Silviculture and Reforestation

Since 1955, West Fraser has planted more than 1.6 billion trees to ensure the forests where we operate are constantly renewed.

Tree planting

Less than half of 1% of Canada’s managed forestlands is harvested in any year. Healthy, young, regenerating forests pull more carbon per unit area than almost any other type of land cover. West Fraser manages forests with the goal of ensuring these forests remain healthy and vibrant, and continue to provide environmental, social and economic benefits for society.

Our harvesting practices are designed to harvest timber safely and efficiently while minimizing environmental impacts. Most of our harvesting practices create openings that are consistent with the effects of natural disturbances, such as those that fire and insects normally create. Openings create the best conditions for regeneration for most of the tree species we manage.   

West Fraser uses variable retention harvesting techniques on many of its sites. What does this mean? It means creating openings that vary in size and shape, with various amounts of trees left standing either in clumps or as individual trees. Also, large woody debris is left on the forest floor where it will provide habitat for small rodents and other species. As this woody debris decomposes it will recycle nutrients into the soil. Collectively, these types of silviculture techniques create similar conditions that occur after a forest fire or an insect infestation.

Reforestation

We plan for success. West Fraser foresters examine sites before they are harvested to develop a plan to determine the most ecologically appropriate method of harvesting the trees and reforesting the site. Reforestation means both planting trees and allowing trees to seed naturally from cones left in the harvesting area.

Once a new forest is established, it is monitored through surveys and assessed to determine how healthy and big the seedling trees have grown. As a general rule of thumb, foresters replant the same species that have been harvested from a site in the same proportions as they were found. So, if a site had a 50/50 mixture of spruce and lodgepole pine, this is the same mix of seedlings that would be planted. Normally, many more trees are planted than were cut from the site because trees naturally thin out as they grow older and compete for nutrients and resources, like sun and water. The goal is to grow a new forest which replicates the one that was harvested. 

Reforestation is rigorously regulated by the provincial governments of B.C. and Alberta. On an annual basis West Fraser reports all of our harvesting and reforestation activities to maintain our license to harvest timber.