Imagine owning a beautiful woodlot with 1,000 trees available for harvesting. What would you do with these 1,000 trees? What if I told you that you needed to cut five (5) trees a year for heating, making boards to furnish your home or earning a good income, knowing that this volume of wood comes from a sustainable, but above all renewable, resource—would you cut down these trees?
This is often forgotten, but the state is Québec’s largest forest owner and manages forests to create wealth, like any good forest producer (or fruit and vegetable producer), while managing them to maintain biodiversity as well as for recreational activities.
Québec has announced its intention to adhere to the targets of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which point to a level of protection of 30% of the territory in 2030.
If we represent the area of Québec’s commercial forest with 1,000 trees, this is how forests are managed in the province, considering we have harvested 0.47% of the forests in recent years. In other words, we cultivate forests so that they grow by about 1.7% per year, whereas the harvest level is 0.47%. Let us continue with the comparisons. Of the five (5) trees you have harvested, one (1) tree will be replanted, and the rest will regrow through natural regeneration, that is, the seedlings that have sprouted on their own, allowing for more natural forestry than a large plantation.
Of course, this simplification has its limits, because the 1,000 trees represent forest areas, regardless of stands, forest density or harvest level depending on the region. It also does not reflect the conflicts of use in the territory between various groups, including vacationers, the tourism industry and environmental groups that want, for example, to keep the forest intact in some areas, or at least reduce the impact on the landscape.
It is important to note that this level of harvest applies exclusively to commercial forests, which means that in addition to the 1,000 trees mentioned above, there are 450 trees that will never be harvested. Of these, 280 trees are found beyond the northern harvestable forest boundary and the rest are found in inaccessible environments, such as on steep slopes or along bodies of water. Of the 1,000 trees in commercial forests, 105 trees are protected in 2021.
The age of stands is also important to ensure a sustainable harvest. In 2019, 16.5% of forests were over 100 years old, 15.6% were between 81 and 100 years old, 22.5% were between 61 and 80 years old, 15.6% were between 41 and 60 years old, 10.7% were between 21 and 40 years old, and 19.2% were between 0 and 20 years old, according to data from the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs on areas of accessible productive forests. As a result, more than 54% of forests are over 60 years old.
On average, one (1) tree in 1,000 will burn annually and eight (8) trees will be affected by diseases or epidemics such as the spruce budworm. It must be noted that completely natural events have, on average, a greater impact on tree mortality than forest harvest itself. Some of the trees that burn or are infested are harvested when conditions allow it so harvesting pressure can be reduced on healthy forests.
With the timber production strategy, the gouvernement du Québec wants to increase productivity by 50% on the territory. In other words, by cultivating the forest more, it would be possible to have 1,500 trees on the same harvesting area. Such an increase would not only increase the volumes of wood for basic necessities, but would also protect more forests.
After these explanations, would you harvest these five (5) trees?