Renewing forests

Climate Change, Working Forests and Caribou Recovery


Ecosystem-based forest management supports forest health & renewal 


Ha disturbed western canada fires, pests and logging

Disturbances from wildfire, pests, and disease are crucial to the natural renewal cycle for boreal forests. In western boreal forests, trees typically live less than 100 years. In areas where West Fraser harvests trees in British Columbia (B.C.) and Alberta, Canada’s National Forestry database shows wildfires and insects are large disrupters of boreal forests (7.7 million hectares), affecting a much larger area than logging activities. In contrast, all of the harvesting in both provinces was only 3.4% or a total of 266 thousand hectares of the amount taken by natural causes, and that area is replanted soon after so it can more swiftly return to healthy forest cover.

Responsible harvesting aims to mimic the effects of natural disruptors of boreal forest, to be part of a regular cycle of renewal. Because we replant more trees than we harvest, sustainable forest management practices can replace the effect of fires and pests to re-establish young forest cover.


Sustainable harvesting: addressing climate change mitigation and adaption by fostering resilient boreal forests

Where we manage forests in Canada, West Fraser practices a responsible ecosystem-based, healthy landscape approach to sustainable forestry. We plant more than we Seedling being planted harvest, and the young trees we plant (60 million native trees every year) reestablish thriving forests for the future. Healthy, young, regenerating forests pull more carbon per unit area than almost any other type of land cover. This approach is widely accepted as a major component of climate change mitigation strategies.

In comparison to an intensively managed plantation, the naturally managed forests that we regenerate are more diverse ecosystems, supporting multiple values and uses of the land. Our forest management, fibre supply chain, and fibre sourcing practices are independently audited and verified as sustainable. The young trees planted after harvesting grow to become part of the boreal’s capacity to soak up carbon. Canada’s GHG reporting to the IPCC shows forests managed for timber production are a carbon sink, locking up a net 20 million tons of CO2e in 2016.

The below interactive video is from, which draws on 20 years of research conducted by the fRI Research Healthy Landscapes program. It uses drone footage and interactive tools to bring users into the forest to see, experience and better understand how research is applied to land management in western Canada.

Supporting Wildlife and Species at Risk Recovery

Sustainable forest management is grounded in science and manages for more than a single species. This approach is called ecosystem-based forest management. The forest management plans developed by West Fraser consider cultural values, recreation, other industrial activity, and support biodiverse habitats for a wide range of forest species.

boreal caribou

Caribou is one of the species that have specific needs that we address through forestry activities. A species at risk, southern mountain and boreal caribou face a complex web of challenges. The changing climate is impacting current and historical habitat ranges. This adds  uncertainty regarding which strategies provide the right future forest conditions for key wildlife species. 

Forestry is one of many operators on the land, and we’re doing our part to put in the effort to make a better balance for caribou a reality.  We believe that we can best support caribou population recovery by designing sustainable forestry activites to create healthy, resilient boreal forests

Over the last 30 years, West Fraser has changed our operating practices and approaches to support caribou recovery. We recently committed a million dollars to collaborative research to the newly created Alberta Regional Caribou Knowledge Network. Our ongoing activity falls into three main categories:


West Fraser practices for Caribou Recovery

Core forest management practices that are inherently beneficial for caribouEnhanced practices designed to support caribou recovery
Additional programs and projects to support caribou recovery

Such as:

  • Collaborative landscape planning with other industries to address cumulative effects, e.g. Berland-Smokey collaboration.
  • Voluntary protection of biophysical habitat, e.g. deferrals, caribou “no harvest” zones
  • Seasonal restrictions of harvesting, e.g. winter harvesting.
  • Identification of areas of higher or lower caribou use through habitat assessments and collar monitoring
  • Favouring harvesting activity to the control or salvage of insect-damaged timber in managed caribou habitat




We support and participate by:








Wood Products are the Renewable Alternative to Fossil-Fuel Intensive Products

2.6 million tons of carbon

Using all of the resource

Wood products, pulp, and sustainable forestry are some of the best opportunities to fight climate change. Within the carbon cycle and for climate change mitigation, wood products have three beneficial roles: as a store of carbon, as an alternative to fossil fuel-based materials, and for generating carbon-neutral energy. Converting more of the built environment to wood is identified as a solution for chopping global GHG emissionsWood is 50% carbon and an ecological, renewable alternative to products like concrete, steel, even plastics, and petroleum-based chemicals.

Mills that manufacture wood products are low waste and use wood fibre responsibly. West Fraser uses virtually all of a log to make a valuable product or transform it into carbon-neutral energy. Eighty percent of West Fraser’s revenue comes from solid wood products: lumber and panels. The sawdust and shavings recovered from lumber processing are recovered to make medium density fibreboard (MDF) and bioenergy, and the wood chips recovered supply fibre to West Fraser’s pulp mills.


Responsible Stewardship

Working in a collaborative approach with stakeholders and incorporating multi-factor solutions that support economic, social and environmental priorities, is hard. It’s not easy to balance all the needs of all stakeholders, but it is fundamental to a successful business. West Fraser actively collaborates with a broad group of stakeholders: provincial governments in British Columbia and Alberta, the Canadian Federal Government, local organizations, communities, and Indigenous People. 

Sustainable forest management, including responsible approaches to logging and reforestation play an important role in ensuring Canada’s boreal forests are healthy, resilient to climate change and continue to store carbon, while sustainably providing renewable products for the world.

We are proud of our sustainable stewardship practices and ecosystem-based approach, backed up by independent certification of the responsible sourcing of our fibre. We are proud of our stewardship and balance of all the values we hold for our forests. And we are proud of the efforts that our employees put in day in and day out to produce quality wood products.