Sustainable and responsible forest stewardship is much more than trees: West Fraser’s approach manages for biodiverse and vibrant ecosystems
- Awarded for Innovation and conservation leadership
- Biodiversity Collaborations: Member of the Wetland Stewardship Initiative and a conservation partner for the Reconnecting Canada program
Within the Company’s managed forests, we consider a whole range of biodiversity "forest values". These values include wildlife, fish, plants, water, visual qualities (like scenery and special places in the forest), wilderness recreation, forest vitality, hunting or trapping, and the effects of other industrial uses.
Our forestry approach is called ecosystem-based forest management, and it incorporates and it incorporates the mitigation, restoration and renewal of habitats and protection of sensitive sites. Examples of this work include:
- managing for plants significant to Indigenous communities
- owl population surveys,
- improving fish habitat in recreational trails and near forestry roads,
- and investigating changes to harvest planning to improve grizzly bear habitat.
Our environmental management approach recognizes the full array of interactions within an ecosystem, including humans, rather than considering single issues, species, or ecosystem services in isolation.
This is what responsible stewardship is about, balancing all the values for natural forest environments and developing comprehensive plans to address them. West Fraser’s natural resource professionals work closely together to conduct environmental assessments and plans to manage for many attributes of a healthy forest. We implement these plans through forestry operations. We monitor and report on this activity, while looking for ways to continually improve our approach.
Where we manage forestland in Western Canada, our operations are subject to federal, provincial, and local environmental regulations, including industry-specific environmental regulations relating to reforestation, reclamation, and the protection of endangered species and their habitat. Our forest practices also meet or exceed voluntary, independent and audited certifications.
Highlights on Progress
Outline and share the sustainable management practices that address habitat and biological diversity objectives embedded in adaptive management plans
West Fraser practices climate-smart, ecosystem-based forestry. Our forest management planning incorporates biodiversity objectives in short, medium, and long-term management planning. Responsible stewardship balances all the values for natural forest environments and develops comprehensive plans to address them. Our plans incorporate mitigation, restoration, and protection of forest features to support connectivity. That includes retaining stands of trees, stream sides and wetland areas to maintain long-term ecological diversity and meet defined management objectives. Ecosystem management as a forestry approach models harvesting according to natural disturbance patterns and works towards a healthy ecosystem and habitat for all species, with added fine-tune strategies employed when needed for individual species with conservation concerns.
Fund and participate in research to advance science-based, sustainable forest management knowledge and practice
This year, West Fraser and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) were awarded recognition for innovative conservation leadership by defining objective recognition for effective conservation measures in West Fraser’s working forest areas. Real-world case studies provided the evidence to demonstrate conservation values can be fully consistent with sustainable forest management while increasing protected and conserved areas.
We fund and actively support innovative research to support species recovery efforts and are particularly active supporter and participant in fRI Research. fRI develops evidence-based knowledge and land management tools based on peer-reviewed science. One recent example is how West Fraser has leveraged two decades of fRI research from the grizzly bear program in timber tenure areas, the result is increasing bear populations where we operate. We are also a member of the award-winning Forest Management Wetlands Stewardship Initiative working with Ducks Unlimited Canada and other industry partners to create shared resources that provide guiding principles and best management practices to conserve wetlands and waterfowl in forest management planning and operations.
Identify indicators that inform ongoing adaptation of management approaches to forest ecosystems, including carbon stocks, water systems, forest health and resiliency
We conduct assessments to address the conservation of biodiversity at both the local and landscape level. West Fraser has deferred lands to support the habitats of species at risk. When species occur on our landscapes, we address their needs with tailored management, working with stakeholders and the government to inform our best practices.
There are three lenses through which we implement adaptive management approaches for biodiversity. First are the core forest management practices that are inherently beneficial for wildlife and biodiversity. The next layers are enhanced practices designed to support wildlife and biodiversity and the incorporation of additional programs and projects to support wildlife. Under the updated 2022 SFI Fibre Sourcing guidelines, fibre sourced under the SFI Fibre Sourcing guidelines requires the protection of Forests with Exceptional Conservation Value (FECV), which are defined as forest areas harbouring species and ecological communities that are imperiled or critically imperiled.
How West Fraser actively manages for habitats and biodiversity
West Fraser manages many different types of forestry licenses in Canada, including volume and area-based tenures. We invest in forest management and silviculture practices to renew and support sustainable, responsible, and long-term working forest operations. Ecological landscape-level plans and biodiversity assessments help to identify and inform harvesting approaches that mitigate issues of concern. For example, harvesting during certain seasonal periods can reduce disturbance and mitigate impacts on the highly diverse soil communities of microbes, bacteria, fungi, plants, and bryophytes.
To maintain forest habitats within the natural range of variation produced by mother nature, anAn ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach uses practices intended to approximate landscape-level natural disturbance rates and patterns, like historical wildfire sequences, to maintain forest habitats within the natural range of variation. It means we aim to harvest and regrow forest cover that supplies natural forest habitats in amounts and patterns similar to what would result from a natural disturbance pattern on the landscape, whether through forest fires or pest outbreaks.
A second major approach is to take additional steps to help recover species at risk. While our “coarse filter”, ecosystem management works towards a healthy ecosystem and habitat for all species, finer-tuned strategies are deployed where needed for individual species with conservation concerns. West Fraser has deferred harvest on lands to support the habitats of species at risk. We fund and actively support innovative research to support species recovery efforts. When species occur on our landscapes, we address their needs with tailored management, working with stakeholders and the government to inform our best practices. Continually improving our forestry practices is a key component of our sustainability. An example of this is a collaboration of foresters and biologists on a research project to learn the effect of changing the order of planning steps to put grizzly bears first or supporting research that will help define the best cut block designs for caribou.