Canada’s passive approach to forest maintenance is helping to fuel wildfire scourge

By Derek Nighbor, Forest Products Association of Canada
The Financial Post
July 6, 2024
Category: Opinion / EdiTOADial
Region: Canada

Derek Nighbor

While Canada’s 2024 wildfire season has been less severe than last year… there’s no escaping the fact that Canadians — and our governments — need to rethink how we address and mitigate these risks. This rethink requires nothing less than a paradigm shift toward more proactive management of our forests, focused on practical solutions. We can no longer afford to be reactive, stubborn, or dogmatic, hoping the problem will simply go away. And the federal government has an important role to play, particularly in fostering partnerships and coordination between various rights holders and stakeholders across the land base. Leaving forests alone with little or no effort to manage aging stands, vegetation, pests, or other ecological processes is a recipe for further devastation and will greatly add to Canada’s forest carbon emissions problem. …Wildfires also pose a serious risk to human health and air quality, community safety and critical infrastructure, and the economic viability of our forests.

My colleagues in the forest sector have long felt frustrated — and frankly, puzzled — about how active management is often overlooked as a tool for mitigation. What does proactive management mean? It means hands-on intervention into our forest ecosystems. …It means harvesting timber with the aim of promoting forest regeneration and reducing overcrowding. It means preparing communities with the right tools to mitigate risks. It means regular assessments of forest conditions. It means a greater role for indigenous peoples and more cultural burning on the land base. Look at Sweden and Finland. By embracing forest management as a crucial component of their climate strategies, Nordic countries have demonstrated that more intensive management has resulted in losing less forest to fires and pests and less overall emissions. In contrast, Canada’s annual timber cut has declined by roughly 25% over the past two decades, and our forests are suffering. Our passive approach is fuelling the very fires that are ravaging our lands. …We must manage more of our forests, not less. The ongoing devastation is costing us dearly.

Read More