Since 1955, West Fraser has planted more than 2 billion trees to renew the forests where we operate continually. In 2020, a record of 73 million native seedlings were planted. We reforest harvested areas with a similar mix of native tree species by planting seedlings, supporting natural regeneration, or by directly seeding the area. Less than half of 1 percent of West Fraser’s managed forestlands are 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 to ensure these forests remain healthy and vibrant and provide environmental, social, and economic benefits for society.
We harvest timber safely and efficiently while minimizing environmental impacts. Most of our harvesting practices create openings that are similar to the effects of natural disturbances, such as those produced by fire and insects. The regeneration of most of the tree species we manage benefit from these openings.
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.
We plan for success. West Fraser foresters examine sites before they’re harvested. They develop a plan to determine the most ecologically appropriate method of collecting the trees and reforesting the site. Reforestation means both planting trees and allowing trees to seed from cones left in the harvesting area naturally. Read about where we get our tree seeds and the seed orchards we use.
We are thinking about how to help the forests we are growing to adapt to a changing climate. Read about how West Fraser’s forestry team is addressing climate change mitigation, through the tree species biodiversity of our seedlings.
Once a new forest is established, it’s monitored with surveys to determine how healthy and big the seedling trees have grown. As a rule of thumb, foresters replant the same species that were harvested from a site in equal proportions as they were found. So, if a place had a 50/50 mixture of spruce and lodgepole pine, this is the same mix of seedlings that would be planted. Usually, 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 build a new forest that 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.