The Ontario government released Sustainable Growth: Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy, the province’s plan to create jobs and encourage economic growth in the forest industry. The strategy will support the Indigenous, northern and rural communities that depend on the sector, while ensuring the province’s forests stay healthy for generations to come. The announcement was made by John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“Our government has developed a strategy that will help create more good-paying jobs for Ontarians and provide greater opportunity in communities that depend on the forestry sector,” said Minister Yakabuski. “At the same time, we are taking steps to protect our forests. Ontario’s sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and are continuously reviewed and improved to ensure the long-term health of our forests while providing social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone across the province.”
The fundamental pillar of the strategy is the promotion of stewardship and sustainability, recognizing the importance of keeping Crown forests healthy, diverse, and productive so Ontario’s forest industry can remain viable over the long term. The strategy also focusses on the importance of putting more wood to work, improving cost competitiveness, and fostering innovation, new markets and talent.
Since announcing the intention to create a strategy in late 2018, and following the launch of the draft strategy in December 2019, the government has held comprehensive consultations, hosting 27 engagement sessions with Indigenous leaders, municipalities and industry, as well as collecting feedback from the public through multiple Environmental Registry postings.
The new 10-year forestry strategy is deeply rooted in Ontario’s sustain-
able forest policy framework, which is among the most rigorously regulated systems in the world. Ontario’s forest sector plants approximately 73 million trees annually and drops an additional 365 million seeds aerially on harvested Crown lands to help regenerate forests. The province has 71 million hectares of forest, of which 27.7 million hectares are managed Crown forests. Less than half of one per cent of managed Crown forests is harvested each year.
“As we saw during the COVID-19 outbreak, the forest sector and its products are not only critical to the economy, but to the lives of all Ontarians, providing essential forest products for hygiene, food and medical supplies, as well as packaging and shipping products,” said Minister Yakabuski. “In many Ontario communities, forestry jobs are the heart of the economy, and this strategy is part of our plan to build Ontario together with a better quality of life and a higher standard of living in every region of the province in a sustainable and responsible way.”
An Advisory Committee will be tasked with developing and overseeing an implementation plan, including providing input on proposed key performance indicators in the short, medium and long term.
Forestry was deemed an essential industry during the COVID-19 outbreak as the industry provided materials used in hospital masks, gowns and other hygiene products, as well as packaging for sterile medical and food wrappings.
A recent study for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe projected that demand for wood products is expected to increase by 30 per cent by 2030 due to a growing shift in consumer preferences away from single-use plastics.