The forests of Canada are among the largest and most diverse in the world and they are at the heart of Canada’s growth and prosperity. Forests cover about 41% of Canada’s land area and make up about 10% of the world’s forests. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of forest products, contributing a large surplus of over $30 billion to Canada’s balance of trade each year. In recent years, Canada has faced new challenges in forest management, with increasing pressure to conserve or manage its large areas of natural forests for activities other than timber production. There is growing demand for nontimber forest products and Canadians enjoy an increasing array of forestbased cultural and recreational activities. Forests also provide many ecosystem services like clean air, fresh water, and the protection of biodiversity. Faced with these demands, forest policy makers and managers have sought to develop better ways to sustainably manage the resource for the benefit of current users and future generations

Since 1992, when forestry emerged as a significant item on the international agenda at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), developments in forest management have focused on progress toward sustainable forest management. This approach balances environmental, social, and economic objectives of management in line with the Forest Principles agreed at UNCED. These developments have stimulated changes in forest policy and legislation and in forest management practices across Canada. Perhaps the most dramatic change has been the significant increase in local consultation and conflict resolution processes in decision making about forests. Since the 1990s, forest managers and policy makers have increasingly consulted with stakeholders (forest owners, industries, Aboriginal peoples, local communities, etc.) to identify appropriate forest strategies, legislation, and management plans. This has enlivened the debate about sustainability within the forest community and increased stakeholders’ participation in decision making. Approaches to forest management that incorporate a broader array of values, such as ecosystem management and landscape management, are now widely accepted and implemented. These approaches recognize the dynamism of ecological and social systems, the benefits of adaptive management, and the importance of collaborative decision making.

Forests in Canada today are managed to provide Canadians with a multitude of benefits, and modern forest management serves as a model of how progress toward sustainability can be achieved. Economically, Canada’s forest industry has contributed to about 3% of the national GDP each year since 1995 and has directly employed over 330 000 people annually across the country during the same period, reaching a record of over 370 000 jobs in 2003. It is a high-technology sector that invests as much as $2.8 billion annually in imbedded technology plus as much as $494 million annually in science and technology to modernize and improve performance. Environmentally, harvest rates have increased since 1990 but are well below the allowable annual cut, allowing Canada’s forests to support species diversity and resilience across vast landscapes with dynamic, ever-cycling ecosystems. Forests act as filters for pollution, helping to conserve and protect soil and fresh water, and compliance with forest regulations to preserve these functions is high. Forests are also a source of renewable bioenergy, which now accounts for more than 55% of the total energy used by the forest sector, up from 47% in 1980, which helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Socially, forests support over 350 communities across Canada, most of which are rural. Many Aboriginal people depend on forest-based activities to secure their economic and social well-being and forests are valued by Canadians as part of their cultural identity and a favored place of recreation.

Canada is a world leader in sustainable forestry. However, continued success will require overcoming low rates of return on capital investments, becoming more competitive in the international marketplace, adapting to public demands for alternative forest uses, reducing or preventing the impacts of pollution and invasive species on forests, increasing Aboriginal participation in sustainable forest management, and improving the resilience and well-being of our forest-dependent communities.

Canada’s forest sector will continue to succeed if it continues to change and adapt by applying leadingedge innovation to forest management and manufacturing; developing value-added products and new markets for products; improving information on forest-based services and sustainable harvest levels of nontimber forest products; reducing the area of forest affected by ozone and acid rain; eradicating or controlling new invasive forest-associated species; continuing to improve consultation and cooperation between Aboriginal peoples, forest industry, and governments in forest management as well as continuing efforts to make information on Aboriginal forest-based ecological knowledge more available; and working with communities to ensure their longterm presence. The CCFM and others interested in sustainability are working hard to bring about change in these and other areas.

Forest policy makers and managers in Canada will continue to be faced with difficult choices because of greatly divergent opinions about priorities for managing forest resources. The implementation of C&I is a national priority and as monitoring continues, trends in forest conditions will emerge that can guide policy decisions. Determining progress toward sustainability is an ongoing process of continual learning, and governments and others are working to constantly improve the process. By sharing information and resources, CCFM member governments have increased their capacity to report while reducing their costs. Through their involvement in the process, stakeholders and the forest community are better able to express their values, making the indicators more relevant. By providing relevant, credible information, Canadians are better able to understand the options available for managing the forest, provide more meaningful input, and participate more actively in decision making. The CCFM’s national C&I framework has also led to the development of C&I at the provincial and local level, which help to evaluate policies and regulations, facilitate meaningful public input, and guide forest practices. In addition, the CCFM criteria have been used by the Canadian Standards Association to define the requirements of their sustainable forest management certification standard, reassuring customers that the products they purchase come from sustainably managed sources. Through all these efforts, C&I are helping move the nation toward sustainable forest management.

This report is the result of extensive collaboration and cooperation between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to determine reporting priorities, identify data needs, establish data collection protocols, compile the data from various sources, and interpret the trends. These efforts have identified several areas where data are unavailable and where more research is required, such as for indicators related to watershed disturbance, nontimber forest products, and some Aboriginal issues. These gaps will help guide efforts to improve data collection and direct scientific research to enhance reporting.

Many key data and information holdings covering a variety of data types and formats are dispersed throughout federal, provincial, and territorial agencies and institutions. To facilitate reporting, the CCFM is working on three initiatives to help establish a national mechanism to compile and provide timely and coordinated access to accurate forest information. First, the National Forestry Database Program (NFDP), which currently collects and stores various data for forestry statistics in Canada, will be expanded to collect and store the data required for all the CCFM indicators. Second, the National Forest Information System (NFIS), when fully developed, will provide Canadians with access to data via the Internet. Third, a new national forest inventory will enable trend estimates for many of the CCFM indicators and will complement the NFDP and NFIS and enhance the nation’s capacity to assess the sustainability of its forests.

A continuing challenge for assessing progress toward sustainability is the identification of reference values for indicators, such as baselines, targets, or thresholds, that provide context for assessing the information. Because most of the forest management decisionmaking responsibility resides at the provincial and territorial level in Canada, few identifiable national targets or thresholds have been established. Continued efforts are needed to improve the ability to assess the indicators and judge progress toward sustainability. This could include the further development of national reference values or the development of more sophisticated tools and techniques to assess progress. One promising tool is the multicriteria analysis technique, adapted for use with C&I by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in which a broad spectrum of users is invited to score indicator reports (Mendoza et al. 1999). The analysis of the data generated by this technique can show how different sectors of society evaluate progress toward sustainable forest management, thereby providing feedback into the policy-making forum. So far, this technique seems to have been applied most extensively at the local level, but the Province of Ontario has been working with CIFOR to expand its use. Techniques such as this one can build on the foundation of solid forestry data already in place to gain a better understanding of Canada’s progress toward sustainable forest management.


Mendoza, G.A.; Macoun, P.; Prabhu, R.; Sukadri, D.; Purnomo, H.; Hartanto, H. 1999.
Guidelines for applying multi-criteria analysis to the assessment of criteria and indicators. C&I Tool No. 9 in the Criteria and Indicator Toolbox Series, Center for International Forestry Research, Jakarta.