|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 5.3.2 - Annual harvest of nontimber forest products relative to the level of harvest deemed to be sustainable
Nontimber forest products (NTFP), which include hundreds of products and all products generated directly or indirectly from organisms living in forest ecosystems, are thought to contribute approximately $1 billion to the Canadian economy (Indicator 5.1.4). The increasing demand for NTFP and their valueadded products suggests that it is important to coordinate the activities of the timber industry with those of the NTFP industry.
NTFP offer economic opportunities, especially in rural and Aboriginal communities where they provide various forms of income to a wider section of society than the traditional timber industry. Although NTFP have been a part of traditional cultures for centuries, there is increasing global demand for these products. However, it is still a fledgling industry that is uncoordinated and in need of regulatory and policy frameworks to ensure appropriate management and controlled expansion.
Several basic issues must be clarified in order for NTFP to realize their potential. For instance, social research needs to determine how the inclusion of NTFP considerations into forest management could improve the social well-being of communities. Developing social indicators to track how NTFP increase the social wellbeing of a forest-dependent community will be useful.
Considering that NTFP often come from the same land base as timber products, there may be situations where a choice will have to be made between traditional timber harvesting and NTFP harvesting. From an economic standpoint, it will therefore also be critical to determine how to maximize the value of NTFP and timber products extracted from the forest.
Furthermore, there is a need to address the policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks for NTFP harvesting, processing, and marketing. Much of the NTFP are currently produced privately, originating on private land and are therefore not registered or subject to regulation. Market demand could therefore quickly increase harvesting of NTFP to unsustainable levels if proper regulatory frameworks are not in place. The complicated issues involved in managing property rights have been outlined for British Columbia by Tedder et al. (2002), but potential solutions have not yet been tested.
Finally, research needs to determine what NTFP are available in different forest types and age classes, and actual stocks of these products should be monitored to determine sustainable harvest levels under different conditions. The latter is needed to be able to report on the status of this indicator. It will also be important to determine which best management practices will sustainably increase NTFP yields; however, the broad range of NTFP and conditions in Canada make this a challenge.
There is increasing interest in research into NTFP across the country. The following examples present a sampling of the efforts currently underway to improve the sustainability of NTFP extraction:
Some NTFP have had a history of overharvesting that provide valuable lessons for forest managers. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is probably one of the best-known examples of an NTFP that was harvested nonsustainably for its highly valued medicinal properties. Along-lived perennial, ginseng is now an endangered species in Canada and exports of wild ginseng are now prohibited. Despite being successfully domesticated in Canada, generating exports of 2300 t valued at $75 million in 2002, domestic sales of wild ginseng are still taking place and wild populations continue to decline. This is primarily due to the economic value of wild ginseng that is ten times that of domesticated ginseng because of its perceived superior medicinal value (AAFC 2000). Species recovery activities have already been implemented and wild ginseng is now being marked to deter illegal harvesting.
Another cautionary tale is that of the pine mushroom (Tricholoma magnivelare) in British Columbia that supports an industry worth $20.7 million (Wills and Lipsey 1999). It is an ectomycchorizal fungus that depends on living, commercially viable conifer species, making it imperative that its harvest be coordinated with that of timber products. Unfortunately, the harvest of pine mushrooms is often conducted in an unregulated manner. As a result, government agencies have little information about the volumes of mushrooms being harvested in any particular area, or whether questionable harvesting practices are being used. This lack of information makes it difficult or impossible for agencies to determine whether or not the resource is being harvested sustainably and whether there are any long-term implications for its rate of extraction. Research is, however, shedding some light on the biology of this mushroom. Researchers have identified the ecological site conditions that this mushroom prefers and inventories have been developed to pinpoint potential pine mushroom habitat. Finally, there have been trials to assess the impact of various harvesting systems on mycorrhizal mushroom production (Kriese 2000).
The case of ground-hemlock (see box) is proof that it is possible to go from resource overharvesting to a sustainable use that generates substantial benefits.