Our operations in Canada depend on millions of acres of temperate and boreal forests in four provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan. Most forests in Canada are owned by the provincial governments. These forests, also called Crown lands, are managed on behalf of the people of the provinces. The provincial governments grant many entities, including Weyerhaeuser, the rights to operate in these forests. Operating entities can include companies in resource sectors such as energy, mining and forestry, as well as 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 jack pine, black spruce, poplar, and red and white pine.
Forest products companies sign long-term license agreements with the provincial governments. These agreements give the company the timber rights and management responsibility for a defined area on which it may operate to support one or more wood products manufacturing facilities. Generally, the licenses are granted for 20 to 25 years and can be renewable every five to 10 years. To keep these licenses, companies are required to provide the government with regular long-term forest management plans. The primary objective of these plans is to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the forested ecosystem. These plans are based on a forest policy and legal frameworks that ensure forest sustainability, adherence to public policy and government regulation, Indigenous engagement, and adherence to adaptive management principles. Canadian provincial governments are ultimately responsible for land-use decisions and the overall management of the forest and associated landscapes, but industry and government work together to develop these forest management plans. The plans are also developed with input from other stakeholders, including Indigenous 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 responsibility to manage public forests.
We believe in continuously improving our management practices and systems to ensure the long-term economic value of the forest and the viability of our wood products facilities.
We believe in developing long-term strategies, together with other users of the land base, that respect the ecological integrity of the forest and its resources.
Managing for multiple values, such as protecting wildlife habitat, is a part of every forest management plan we develop. Specific forest management protocols and strategies have been developed for key species in regions where we operate, the most notable of which is the woodland caribou. Forest management strategies have also been developed for a number of other important species, including grizzly bear, barred owl, trumpeter swan, bull trout and forest birds.
A significant portion of the forests we manage consists of wetlands, rock outcroppings and other areas that do not grow commercial crops of trees but are valuable for biodiversity. In Ontario, for example, the forests we manage have large populations of nesting bald eagles, as well as the largest colony of white pelicans in the region.
Across much of Canada, the forests face continued threats from insect infestations, disease and wildfire. The recent outbreaks of mountain pine beetle in western Canada have heavily impacted large tracts of forested landscape and made them more vulnerable to wildfire risk. Because infestations have been spreading rapidly, we have modified our near-term harvest plans to focus on infested and high-risk lodgepole pine stands. This strategy has multiple objectives: to harvest merchantable timber before it is lost to beetle kill, to help slow down the spread of the beetle to other susceptible forests, and to remove dead and dying trees that pose a wildfire risk to local communities.
We are also active members of provincial and national forestry associations, such as the Forest Products Association of Canada. These associations work with different organizations, including conservation groups, to ensure the forest sector is continually engaged in nationally and globally recognized sustainable forestry activities, and that we are meeting their obligations to maintain and enhance the publicly owned forests where we operate.
Indigenous peoples are an integral part of the communities where we operate. The needs and perspectives of Indigenous communities are relevant to many of our management and business decisions, including the use of public land and resources. We intend to continue to work with local Indigenous communities to promote, increase and support their participation in the forest sector. Building relationships is a key to achieving these outcomes.
Framework for building relationships
The Crown has a duty to consult with and, where appropriate, accommodate Indigenous peoples on any decision that may adversely affect their claimed or existing Indigenous or treaty rights. This duty stems from the honour of the Crown and the Crown’s unique relationship with Indigenous peoples.
We have a framework that is intended to support the Crown in fulfilling its obligation to respect Indigenous rights, while continuing to acknowledge the importance of Indigenous community participation in the development and use of natural resources.
As responsible stewards of Canadian forests, we are working proactively to build long-term, successful and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous peoples whose lands and territories overlap our operational areas.
Integrity – Integrity and honesty will form the basis for our relationships with local Indigenous communities.
Deliver Value – Pursue contract opportunities with Indigenous businesses that promote productive partnerships and collaborative initiatives with local Indigenous communities.
Inclusion/Citizenship – To make employment and other opportunities known and available to Indigenous peoples in areas where we operate, and to use and recognize the skills and knowledge of Indigenous workers.
Key goals and objectives
Direct Employment: To create a workforce that broadly reflects the demographics and diversity of the local communities where we operate by developing the requisite job skills.
Indirect Employment: To purchase competitive goods and services from businesses that reflect the demographics and diversity of our local communities, including Indigenous peoples.
Business Relationships: To continue to enhance our economic relationships with Indigenous communities through mutually beneficial business arrangements.
Education and Training: To reinforce the value of education within local communities through the support of Indigenous students and programs, and ensure appropriate training for staff and contractors is available to address historical and cultural perspectives on Indigenous issues.
Community Involvement: To foster and promote mutual awareness, trust and understanding between Weyerhaeuser and local Indigenous communities through regular, informal interaction with Indigenous community leaders and sponsorship and participation in local Indigenous cultural events.
We are also a member of FPAC, which works to strengthen Indigenous participation in Canada's forest sector through economic-development initiatives and business investments, strong environmental stewardship and the creation of skill-development opportunities particularly targeted to Indigenous youth.
Two examples of how we are partnering with Indigenous communities:
Around Grande Prairie, Alberta, we are working with two local Indigenous communities (Horse Lake First Nation and the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation) to identify, validate and catalogue important cultural and traditional knowledge. We are providing financial and in-kind support for these multiyear, multivalue projects that will foster and promote good communication and cooperative efforts.
We are a long-standing funding partner in a multiyear program that provides training for Indigenous youth. The Outland Youth Employment Program is a national program that provides work experience and training for Indigenous youth from across Canada and prepares them for employment in the forest sector. We currently support OYEP programs in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, and we will support the Saskatchewan program when it is active.
RESEARCH AND PARTNERSHIPS
To sustainably manage our forests, it is important that we continue to learn about how our activities affect both the forest ecosystem and surrounding communities and how we can improve our practices using adaptive management. We frequently partner with other organizations, including universities and science-based entities, to ensure that our practices are consistent with the best available science.
One example is our support for caribou research. In Alberta, we have funded over $1 million worth of caribou habitat research conducted by the University of Alberta. We have been working with government ministries and other stakeholders for over 20 years to assist with research associated with caribou recovery. In 2004 and 2009, we deferred timber harvest on 202,000 acres while the province continued its research and developed caribou recovery plans. This deferral has now been incorporated into a forest management plan that considers important caribou habitat requirements and minimizes harvesting in those areas.
Another example of where we support long-term research is in the western and southern portions of our operating areas in Alberta, where grizzly bears roam. The Foothills Model Forest coordinates a multi-stakeholder, multiyear research project on grizzly bears to determine long-term strategies for their conservation by mapping habitat in 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 surveys of nocturnal raptors, songbirds, fish and furbearers. These inventories are aimed at providing benchmark data on species occurrence and distribution throughout our timberlands.