FRDAs. Most
provincial forest extension services -- where they existed -- have also been reduced since
1992, weakening the technical support network for woodlot owners. Development of effective
ways to fill that void remains a major challenge to sustainable development of woodlots
across the country.
A rising interest in sustainable forest management certification
confronts owners with new challenges. The proportion of well-managed woodlots must be
increased. Methods must be developed to coordinate individual land use choices so that
regional targets can be achieved. Mechanisms for public consultation that respect
individual owners' rights must be established.
A review of the federal income tax system's effect on woodlot
management was completed in 1992. Interest in implementation of the review's
recommendations has been limited, up to 1997. Over-harvesting and reduced funds for
silviculture in many provinces amplify the need to remove disincentives or create
incentives to sustainable management of woodlots.
Some information on woodlot resources and management has been
developed in some provinces, but it is generally of lower quality than information on
public land. Lack of information about harvesting and silviculture levels, combined with
delays in updating basic resource inventories, has led to difficulties in estimating and
managing for sustainable yields on private lands. It is a major obstacle to efforts to
develop landscape management strategies and to move toward sustainable ecosystem
management on private land.
Over-harvesting of woodlots and conversion to agricultural use
and crop production are major concerns. A general increase in public concern about
sustainability of natural resources and landscapes has increased the pressure on
governments and woodlot owner associations to act decisively to improve the overall level
of woodlot management. This growing pressure, coinciding with a period of reduced support
in several key areas, has contributed to uncertainty among woodlot owners about the
prospects for profitable development of their resources.
Just as challenges facing woodlot owners have increased since
1992, so have opportunities for developing more profitable and productive woodlots. Demand
for timber, recreation and other products, including non-commercial services such as clean
water and attractive landscapes, is increasing in most parts of Canada. A major challenge
lies with incentives that would make environmental and other non-timber investments
economically feasible. Effective policies and partnerships of associations and governments
with other stakeholders will determine success in realizing the potential of woodlots in
the coming five years.
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Private woodlots provide important environmental, economic,
social and cultural benefits to their owners and to the community. Consequently, the
community has a responsibility to contribute to the sustainable development of private
Sustainable development of woodlots will increase the level
and range of benefits available to their owners and to the community at large.
Woodlot owner awareness, education and knowledge are of major
importance for the attainment of sustainable development of woodlots.
Woodlot owners have property rights that include determining
the objectives for which their forests will be managed. As owners they hold a
responsibility to sustainably manage their woodlots, as circumstances permit, within the
Expectation of a fair return for investments made in the
woodlot sector is a prerequisite to sustainable development of woodlots. Assessment of
fair returns must also include costs absorbed by owners to maintain environmental and
social benefits enjoyed by the larger community.
We will increase the environmental, economic, social and cultural
benefits derived from woodlots:
8.1 By developing comprehensive
strategies for the sustainable development of woodlots, which will assess the woodlot
sector in the forestry, social and economic and environmental contexts; identify barriers
to sustainable development; and establish targets and funding commitments to achieve the
potential of woodlots.
8.2 By establishing clear policies to
address the challenges stated in this strategic direction and establish a calendar for
- incentives to invest in woodlot management including appropriate
taxation and woodlot management programs.
- inventories of woodlot resources and land use;
- fair access to market, opportunities for value-added products and
fair return for sale of timber and other products;
- silviculture and harvest standards to optimize output of a full
range of forest products;
- woodlot owner education, woodlot research and knowledge transfer
appropriate to the requirements of small-scale, multi-use forestry; and,
- regional landscape management and planning.
8.3 By implementing changes to the Federal
Income Tax Act and to provincial and municipal taxation which will contribute in a
constructive way to investments in and fair returns from the sustainable development of
8.4 By defining mechanisms and priorities
for conducting appropriate inventories of woodlots, which will improve data on forests,
including timber and other forest resources.
8.5 By developing value-added strategies
for woodlot products, to market a broader range of timber and other products.
8.6 By carrying out afforestation of
marginal agricultural lands, through the implementation of proper land use planning and
8.7 By identifying private woodlot
research needs, undertaking relevant research and establishing mechanisms through which
new knowledge can be transferred to woodlot owners.
8.8 By developing, implementing and
financing appropriate woodlot owners' education programs, technology transfer and other
knowledge transfer programs, which will strengthen the woodlot owners' capacity to pursue
8.9 By establishing a consultative
committee to the federal minister for the woodlot sector, to provide advice and encourage
good communications within the sector.
We will promote regional landscape management and planning that
includes woodlots :
8.10 By developing closer links with
other associations concerned with forest tenure and other land uses, in support of optimal
land allocation and use among competing users.
8.11 By developing and implementing
protection and conservation measures concerning woodlands under private tenure, in order
to prevent loss of woodlot ecosystems and private forest to housing, agricultural,
industrial or other uses.
8.12 By ensuring that woodlots and
woodlot management are recognized in the development of policies that may indirectly
affect sustainable development of woodlots.