Clearcutting the Boreal Forest

 

Ontario is not known for its clearcuts because the land is flat and clearcuts can be easily hidden behind strips of trees, but Ontario boasts some of the largest clearcuts in the world reaching 10.000 hectares in the Boreal Forest. A forest never recovers from clearcutting, despite the rhetoric from forestry companies and governments that reforestation will return the forest as it once was. Instead the forest is replanted with commercial tree species, sprayed with herbicides to control competition from native trees so it can be re-cut in approximately 40 years. 

From the Natural Resources Defense Council: 

https://www.nrdc.org/experts/josh-axelrod/forest-degradation-canadas-skeleton-closet

These clearcuts are in Quebec and can be viewed in more detail by searching Google Earth with the 'cut location' reference numbers provided.  

In the image above, on the right is from 1986 and shows a clearcut that was completed within a year of that date. The image to the left shows the area circled in red in a recent satellite image (<2013). 28+ years after the initial harvest the borders of the cut remain clear, trees are growing in rows with visible spaces between them, large open areas remain with limited or no vegetation, and the contrast between the mature, unharvested forest and the regrowing forest is striking. Cut location: 49.220589, -72.577153. Image: Google Earth

The image on the right is from 1988 and shows a clearcut that was completed within a year of that date. The image to the left shows the area circled in red in a recent satellite image (<2013). 25+ years after the initial harvest the borders of the cut remain clear, trees are growing in rows with visible spaces between them, and the contrast between the mature, unharvested forest and the regrowing forest is striking. Cut location: 49.114497, -71.619079. Image: Google Earth

Woodland Caribou and the Boreal Forest.

Excerpts from an article written by Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation and  Tim Gray, Environmental Defence Oct. 2017

The Toronto Star

"Boreal woodland caribou have been scientifically assessed as threatened with extinction across Canada. Of 51 populations of boreal woodland caribou recognized in the federal recovery strategy, 37 were shown to be declining. They need large, intact swathes of boreal forest to survive, and that habitat is disappearing.

In Ontario, a major driver of their decline is industrial logging and logging roads, which fragment their habitat and alter predator-prey dynamics by giving wolves new and effective ways to hunt them.

More than five years ago, under the federal Species at Risk Act, the Canadian government appointed a blue-ribbon panel of scientists to identify the habitat caribou need to survive and recover. These scientists discovered a relationship between the amount of disturbance in a caribou range and whether a population increased or declined.  Below a certain level of usable habitat, caribou populations begin to wane

In Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is responsible for preparing these plans and overseeing species at risk protection and recovery.

Not only did the provincial ministry miss the federal deadline for caribou range plans, it spent the last decade kowtowing to industrial lobbying at the expense of caribou recovery.

Under the ministry’s watch, the logging industry was granted a five-year exemption from Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, the provincial law designed to ensure human activities do not harm a species or destroy its habitat. Instead of implementing caribou recovery plans, the government has allowed logging and logging roads to continue to expand into unfragmented forests, causing critical caribou habitat to be lost. Scientists have warned that delays in addressing industrial expansion will result in a lower likelihood of recovery.

The ministry’s interest in minimizing impacts on industry is likely because logging levels in the province have declined by approximately 40 per cent since their early-2000s peak. The internet and a disappearing newspaper industry mean fewer pulp and paper mills are operating."  (excerpt end) 

That's great news because we cannot continue to clearcut the world's last remaining original forests simply to maintain jobs. If the industry cannot transition into a more sustainable business,  then we need to ask ourselves whether these sorts of jobs should continue.  There are plenty of examples, past and present, where industries either disappear or recreate themselves because of social shifts.  

Please visit our Take Action page to learn how you can protect the Boreal Forest.   

photo by Steve Forest, USFWS taken 2007

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