In Canada, we hold harvesting licences representing 7 million hectares of independently certified, sustainably managed forests. We harvest less than 1% of this area each year.
Our woods teams throughout British Columbia and Alberta carefully plan the cycle of reforesting, managing and harvesting trees through detailed forest management plans. These plans are regulated and approved by the government. They also adhere to the requirements of independent certifications and address important values, community and recreational concerns, environmental and sustainability issues, as well as cost-effectiveness and safety. These elements are considered in our plans to get logs to our mills and wood products to our customers.
While sustainable harvesting operations can take place in different seasonal conditions, many areas in western Canada find advantages in winter harvesting. For example, frozen snowpack can reduce our environmental impact and ensure the soil is stable to support logging trucks and harvesting machinery. Snow coverage and frozen soils can also help to protect important feeding areas for animals and fish habitat. Lichen, for instance, is an important part of caribou diet. With sufficient snow coverage, lichen is protected and will be available to caribou when the snow melts. Frozen streams also protect fish habitat from our harvesting activity. Likewise, winter operations help avoid migratory bird nesting activity during the spring and summer. If we do harvest near migratory birds during our other seasonal operations, we take extra precautions to make sure those areas are not disturbed.
Although winter harvesting can be the most ideal for environmental and cost considerations, there can be difficulties that come along with it. Once the snow gets too deep, it is difficult to maneuver machinery. We also must plow roads to maintain access in the winter. Another factor is that in the winter there are fewer daylight hours.
In other parts of the year, more time and costs are spent to monitor machine activities on the ground to ensure we are not greatly impacting soil or important habitat. Community recreational values are also an important consideration in every season. For instance, our 100 Mile woods team in British Columbia only harvests in the winter near one lake because it is an important tourism area in the summer. Likewise, we choose to harvest away from mountain bike and ATV trails in the summertime. In the winter, we change our operations to avoid harvesting near cold season recreation sites, like the local ski hill.
A lot goes into our harvesting activities with the involvement and support of our employees, local businesses, and communities that all contribute to our success. Our harvesting activities are a key part of our business in Canada. With all operational activities, we aim to entrench a culture of environmental responsibility. Winter harvest operations are a principal element in meeting this responsibility.
If you would like to learn more about our reforestation practices, read our story, Sustainable Forest Management Starts with a Seed.