Healthy forests. Healthy communities.
Canada is rich in forest resources and a world leader in sustainable forest management. The health of our forests, as well as the communities that depend on them are influenced by a variety of environmental, societal, and economic factors. Because of their importance, Canada’s forests need to be carefully managed, conserved and monitored to ensure that any challenges to their health are addressed for both current and future generations.
Vast and abundant forests
Comprised of eight major forest regions, and covering 347 million hectares, Canada’s forests make up nearly nine per cent of the world’s total forest area. Ninety-two per cent of Canada’s forests are publicly owned.
Canada’s forests are rich ecosystems of renewable resources that are a major part of the country’s landscape. They offer significant environmental, social and cultural and spiritual benefits, as well as opportunities for sustainable economic development. They enrich the lives of all people living in Canada, offer a place of sanctuary and recreation, and are fundamental to the cultural and spiritual values of Indigenous peoples. They also provide habitat for wildlife, moderate climate and filter air and water.
Forests are an essential part of the solution to many global challenges. The ability of forests to mitigate the effects of climate change, provide renewable products and energy, support high-paying jobs, and contribute to a greener economy has received increasing attention.
Although the definition of sustainability is constantly evolving, Canada has been successful in adapting its standards, practices, policies, legislation, and certification to make the most of its rich forest resource while ensuring environmental leadership.
Canada stands as a global leader in sustainable forest management (SFM) with its leadership in forest management extending far beyond its borders. In 1994, it became a founding member of the Montreal Process, an intergovernmental response to the pressing need for SFM. Canada is a recognized partner in helping other countries around the world improve their forest knowledge and data collection practices.
Although legislation and policies differ from one jurisdiction to the next, their vision and goals are unified around sustainable use. Canada also leads the world in third-party forest certification, complimenting Canada’s already comprehensive forest management regulations.
Canada’s natural spaces, which include forests, provide habitat that wildlife populations need to thrive. They also provide ecosystem services essential for our well-being, such as filtering our air and water and storing carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas. Forests are also fundamental to the cultural and spiritual values of Indigenous peoples and contribute to Canada’s economy. Canada boasts a world-class national park system including 48 national parks and one national urban park, that together protect over 328,198 square kilometres of land for Canadians to connect to nature.
While Canada enjoys large tracts of forest land and other wilderness areas, we cannot take them for granted. Protected areas are a key component of Canada’s forest and biodiversity conservation efforts. Protecting and sustainably using lands and forests is necessary to ensure they provide benefits for the long term. Protecting forested areas also helps to protect and sustain lands of cultural importance to Indigenous peoples and maintain traditional uses of the land and resources.
Canada’s forests are periodically affected by natural disturbances such as wildfire, insects, disease, and weather events. These disturbances have important ecological, environmental, and socio-economic impacts while helping to renew entire forest landscapes and, over time, influence forest composition, structure, and biodiversity.
These disturbances vary from one region to another in severity, extent and frequency and are constantly changing Canada’s forests.