Forestry And Its Sustainability

According to Websters New World Dictionary, the definition of forestry is the science of developing, caring for, or cultivating forests or the management of growing timber. The same dictionary defines development as the state of being developed. According to the same reliable source, one of the definitions of sustainable is relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Therefore, one can assume that the definition of sustainable development in forestry is the method and science of cultivating forests without depleting them or permanently damaging them.

One of the major problems in BC forestry is that the demand for timber, historically, has been too great for the annually allotted supply. We were clear-cutting the forests to death and still may be doing so. Another major problem is with second growth BC douglas firs. There is a root disease that kills off whole plantations(*1). This same tree (which is BCs largest tree and most prominent one) is plagued by Douglas fir beetles.

These insects can kill off hundreds of trees, if in large enough numbers(*2). Fortunately, the government of British Columbia and the BC Ministry of Forestry are committed to sustainable development in forestry. Opponents might state that the cost of accurate science, research, planning, and creating new policies is too high. However, these issues are only minor compared to the greater issue of ensuring that there is development today, which includes concerns for future generations ability to meet their needs.

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This is why sustainable development in forestry is feasible, necessary and achievable.

Sustainable development as a concept is a global issue, and there have been three important milestones along the road to defining sustainable development internationally and how to achieve it:

  • the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972)
  • the World Commission on Environment and Development ("Brundtland Commission") (1987); and
  • the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (1992) (*6)

The Brundtland Commissions definition of sustainable development is as follows:

  • "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Reconciling economic development, social equity and environmental quality is at the core of sustainable development. As is stated on page 89 of the Brundtland Commission report, "Future patterns of agricultural and forestry development, energy use, industrialization, and human settlements can be made far less material-intensive, and hence both more economically and environmentally efficient." (*7)

Since the work of the Brundtland Commission and the publication of the report in 1987, governments all over the world, including that of Canada, its provinces and three territories have been working to institute sustainable development in agriculture, forestry and industry.

In the case of sustainable development in forestry, there are five key factors that determine whether or not it is achievable:

First of all, the most influential factor is government-wide commitment/political will. There has to be a government in power that not only believes in sustainable development and includes it in their strategic plan,( a strategy will turn sustainable development from words into action), but also has the political will to put the necessary legal and regulatory platform and bureaucratic machinery in place to accomplish this.

Second, Legislation, regulations and the necessary machinery of government changes are essential so that individuals, companies and the forest industry know that there is the force of law as the foundation of the forest industry in that jurisdiction. There must be the policy, process and bureaucratic structures to support and enforce the legislation.

Third, there must be a forest science and research program established (see below paragraphs on silviculture and growth and yield research) to provide a knowledge of reproduction, sustainable management and administration of timber supplies. Forest science and reasearch assist in the continuation of improvement in the productivity and management of forest resources and provide a solid scientific foundation for forest practices.

The fourth very important element is funding. Government must commit funding dollars to forest research, science and Ministry of Forestry expenditures. Without the dollars, nothing can happen. For example in fiscal year, 1998 1999, the total forest science program expenditures in BC were $23.9 million- The research branch budget was $16.7 million and regional research was $7.2 million. This money was used for five different research programs such as, silviculture, growth and yield, ecology, earth sciences and forest genetics. On the other hand, funding for the research branch only reached a high of $24 million in the fiscal year of 94/95. Even though the forest science research program spends the same amount as it receives through funding, one must realize that only minimal reasearch is being carried out. In order to achieve sustainable development in forestry funding has to be increased dramatically. However, in the long run, we must incur these expenditures to ensure availability of forest resources for future generations.

The fifth, and probably most important element, is a vibrant and profitable industry, encouraged by incentive, to partner with government and other shareholders, such as First Nations, in creating and implementing sustainbility. Without this the rest is hot air.

The three people who control policy decisions affecting the forestry industry are, the Lieutenant Governor in Council (the cabinet), the Chief Forester and the Minister of Forestry. In order to convey my thesis in this paper, I will concentrate on the following policy issues: timber supply, annual allotment and regrowth, ie. second growth trees and eco certification. The Chief Forester must determine an allowable annual cut at least once every 5 years after the date of the last determination. He must determine this for two types of timber areas:

The Crown land in each timber supply area, excluding tree farm licence areas, community forest agreement areas and woodlot licence areas. Each tree farm licence area.

An example of a timber supply area (TSA) is the Prince George TSA (which includes Prince George, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof), located in the north central interior of BC, and which covers approximately 7.5 million hectares. Even though BC has such an abundant supply of timber we still need to regulate the harvest of trees through sustainable development in forestry.

The basic policy for regrowth, ie, second growth trees is to plant what is cut. It is not as simple as it seems, the policy, plant what is cut, means if a forester loggs three hundred douglas firs, then he has to plant at least three hundred douglas firs, not three hundred maples. There is one extenuating circumstance, if a forester logs three hundred douglas firs and replanting 300 maples is more beneficial to the land then he is supposed to plant the maples. Unfortunately this policy is not usually respected. This is one of the many reasons why sustainable development in forestry is necessary. Sustainable development as forestrys main purpose, is to better the environment used by foresters from an ecological stand point. This will be achieved partly by enforcing neglected practices, introducing new and inovative ones and by offering incentive.(*3) As I meantioned earlier, sustainable development in forestry is the method and science of cultivating forests without depleting them or permanently damaging them.(*4) One of the key goals that sustainable development in forestry represents is to better the environment used by foresters from an ecological stand point. Considering we are depleting our forests so quickly sustainblility is the only feasible option. Silviculture is one of the sub-plots of Sustainable development in forestry. Silviculture research explores stand establishment, stand tending, and the various harvesting systems used in BC. Silviculture reasearch also provides information to develop and verify growth, help foresters make field decisions, and formulate regional and provincial policy. Today, because of changing forest practises, the focus has shifted to the long-term management of forests, especially the quick growth of second growth trees. The siviculture research program currently has two goals:

  1. To develop better models for mixed wood and other complex stands
  2. To predict management impacts on timber supply, sustainable forest management, and a variety of other related values like habitat, biodiversity and recreation.

Silviculture reasearch varies form a broad range of studies, such as Vegetation management, Growth and yield field studies, Silvicultural systems, Management of conifer-broadleaf mixtures, Forest regeneration, standing-tending and the effects of insects and diseases. Silviculture is another of the many reasons why sustainable development in forestry is feasible and necessary.(*5)

Growth and Yield is another very important part of sustainable development in forestry. Growth and yield research, which develops methods of forest growth and yield under various different management regimes, directly supports the chief foresters responsibility for an annual allotment cut. This reasearch also provides information and tools for silviculture (as seen above). The research is integrated with related projects that the ministry of forestry is involved in, such as resource inventory, forest practices and timber supply. The two major components of the growth and yield program are site productivity and stand modelling. Eventually, with the data that this program will record and analyse, we will be able to regulate the growth and yield of forests to the point where we are not over logging them. Considering Growth and Yield research, is an important sub-plot of sustainablility, one can understand why sustainable development in forestry is feasible and necessary. (*5)

Eco-certification, forestrys green stamp of approval, is a consumer initiative to identify wood products that come from environmentally responsible timber operations. Certification has taken the BC forest industry by storm since the worlds largest lumber retailer, Home Depot, announced last August it intends to sell only certified wood. Hopefully more lumber retailers like Home Depot will follow suit and provide incentives to foresters all over BC, to log using this ecologically sound method. This is another step that we need to take in reaching sustainability.(*8)

Sustainable development in forestry is feasible, given that globally and in Canada, it is a priority. Sustainability is feasible for various other reasons. It will provide a mainstay in the economy for future generations, protect our forests from being extinct along with the wildlife that lives in them. It will encourage more people to buy "properly harvested wood" and keep tourism at a record high by luring citizens from other countries who never get to see landscape such as ours. This is why sustainbility is feasible and totally necessary.

Sustainable development in forestry is necessary because the demand for lumber is greater than the annual allotted cut. All the signs point to the necessity of sustainable development in forestry such as, the necessary regrowth of trees for a flourishing future in forestry, new methods of harvesting forests and the consistent death of douglas firs from diseases and insects. Taking all these factors into consideration one can comprehend why sustainability is necessary.

Sustainable development in forestry is achievable given that the Ministry of Forests has the research capability needed to decide the best plan of action in starting the sustainability program. As stated, there are the five factors that will enable sustainbility to happen. First, there has to be a governmentwide commitment/political will. Second, legislation, regulation and the necessary machinery of government must be in place. Third, there must be established an advanced forest science and research program. The fourth very important element is funding. Government must commit dollars to the program of sustainability. The fifth, and probably most important element, is a vibrant and profitable industry, encouraged by incentives. These five factors are the goals to set and to accomplish in order to achieve sustainability in our forests.

Forests are the lungs of the earth. They create the oxygen that sustains us. They create food and shelter that humans and animals alike depend upon. Without forests, the earth and its occupants are in peril and life itself is in serious jeopardy. There are two critical elements that we need to conserve, water and the forests. The shepherding of our forests ranks ecologically as important as it is to save our oceans.

Sources/Foot notes:

  1. Information Forestry Pacific Forestry Centre Victoria, BC. Page 4
  2. Information Forestry Pacific Forestry Centre Victoria, BC. Page 13
  3. This whole paragraph was based on the BC Ministry of Forestry Web Page
  4. Websters New World Dictionary Third College Edition
  5. Forest Science Program Annual Report 1998/99-science to support sustainability pages11-13
  6. Towards Sustainable Development, A Strategy for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Volume I, page 8, published under the authority of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, 1997.
  7. World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, (The Brundtland Commission), Oxford University Press, 1987.
  8. The Vancouver Sun, Saturday, May 6, 2000, front page article of section E

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Forestry And Its Sustainability. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from

Forestry And Its Sustainability
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