It is difficult to determine a specific date for the origin of forest management in Quebec, but commercial lumber exports to Great Britain began early in the 19th century. Obviously the management techniques have changed a great deal over the past 200 years; but the one thing that has remained constant is the forest. Our forest.
Quebec’s forest covers 761,100 square kilometers, or 45.6% of the province’s total territory. Productive and accessible forest land under management accounts for slightly less than 60% of this area. This vast territory provides economic, environmental and social benefits to the entire population. This is especially true in Quebec, where about 92% of the forests are in the public domain. Maintaining a balance between these three values – the economy, the environment and society – is called sustainable forest management (SFM). Its main goal is to preserve or to improve the forests’ benefits for current and future generations.
In Quebec, the very birth of the economy is largely due to the forest industry. To this day, it still provides well-paying jobs to more than 60,000 people in all regions of the province, in addition to generating many indirect jobs. It accounts for about 12% of Quebec’s exports and 2% of its GDP (2018).
To respect the production and regeneration capacity of the forests, while maintaining the other benefits they offer, SFM implies that annual timber harvesting can continue at the same level in perpetuity. It is recognized that the sustainable forest management practiced in Quebec and Canada makes a positive contribution to the fight against climate change, while responding to the growing global demand for products based on natural, renewable fiber, such as wood.
In Quebec, ecosystem-based forest management has been in place for a number of years. This approach aims to mimic the role of natural disturbances that characterize the natural growth of our forests, such as fires and insect epidemics. By mimicking these natural disturbances, forest management preserves ecosystem functions, such as those contributing to water and carbon cycles, and it also maintains biodiversity.
SFM also involves designating forest areas for conservation, such as protected areas, biological refuges, and exceptional forest ecosystems, or for maintenance of wildlife habitat over the long term. These areas bear witness over time and allow us to study the natural evolution of ecosystems, the better to take guidance from them.
The forest’s social benefits are numerous and include the activities practiced by nature enthusiasts. They also include cultural and traditional activities perpetuated by First Nations. Society also enjoys benefits that are less visible but essential, such as filtration of the air we breathe and the water we drink, with the forest acting as a purifier.
In Quebec, the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) is the body responsible for developing the Sustainable Forest Management Strategy for lands in the public domain. In addition to planning SFM activities, the MFFP is responsible for consulting all users of the territory, including Aboriginal peoples, to ensure harmonized forest use.
The provincial and federal legislative and regulatory framework for SFM activities in managed forests is among the more stringent, if not the most stringent, in the world. Even so, companies that carry out SFM work planned by the MFFP in Quebec have territories they manage certified to independent forest certification standards, with more than 90% of the managed territories in Quebec having obtained such certification.
Forest certification is a voluntary commitment allowing to demonstrate that our forests are managed sustainably. Certification places an independent seal on our SFM practices, which are audited annually by independent, accredited organizations.
Certifications from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) and the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) are the two standards generally applied in Quebec. Even though their requirements differ somewhat, their SFM objectives address Aboriginal, economic, environmental and social issues, albeit from different angles. These standards describe the SFM requirements, which are stringent practices recognized internationally. The MFFP’s contribution to certification is vital, for it has planning and consultation responsibilities.
In addition to providing a supplementary framework for the implementation of our SFM practices, which are already well defined by law, certification enhances the rigorous monitoring already in place to achieve SFM objectives. Certification also encourages certificate holders to take part in SFM consultations and to communicate with other users of the territory who are concerned by SFM.
Sustainable forest management and forest certification therefore aim to ensure we will be able to enjoy the economic, environmental and social benefits of our forest 200 years from now – and far beyond.
Étienne Vézina, Manager, Forestry and Certification, at Resolute Forest Products Inc.
Credit: Marc Bédard
Cutline: A fire in the boreal forest creates large areas of severe burn while leaving some areas untouched.
Credit: Marc Bédard
Cutline: Cutting with protection of regeneration and soils as well as cluster retention mimics the irregular shape and the areas left untouched during a fire.