Message from the CEO: Forests Ontario Celebrate a Busy and Productive Spring and Summer
Posted: September 7, 2018
It was a busy spring for Forests Ontario as our staff traveled far and wide to ensure the successful implementation of our programs. In addition to our ongoing afforestation efforts under the 50 Million Tree Program, we were engaged in a record setting 20 community tree plants across the country, including events in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Our Envirothon program, which brought our staff to Waterloo for this year’s provincial championship, continued to capture the hearts and minds of students, while our ongoing stakeholder engagement efforts strengthened our relationships with partners and supporters across the province.
As part of my own travels, I was recently at a conference in Ottawa. While attending, I was asked two very thought provoking questions: “What makes forestry in Ontario so great?” and “When did it start?”As someone who has been practicing forestry for my entire career, I initially thought the answers would be very straightforward. However, as I considered how to respond to these inquiries in a quick and concise manner, I realized that the answers are, much like the practice of forestry itself, exceedingly complex. So, here in part, is the longer answer.
Ontario, and in fact Canada, is well-established as a leader in sustainable forest management. A number of statistics support this view. For instance, although only two percent of the world’s forests are located in Ontario, the province contains seven percent of global certified forests.
At the national level, Canada has nine percent of the planet’s forests, but is home to more than two-thirds of the world’s certified forests. Ontario, like other provinces across Canada, has laws and policies in place that ensure our forests are managed sustainably.
Recognizing our role as a global leader is the easy part. How we got here is a bit more detailed and technical in nature.
Ontario’s modern approach to sustainable forest management started in 1994 with the passing of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA), which serves as the province’s governing legislation. At its core, this Act requires management
for the long-term health of our forest resources. Over the last two decades, achieving this objective has continued to evolve based on new science and input from various interests.
However, one key concept has remained constant—the requirement to create a natural forest condition through the emulation of natural disturbance patterns, a practice commonly described as ecosystem-based management.
Ecosystem-based management is built on the premise that through emulating ecological patterns and naturally occurring processes, as well as maintaining (or restoring) natural levels of forest composition, structure, and function, we can provide for the habitat needs of plant and animal species that have become adapted to/evolved alongside the natural forest condition. Emulating nature provides a coarse filter approach that provides for the landscape-level habitat needs of all species, and represents a significant departure from previous management regimes that focused on the needs of a select few.
As a compliment to the coarse filter, Ontario’s policy framework also ensures the maintenance and provision of important stand-level, species-specific habitat features, most notably those that may not be captured at the broader ecosystem level. These include elements such as bird nests, aquatic feeding grounds for moose, fish spawning habitat, and many others. Together, the coarse and fine filter approaches have positioned Ontario as one of the most progressive jurisdictions in the world when it comes to forestry.
However, despite this recognition, it’s important to note that our commitment to sustainability is ongoing. Part of what keeps Ontario at the top is the continuous incorporation of new science and information into our policies and practices. By law, Ontario’s forest management guidelines must be reviewed every five years to ensure they reflect the latest scientific evidence. Furthermore, both the development and implementation of our forestry policies and guidelines are informed by a diverse range of interests.
In addition to being posted for public comment on the Environmental Registry, forest-related policies are developed with input from a wide array of specialists including biologists, ecologists, economists, and foresters. Forest management plans must incorporate the perspectives of local Indigenous communities and stakeholder groups such as naturalists, recreationalists, anglers and hunters, tourist operators, and local citizens. This multidisciplinary approach, along with the opportunity for public input and engagement, ensures provisions for all forest uses and users.
Our role as a leader in responsible forest management is not limited to provincial or Crown lands. One only has to look to the Eastern Ontario Model Forest (EOMF) to see that the practice of sustainable forestry is equally applicable to private landowners and community forests across the province.
For the better part of 16 years, the EOMF has been building a certification program within the settled landscape of southern Ontario to demonstrate their commitment to and achievements in sustainable forest management. Today, the EOMF holds an umbrella certificate that covers more than 9,000 hectares of privately owned forests and more than 72,000 hectares of community forests, making them a forerunner in furthering the application and uptake of forest certification approaches and tools.
Although I refrained from diving into this much detail when I was first asked the questions, these facts are extremely important for all Ontarians and Canadians to appreciate. We should all be very proud that we have the best managed forests in the world.
All of our programs, and the success we have been able to achieve this year, would not have been possible without you, our members and sponsors. We are continually grateful for your support, allowing us to be the voice for our forests.