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Canadian forests are under-harvested, says MEI

Sept. 18, 2018 -The Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), an independent public policy think tank, has released a report stating that forest harvesting is not synonymous with deforestation and doesn’t threaten the sustainability of our forests – and, in fact, Canadian forests are under-harvested.

September 18, 2018  By P&PC staff

The findings, published in a report titled “How Innovation Benefits Forests,” are in direct opposition to common misconceptions about the Canadian forest industry, says MEI.

“It can seem counterintuitive to some, but the profit motive protects our forests,” says Alexandre Moreau, public policy analyst at MEI and author of the publication. “By this logic, forestry companies make substantial investments to reduce waste and get the most out of each tree harvested in the forest.”

Canada’s forest cover has remained relatively stable since 1990 despite harvesting activities, and innovation has a lot to do with that, says the institute. For one thing, the volume of softwood roundwood needed to produce a given quantity of boards fell by nearly a quarter between 1990 and 2017. For another, recycled sawmill products accounted for only 20 per cent of pulp and paper mills’ supply four decades ago, whereas it’s over 80 per cent today.

“A lot more is produced while cutting down fewer trees. Whether in sawmills or in pulp and paper mills, efficiency gains have allowed more to be done with less. The value added to sawmilling sub-products, with the help of new technologies, has also boosted productivity, with the wealth derived from each tree continuing to rise,” says Moreau.


The forestry sector employs nearly 60,000 workers and generates $6.5 billion in economic activity in Quebec alone. “The forest accounts for 10 per cent of jobs in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, and more than 40 per cent in Northern Quebec,” Moreau says. “That’s why it’s so important to seize the opportunities provided by forests, and why it is also important to debunk certain myths regarding the state of the forests and their harvesting.”

“Today’s technology and methods allow the forest to be harvested in a way that respects the environment, meeting both social expectations with regard to respecting biodiversity and the economic needs of the workers and communities that depend on the forest,” says Moreau. “Recent history teaches us that the profit motive will be a great help in this regard.”

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