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Canada's Forests at a Crossroads

An Assessment in the Year 2000

Explores the scale and magnitude of timber, energy, and mineral resources development within Canada's northern frontier, home to over a third of the world's boreal forest and a tenth of total global forest cover.

Executive Summary

In recent years, international attention has increasingly focused on the rapid conversion and degradation of the world's tropical forests.

Yet half of the remaining large tracts of natural forest are found in northern (or boreal) regions.

Canada is home to over a third of the world's boreal forest and a tenth of total global forest cover. Largely unsuited to agriculture, these forests have escaped widespread conversion to farmland and ranches -- key threats in tropical regions.

However, this northern frontier is rapidly being opened up for its timber, energy, and mineral resources. This report provides a first look at the scale and magnitude of development within Canada, one of the world's major repositories of northern forests.

  • Canada's forests are managed predominantly for timber. However, the Canadian public values forests primarily for nontimber uses.
  • Canada's most species-rich and productive forests have been extensively modified by development activities.
  • Under current management practices, harvesting rates appear unsustainable over the long term.
  • A handful of companies now manage much of Canada's forest.
  • Development increasingly extends into Canada's northernmost forests.
  • Increasingly, Canada is promoting sustainable forest management policies. However, implementation remains a problem.
  • Lack of publicly available forest information hinders accountability and informed decisionmaking.

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