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 5.3.1 - Annual harvest of timber relative to the level of harvest deemed to be sustainable Indicator 5.3.2 - Annual harvest of nontimber forest products relative to the level of harvest deemed to be sustainable Indicator 5.3.3 - Return on capital employed Indicator 5.3.4 - Productivity index Indicator 5.3.5 - Direct, indirect, and induced employment Indicator 5.3.6 - Average income in major employment categories
Indicator 5.3.1 - Annual harvest of timber relative to the level of harvest deemed to be sustainable
core indicator


The regulation of harvest levels is a key component in the design and implementation of forest management strategies. Furthermore, it is a legislated requirement associated with the licensing of forest management activities on crown lands. On land tenures where such a legal requirement exists, this level is usually specified in terms of an allowable annual cut (AAC) associated with the specific forest land under license. The annual cut is considered to be allowable in the context of provincial legislation that regulates harvest on provincial lands.

The AAC represents a specified level of harvest that should not be exceeded annually over a specified number of years. There is no one correct harvest rate for a forest, but rather a range of rates that correspond to various public policy options, on the basis of sound science, such as creating protected areas or controlling forest fires. In this way, AACs reflect society's values as well as the biological and economic conditions of the forest. There are significant implications associated with the renewal of any license agreements if actual harvest levels deviate from this AAC by more than the specified amounts.

No such legislated requirement is currently associated with harvest targets on private, territorial, and federal land tenures. The managers of these lands may have commitments to specific harvest targets, but accountability mechanisms are not obvious to ensure that these targets are met. The 2000 C&I report presented estimates of potential harvest from private and federal lands without making a clear distinction that these estimates were in some cases based on actual harvest and that, generally, no one was held accountable for respecting the specific harvest targets on private and federal lands. Although harvest from private land is significant, particularly in eastern Canada, most jurisdictions cannot confidently report on harvest volumes relative to the level of harvest deemed to be sustainable on these lands. The 2005 C&I report therefore does not include data from private and federal lands in this indicator.

This indicator measures the amount of timber harvested relative to AACs and is therefore related to Indicators 2.3 and 2.5, which also report data on harvesting. Although there is no AAC determined for Canada, it is possible to compare the aggregation of the AACs across the country to the harvest from the same crown land base. Canada's AAC-for lack of a better term-has remained relatively stable since 1990. The 2004 AAC was 204 million m3, made up of 159 million m3 in softwoods and 45 million m3 in hardwoods.

British Columbia accounts for approximately 38% of Canada's AAC, Quebec and Ontario hold about 37%, and the Prairie provinces and the Atlantic region comprise roughly 21% and 4% of the overall AAC. Although the hardwood harvest has been steadily increasing over time, and doubled between 1993 and 2004, it is still well below the AAC (Figure 5.3a). Softwood harvests on crown lands, although variable, have remained relatively constant, averaging 130 million m3 over the past decade.

Figure 5.3a

Figure 5.3a Allowable annual cut versus actual harvest (provincial crown land), 1990-2004. (Source: CCFM 2006)
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It is important to realize that, in almost all cases, the evaluation of harvesting compliance to AACs is measured periodically rather than annually. Although AAC levels cannot be exceeded over the regulation period (5-10 years in most cases), annual harvest levels may occasionally exceed AACs. Annual harvest levels may also be lower than AACs. In either case, the divergence may be very large in single years in some jurisdictions but must balance out over the regulation period. ACCFM subcommittee recently examined the average annual harvest rates and AACs for forest licenses for the last full regulation period on record. The subcommittee found that over the regulation period, total harvest levels were lower than the aggregate Canadian AAC for both hardwoods and softwoods (Brian Haddon, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, personal communication, May 10, 2005).