Our operations in Canada depend on approximately 13.9 million acres of temperate and boreal forests in four provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. The vast majority of forests in Canada are owned by the government of the province in which they are located, and are managed on behalf of the people who live there. Also referred to as Crown lands, provincial governments grant many entities the rights to operate on these forests. Operating entities can include companies in resource sectors such as energy, mining and forestry. They also can include tourist operators, trappers, and others who use the forest for commercial enterprises.
The forests vary throughout our operating areas. In some places, we manage boreal forest, where the climate is cool and relatively dry. Coniferous trees, such as lodgepole pine, white spruce, black spruce, and balsam fir, dominate the area. Tamarack, trembling aspen, balsam poplar and white birch are also present. In other areas, we manage lower-elevation forests composed of aspen, ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir. We also manage forests represented by early-fire-succession tree species such as jackpine, black spruce, poplar, and red and white pine.
Forest products companies sign long-term license agreements with the provincial governments. These agreements entitle the company to a defined area on which it may operate to support one or more wood product manufacturing facilities. Generally, the licenses are for 20-25 years and are renewable every 5-10 years. These licenses require a long-term forest management plan with the primary objective of ensuring the long-term health of the forest ecosystem. These plans are based on a forest policy and legal framework requiring sustainability, public policy and Aboriginal involvement, and adaptive management. Canadian provinces are ultimately responsible for land-use decisions and the management of the forest, but industry and governments work together to develop forest-management plans. The plans are also developed in consultation with other stakeholders, including aboriginal and local communities, tourist outfitters, anglers and hunters, as well as other industries such as oil, gas and mining.
- Our forest-management strategy in Canada is based on four principles:
- We believe in practicing ecologically based forest management that will maintain forest ecosystems within the ranges of natural variability.
- We respect the social and cultural considerations that accompany the right to manage public forests.
- We believe in continuously improving our management practices and systems to ensure the economic value of the forest and the economic viability of our forest-product facilities.
- We believe in developing the long-term strategies, together with other users of the land base, that respect the integrity of the forest and its resources.
Wildlife & Biodiversity
Managing for wildlife habitat is part of every forest-management plan we develop. Specific forest-management protocols have been developed for some species in regions where we operate, the most notable of which is the woodland caribou. Forest management protocols have been developed for a number of other species, including grizzly bear, barred owl, trumpeter swan, bull trout and forest birds.
A significant portion of the forests we manage consist of wetlands, rock outcroppings, and other areas that do not grow commercial crops of trees, but are valuable for biodiversity. In Ontario, the forests we manage have large populations of nesting bald eagles and the largest colony of white pelicans in the region.
In much of Canada, the forests face a threat from the mountain pine beetle. Infestations have been growing rapidly and we have modified our harvest plans to focus on infested and high-risk lodgepole pine stands.
We also actively participate in the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, an agreement among members of the Forest Products Association of Canada and conservation groups. It is designed to be a globally and nationally significant precedent for boreal forest conservation and other forest sector competitiveness.
The Canadian Constitution recognizes the inherent rights of three groups of indigenous people in Canada: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. These groups are often referred to together as Aboriginal peoples. We are committed to developing and maintaining positive relationships with Aboriginal communities wherever we operate. Our relationships with Aboriginal communities include:
- Contractual relationships for timber harvesting, forest silviculture, infrastructure development and the supply of other goods and services.
- Involvement with and donations to Aboriginal initiatives.
- Support for education to help develop employment skills.
- Employment opportunities.
- Mutual sharing of information and goals with a view to understanding and accommodation.
- Membership in the Forest Products Association of Canada, which works to strengthen Aboriginal participation in Canada’s forest sector through economic development initiatives and business investments, strong environmental stewardship, and the creation of skill-development opportunities targeted at First Nations youth.
We operate a state-of-the-art TimberStrand® laminated strand lumber mill in Kenora, Ontario. The mill draws most of its supply of hardwood fiber from two surrounding forest management areas: the Kenora forest, licensed by the province to a shareholder cooperative that includes Weyerhaeuser, several aboriginal communities and businesses, small mills, forestry contractors and quota holders, and the Whiskey Jack forest, previously licensed by the province to AbitibiBowater. Much of the Whiskey Jack forest is subject to a traditional-use claim by the Grassy Narrows First Nation. Read more about this topic.
Kenora Sustainable Forest License
In October 2010, we joined with several First Nations, the Government of Ontario, and other forest companies and contractors to sign a historic shareholder-managed Sustainable Forest License covering the Kenora Forest in Ontario. Participants include Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Naotkamegwanning First Nation, Ochiichagwe’Babigo’Ining First Nation, Weyerhaeuser, Kenora Forest Products, Wincrief Forestry Products, Kenora Independent Loggers, and other companies with forestry operations on the Kenora Forest. Miitigoog LP is responsible for all forest-management aspects of the Kenora Sustainable Forest Licence, including planning, certification, compliance, road construction and maintenance, and silviculture.
RESEARCH AND PARTNERSHIPS
To sustainably manage our forests, it's important that we continue to learn about how our activities affect both the forest ecosystem and surrounding communities. We frequently partner with other organizations to ensure that our practices are consistent with the best available science.
One example is our support for caribou habitat. In Alberta, we funded $1 million worth of caribou habitat research conducted by the University of Alberta and worked with government ministries and other stakeholders to assist with caribou recovery. In 2004 and 2009, we deferred timber harvest on 202,000 acres while the province researched and developed a caribou recovery plan. This deferral has now been incorporated into a forest-management plan that considers critical caribou habitat requirements and minimizes harvesting in those areas.
Another example is where grizzly bear roam the western and southern portions of our operating areas in Alberta. The Foothills Model Forest coordinate a multi-stakeholder research project on the grizzly bear population to determine long-term strategies for its conservation and mapped habitat on the forests we manage.
We have also undertaken a number of initiatives to obtain baseline information on the fish and wildlife resources within our operating areas. Research and inventory initiatives include nocturnal raptors, songbirds, fish and furbearer surveys. These inventories are aimed at providing benchmark data on species occurrence and distribution.