Biological Diversity Ecosystem Condition and Productivity Soil and Water Role in Global Ecological Cycles Economic and Social Benefits Society's Responsibility
Economic and Social Benefits Distribution of Benefits Sustainability of Benefits
Indicator 5.2.1 - Forest area by timber tenure Indicator 5.2.2 - Distribution of financial benefits from the timber products industry
Indicator 5.2.1 - Forest area by timber tenure
core indicator


Although 93% of Canada's forest land is crownowned, facilities for harvesting and processing wood are held mainly in private ownership. Since the earliest days of land settlement, the transfer of harvesting rights and forest management responsibilities from the public to the private sectors-while ensuring that public resource management and development objectives are achieved-has been one of the foremost policy questions facing governments in Canada. The various agreements that have been devised to accomplish this task have become collectively known as forest tenures (Haley and Luckert 1990). Forest tenures, along with forest legislation and regulations, help Canada's jurisdictions ensure that crown forests are managed responsibly and that forest companies remain accountable to Canadians.

Control over who benefits from, and who pays for, economic, social, and cultural land uses is tied to ownership and tenure. This indicator describes the distribution of the control of forest-related benefits from provincial and federal crown (public) land. The indicator does not include a discussion of the area of forest under private ownership because harvesting rights and management responsibilities on private land reside with the owner and are not transferred from the public to the private sector.

Forestry property rights have evolved very differently in Canada's various jurisdictions, resulting in a complicated mix of tenure arrangements across the country (Haley and Luckert 1990). Several provinces have restructured their public tenure systems in recent years, and tenure systems are developing in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. From coast to coast, there is an array of short-term and long-term volumebased tenures, long-term area-based tenures and, in British Columbia, long-term area-based tenures that combine private and crown land. New tenure types have been introduced since 1990, often with the intent of making access to forest resources available to smalland medium-sized enterprises and to communities.

Volume-based tenures allow companies to harvest a certain volume of timber from a broadly defined area. Several licensees can hold such rights within the same area, and the provincial forest service is responsible for management planning. Area-based tenures, however, require tenure holders to prepare forest management plans in return for the right to harvest timber over a specific land base. The duration of tenure agreements varies but is always limited. Larger tenures can usually be granted for 20-25 years and can generally be renewed or replaced, sometimes before the end of the term. Smaller tenures can often be conferred for as little as one year or less and are frequently limited to a single term.

Sixty-three percent of the crown forest land in Canada that is under some form of tenure is under volume-based agreements (Table 5.2a). The rest is under long-term area agreements. Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador use area-based tenure agreements, while Manitoba, Quebec, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories use volume-based agreements. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia use both area- and volume-based tenure agreements.

Table 5.2a Forest area by timber tenure. (Sources: provincial and territorial forest management agencies and NAFA 2003)

Crown forest tenures generally confer the right to harvest certain forest resources, usually timber. Other resources, such as land, water, minerals, and wildlife, are typically excluded from these agreements. In return for these rights, tenure holders must pay different types of fees to the Crown, including stumpage fees, holding or rental charges, and protection or management fees.

Tenure holders must also respect some operational guidelines related to resource harvesting, management, and processing. Harvesting must be carried out in compliance with established allowable annual cut (AAC) levels and with restrictions aimed at protecting nontimber resources and productivity while promoting the efficient use of harvested trees. Forest management activities, especially in larger tenures, must include provisions for reforestation and resource protection. Finally, processing guidelines often require holders to own and operate wood-processing facilities. Compliance is usually assessed through field audits and requirements to report regularly on harvesting and management operations. Failure to perform can lead to penalties, including the ultimate termination of the tenure agreement.

Most of Canada's commercial forest activity occurs on or near Aboriginal traditional territories that are subject to Aboriginal rights, title, or treaty considerations. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) recognized that formal access to forests and their resources is one key way in which Aboriginal peoples can begin to regain their rightful role in forest management and reestablish the importance that forests have played in their traditions and economies (RCAP 1996).

Determining the area of Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal tenure agreements within jurisdictions is difficult because, in many cases, the agreements may in fact involve a partnership between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal interests. Thus, areas might have been counted in Table 5.2a as being both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal tenure agreements.

The areas reported in Table 5.2a are not only the areas on which AAC determinations are based (Indicator 5.3.1) but include, for example, reserves around riparian areas and nonstocked forest. Although these lands do not contribute directly to timber production, they contribute to other forest-related benefits.

The relative participation of Aboriginal people in forest tenure opportunities varies across the country (Table 5.2b). Some jurisdictions, like Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, have no such allocation to date while others, such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, have conferred 12%, 2%, and 16%, respectively, of their forest volumes to Aboriginal people. Aboriginal interests have also gained some access to the smaller timber allocations made available in the Yukon (11%) and the Northwest Territories (30%) (NAFA2003; Nathalie Camden, Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, personal communication, Sept. 15, 2005). The case study on British Columbia (see box) provides some information on the efforts of this particular jurisdiction to improve access to forest tenures for Aboriginal peoples.

Table5.2b Percentage of jurisdictional forest tenure opportunities allocated to Aboriginal people. (Source: provincial and territorial forest management agencies)
Jurisdiction Total timber volumes(%)
Newfoundland and Labrador 0
Prince Edward Island 0
New Brunswick 5
Nova Scotia 12
Quebec 2
Ontario Not available
Manitoba 4
Saskatchewan 16
Alberta 3
British Columbia 6
Yukon 11
Northwest Territories 30


Access to Forest Tenures for Aboriginal Peoples in British Columbia

The Forest (First Nations Development) Amendment Act 2002 was introduced to provide greater opportunities for Aboriginal peoples to access forest tenures and to demonstrate transparency in providing these opportunities. In May 2002, an amendment to the Forest Act allowed the minister of forests to directly invite Aboriginal peoples to apply for forest licenses without competition.

The Forestry Revitalization Act 2004 allows for a portion of the allowable annual cut reallocated from existing tenures to be targeted to Aboriginal peoples who enter into accommodation agreements with the province. Forest and Range Agreements, introduced in 2003, provide for revenue sharing and for the direct awarding of forest tenure opportunities. These agreements are negotiated where there are unresolved Aboriginal rights and titles issues, as an interim step toward a comprehensive treaty or other form of settlement. They are being pursued where forestry activities on crown land could affect Aboriginal peoples' interests.

Ultimately, about 8% of the total provincial allowable annual cut is targeted to be made available through such agreements. The province has also developed a mechanism to share a portion of forest revenues generated from stumpage fees with Aboriginal peoples who enter into these accommodation agreements.

Because of improved access to timber and forest revenues, Aboriginal peoples can earn more income through forest development on the same terms as other licensees, improve the social fabric of their communities, and increase skill development. In addition, the province will continue to work with Aboriginal peoples to build their forest management and development capacity by
  • encouraging joint ventures among industry, logging contractors, and Aboriginal peoples;
  • working toward a revitalized forest sector to maximize the value of the opportunities available; and
  • working toward long-term certainty by negotiating treaties or other forms of settlement.
The ministry's approach to negotiating forest and range agreements is outlined in its Strategic Approaches to Accommodation Policy (BC Ministry of Forests and Range 2003). Since September 2002, British Columbia has signed agreements with 80 First Nations to provide access to 12.5 million m3 of timber over several years and to share forest sector revenues of $78 million.