Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

Failing Canada’s forests

Sierra Legal Defence Fund released a comprehensive investigative report today that compares forestry laws and policies from across Canada over the past decade. The report, titled Forest or Fibre? grades the five provinces with the largest commercial forestry operations based on legislation and government policies relating to forest practices and forest conservation between 1995 and 2005.

And the results are startling, revealing that the laws and policies designed to protect Canada’s forests are woefully weak and that very little improvement has been made over the past ten years. The report documents the five provinces all fared poorly and received scores of less than fifty percent, based on twenty-one forest conservation indicators relating to issues such as protection of wildlife, management of protected areas, and sustainability of forestry activities.

“This investigative report reveals that forestry laws and policies across the country are far too weak to ensure adequate protection of our forests for future generations,” said Staff Scientist and report author Dr. Elaine MacDonald. “It is imperative that the provinces strengthen their laws and increase their efforts to safeguard our remaining natural forest ecosystems.”

The report ranked the provinces from best to worst as: Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. All five provinces scored particularly poorly on the management of logging of publicly owned crown forests, protection of endangered species, and management of parks and protected areas.

The province of Quebec received the highest score with a meagre 43%, largely due to its progressive parks and protected areas laws that prohibit industrial activities and hunting and fishing in parks and place ecological integrity as a top priority.

The provinces of Alberta and British Columbia received the worst scores at 24% and 28% respectively. Alberta has by far the weakest laws of the five provinces assessed and most of its parks are open to industrial activity. BC has the greatest biodiversity in Canada, yet its forest conservation laws and policies are woefully weak and tend to promote timber supply at the expense of the wildlife and the environment.

In 2004, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development reported that 20% of the world’s remaining natural areas are in Canada.

“Unlike most other countries, Canada still has an extraordinary opportunity to protect these vast intact forests, particularly in the boreal region,” added MacDonald. “However, time is running out. We need the provinces and federal government to step up and use the full weight of the law to ensure lasting protection of these natural treasures for future generations.”

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