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MEI Documentary: Quebec Forests Not Threatened by Harvesting

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For the second year in a row, the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), Montreal, Que., Canada, went out into the field to film a video showing how forestry activities coexist with wildlife. The short documentary that was produced sketches a realistic picture of the Quebec forest from the point of view of those who make their living from it, contrasting sharply with alarmist talk suggesting that harvesting the forest jeopardizes its future and the species that live there.

"When you actually go there and listen to people tell you about life in the forest, you see that the facts contradict the statements of certain environmentalist groups. Far from threatening species like moose and woodland caribou, logging creates forests at varying stages of maturity and so facilitates both movement and sustenance for these animals," explains Jasmin Guénette, who visited an outfitter in the Mauricie region to produce this short video.As can be seen from the video, Quebec's forests are doing rather well, and forestry activities are an important economic motor for the province's regions. "While at first glance, forestry activities and recreational uses of the forest might seem to be in conflict, it is entirely possible to reconcile them so that everyone benefits, all while protecting the environment," says Guénette.

In conjunction with the video, the MEI also published an Economic Note showing among other things that the forest cover has actually increased slightly since 1979. "The increasing productivity of agricultural land means that we can produce more food in a smaller area, which reduces the need to clear forestland. Meanwhile, the total area of protected land has also increased, covering 9.11% of the land in March 2014 compared with just 2.84% in 1999," explains Pierre Desrochers, coauthor of the Note.

The publication also examines the state of the woodland caribou and shows that critics who single out the forestry industry for blame are drawing conclusions that are not justified by the available evidence. For example, a study carried out by Quebec's Department of Natural Resources in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region shows that the population doubled between the 1999 inventory and the 2012 inventory, while nearly 70% of the area was disrupted by forestry operations.

"The issue of inventories is certainly complex, but Environment Canada studies have pointed out that activities can take place in the caribou's habitat without threatening the species. Logging is an important economic activity that does not have the disastrous environmental impact propagated by certain myths. Today, practically all of Quebec's public forests are harvested in accordance with rigorous certification standards that guarantee sustainable management practices," concludes Desrochers.

Produced in the summer of 2014 by Guénette, the short documentary titled The Positive Impact of Harvesting the Forest can be viewed online. The Economic Note titled "Are Quebec's Forests Threatened?" was prepared by Guénette and Desrochers with the collaboration of Alexandre Moreau, respectively VP, associate researcher and public policy analyst with the Montreal Economic Institute. This publication is also available online.

The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.  

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