President and CEO, West Fraser
When some people think about Alberta’s forest industry, they think about the trees that we cut rather than the trees that we grow. The truth is that Alberta’s forests are one of earth’s most sustainable natural resources industries, and we grow a lot of trees.
Forest management in Alberta is subject to stringent government regulation, independent certification, and other important requirements. West Fraser forest management plans look as far as 200 years into the future and are developed in consultation with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, environmental groups and other industries to incorporate important values into our plans.
It is very much a part of our success that we work in partnership with all of these groups to manage healthy forests and preserve local economies. Our planning integrates natural resource values such as habitat management, water, recreation, traditional cultural uses and visual impacts. It is imperative to our business that we understand these factors and factor them into our plans before we harvest and reforest areas.
West Fraser’s many silviculture foresters, biologists, land management experts, and contractors, dedicate their careers to responsible forest management. Every year in Alberta, we plant 30 million trees, more than twice what we harvest. We tend to new plantations for more than a decade before they are declared ‘free to grow’, meaning that the seedlings are well-established and on their way to becoming a new forest.
Forest renewal is a critical part of our business and helps ensure that communities in which we operate remain vibrant, the livelihoods of our employees are secure while helping community businesses and the economy of Alberta thrive.
That’s why our industry feels strongly about issues we face in Alberta today, particularly the recovery of threatened caribou herds. Currently, government-led caribou recovery plans are being developed and reviewed. It is important that these plans not be rushed and that they are based on sound research that recognizes caribou habitats are part of a broader ecosystem.
West Fraser has been proactively managing threatened caribou for years. In 1994, we deferred harvesting in caribou range on the Hinton Forest Management Area and in 2007, we voluntarily doubled the size of the area, which now totals 31,017 hectares. We know how important it is to find the right solution to support a healthy biodiverse, multi-ecosystem forest for the recovery of caribou. Not only that but we also know that if government adopts the wrong plan, rural forest-dependent jobs could be impacted.
National Forest Week is a time for those of us in the industry to rejoice in the fact that we proudly work in a sustainable, renewable, natural resource sector. I am proud of the work we do to manage our forests and sustain our forest communities. All Albertans should be too.