Forestry for forests: Ecosystem-Based Sustainable Forest management
- 58 million tree seedlings planted in 2018
- We plant more than ten different native tree species to regenerate natural forest variation, at least 2 trees in place of each tree we harvest
- About 1,400 trees are planted per hectare within two years of harvest and 100% of harvest sites are re-established as forests for the future
- We practice natural range of variation management techniques in our harvesting to mimic natural disturbances on the forest landscape
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. Our harvesting practices create openings that are consistent with the effects of natural disturbances common in the forests of the Montane Cordillera and Boreal Plains ecozones, like those that fire and insects create. Openings create the best conditions for regeneration for most of the tree species we manage.
Natural disturbances are not the same as deforestation. Deforestation occurs when forests are cleared and permanently converted to another use. Natural forces such as wildfires, insects, and disease are important for the health of forests where we operate. Learn about the differences and the why disturbance is important for forests:
West Fraser uses variable retention techniques on many of its sites during our harvesting. 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.
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. What we harvest and reforest reflects the profile of the tree species where we operate. In Western Canada, forests are conifer-dominant, the Montane Cordillera ecozone is 89% coniferous species, about 7.5% broadleaf and mixed wood, and the Boreal Plains ecozone is 55% coniferous, 39% broadleaf and mixed wood. To us, successful reforestation means both planting trees and allowing trees to seed naturally from cones left in the harvesting area. Certain species (such as aspen) vigorously regenerate on a site naturally without being planted, and any seedlings we plant reflect the profile of the forest in that location.
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. We do not use genetically-modified tree seed. We plant 10 different native tree species, roughly 50% pines, 45% spruces, and 5% other species, such as Douglas-fir, subalpine-fir, larch and cedar seedlings. 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.
About 1,400 trees are planted per hectare within two years of harvest and West Fraser successfully re-establishes forests in 98% of harvested areas within the regulated timeframes. We use several different methods to ensure harvest areas return to healthy forest and are not converted to another type of land cover. Read more here about the methods used to address competing vegitation competing with young forests.
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.
Explore more about our reforestation activities:
Since 1955, West Fraser has planted more than 1.8 billion trees to ensure the forests where we operate are constantly renewed.