Forestry is the science and practice of caring for forests. Both the meaning and practice of forestry in Canada have evolved over time.
Forestry is the science and practice of caring for forests. Both the meaning and practice of forestry in Canada have evolved over time. In the first half of the 20th century, forestry referred almost exclusively to the management of wooded tracts of land for industrial use. Following the Second World War, managing woodlands on a sustainable basis increased in importance, and by the 1960s, the extent to which forestry incorporated ecological considerations was unprecedented. By the turn of the 21st century, forestry activities had expanded further still, including caring for trees in urban settings.
About 38 per cent of Canada’s land area is forested, or about 3.4 million out of 9.1 million km2. Slightly more than half of this area is classified as commercial forest capable of producing merchantable trees in a reasonable length of time, and has not been reserved for other uses such as parks.
Most Canadian forest land is owned and administered by either the provincial or federal government and is thus referred to as Crown forest. The British North America Act of 1867 assigned jurisdiction for forests to the provincial governments regardless of when each joined Confederation. There were a few exceptions to this rule, however. Until 1930, the federal government retained authority over the forests of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and the 64 km-wide railway belt along the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia. Today, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for about 90 per cent of the non-reserved commercial forest land, the federal government controls roughly 2 per cent (this includes First Nations reserves, military bases and national parks), and private owners oversee the remaining 8 per cent. In some instances, provincial governments — and sometimes the federal government — have supported forestry on private lands through a variety of instruments including tax incentives and regulatory policies. Finally, nearly every province and territory has a forestry agency, usually a branch or service located within a ministry charged with responsibility for natural resources.
The fact that governments have had jurisdiction over nearly all the commercial timberlands in Canada has had a profound influence on the manner in which forestry has been practised. From the outset, foresters called for the woods to be managed prudently. This approach entailed both improving the efficiency with which trees were harvested and investing in regenerating them to ensure that the forest’s productivity would be sustained forever. A problem arose, however, due to a marked lack of political will to support the latter activity. In the eyes of elected officials, whose terms lasted a mere four years, there was little point in spending precious public resources on reforestation when the returns on investment would not be seen until decades after they had left office. In this regard, the politicians were simply reflecting the wishes of most Canadians, who, for the longest time, did not insist that their governments be good stewards of their woodlands.
Forestry’s Pioneering Years: ca. 1900–40
The forestry profession was born and developed in Europe during the first part of the 19th century. It owed its genesis to a widespread realization that short-sighted harvesting practices had deforested major parts of the continent and created a string of environmental issues. This realization, combined with an acute awareness of Europe’s relatively small land base, fostered strong public and political support for forestry principles, which were embraced in an effort to rectify the situation. In this context, forestry ranked alongside other professions — such as medicine and dentistry — in terms of social stature.
When forestry arrived in Canada around the turn of the 20th century, it was transplanted into a very different social setting than the one in Europe. By this time, Canadians had come to value certain professions, such as engineering, for their relatively immediate and practical contributions to society. Engineers enjoyed a privileged status, and efforts were made to train more in the field.
The situation was the opposite for forestry. There had been calls for the woodlands in Canada to be managed in a more effective manner, but there was hardly widespread political or public support for full-fledged forest management. People struggled with the concept of spending money in the present in order to realize long-term gains. This meant that the handful of foresters who began practising their profession in Canada in the early 1900s lacked the social legitimacy that their brethren in Europe enjoyed. This disparity lingered for decades.
Despite these challenges, Canadian forestry had its beginnings in the early 20th century. Canada’s first forestry school was established at the University of Toronto in 1907. Over the next few years, the second was created at the University of New Brunswick and the third at Laval University in Québec City (the forestry school at the University of British Columbia would open its doors in 1921). By this time, the country’s proponents of forestry had formed the Canadian Forestry Association (est. 1900) to publicize the need for forest conservation and the Canadian Institute of Forestry (est. 1908) to give forest practitioners a forum for discussing the issues they faced.
From roughly 1900 to 1940, the number of foresters grew dramatically in Canada, but they were able to make relatively little headway in terms of improving how the country’s woodlands were managed. The forest industry had long been a mainstay in the Canadian economy; during this period it was concentrated in the Maritimes, Ontario, Québec and British Columbia. It consisted of lumber makers (they turned relatively large-diameter trees into building materials) and pulp and paper producers (they transformed generally small-diameter trees into things such as newsprint and book paper), located across the country. They leased their woodlands from provincial governments. Although a few of them showed interest in investing in implementing forestry programs on their woodlands, they often argued that they were reluctant to do so because of the tenuous nature of their control over their timber supplies. Similarly, provincial governments showed little inclination to compel the firms to practise sound forestry.
This period did, however, see forestry expand its realm of operations. This included undertaking forest research, led by Ottawa through its Dominion Forest Service (established at the turn of the century). It and other branches of government investigated a wide gamut of subjects, including the insects and diseases that were attacking Canada’s trees and the means by which they could be combatted.
Forestry’s Golden Era: 1940–70
In the middle of the 20th century, Canada’s forest industries enjoyed an unprecedented boom — a time period often referred to as the golden era. The world’s appetite for wood products — everything from construction lumber to toilet paper — exploded. Existing facilities expanded, and new ones were established in places with little industrial forestry, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan. In addition, the country began producing new products (e.g., oriented strand board). This success did not, however, translate into meaningful support for regenerating the commercial woodlands.
This extraordinary growth increased the demand for foresters to oversee the harvesting and procurement of wood needed to supply mills and plants. The ranks of foresters expanded, and enrolment at the country’s existing forestry schools rose to meet this demand. In addition, two new forestry schools were established in the early 1970s, one at Lakehead University, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the other in Edmonton, at the University of Alberta.
Technological advances occurred in nearly every aspect of foresters’ work. While aircraft had been introduced to forestry during the 1920s, specifically for spotting and fighting forest fires and carrying out forest inventories, the development of ever more sophisticated aerial photography equipment during and after the Second World War greatly improved the information foresters gained about the trees they were managing. Specialized planes were also developed for fighting forest fires, a field in which Canada became a world leader. Furthermore, foresters increasingly adapted computers to their work, allowing them to analyze larger sets of data concerning things such as the rate at which forests grow. Steps were also taken, principally by the federal government, to improve the research that was being conducted into the nature of the country’s trees. This included establishing several new facilities across Canada’s different forest regions.
Forestry also branched out into new activities during these years. Trees had long been part of urban landscapes, but during the 1960s, caring for them emerged as a sub-field of the profession. This was due largely to the devastating toll Dutch elm disease was taking in the early 1960s on the stately trees that dominated the largest cities in southern Ontario. Erik Jorgensen, a forest pathology professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of forestry, spearheaded an effort to combat the menace. Largely due to Jorgensen’s efforts, by the end of the decade the world’s foresters had come to recognize urban forestry as a bona fide specialization.
The country’s foresters also faced new challenges in their work. Canadians enjoyed more disposable income and leisure time after the Second World War and began demanding that larger portions of the forest be set aside for recreational pursuits. Closely related to this movement was the rise of an environmental consciousness among Canadians. Its more radical exponents unleashed a barrage of criticism against industrial forestry, specifically because of its focus on extraction instead of stewardship. It was ironic timing: at the same moment that Canadians were beginning to support foresters in their long-sought-after environmental initiatives, forestry was also becoming one of the most stigmatized professions in the country.
Forestry Under Siege: 1970–Present
Since the dawn of the environmental movement in the 1960s, the forestry profession has endeavoured to defend itself against attacks from environmentalists. These efforts, however, have met with mixed success. Since at least the 1970s, forestry practices in Canada have improved dramatically; many provinces oblige those who harvest timber on Crown lands to adhere to some of the most rigid environmental standards in the world. Nevertheless, the criticism of logging that began in the 1960s intensified over the next few decades. For example, the protest against harvesting in the Clayoquot Sound watershed on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the early 1990s is said to have been the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Although the frequency of such campaigns has diminished in the 21st century, they continue. Moreover, in the new millennium, Canada’s forest industry suffered from a new set of challenges that resulted in a long list of mill closures and lost jobs. Predictably, forestry’s allure as a profession has declined, as has the number of foresters in Canada.
Insects also pose a challenge to forestry. Introduced insects, such the emerald ash borer from Asia, have decimated a number of ash species in Canada in the 21st century, particularly in urban environments.
Lumber and Wood Industries
Canada’s lumber and wood industries convert logs into various products, from lumber to wood chips.
Canada’s lumber and wood industries convert logs into various products, from lumber to wood chips. Softwood, derived from coniferous trees, supplies most of the manufacturers in these industries and is cut primarily in British Columbia. The remainder of the industry is supplied by hardwood (from deciduous trees, e.g., birch, maple, oak) found mainly in southern Ontario and Québec and the Maritimes. Though technically not hardwood, Alberta produces large volumes of aspen and poplar. (See also Pulp and Paper Industry; Forest Harvesting; Timber Trade History; Forestry.)
The products created by the lumber and wood industries include lumber, veneer, plywood, particleboard, oriented strand board (formerly called flake, chip, or wafer board), wood pellets and wood composites (or engineered wood). These products are created by mechanical processes such as sawing, peeling, slicing or chipping.
They also produce, as residual by-products, wood chips, sawdust and shavings. In addition, increasing attention is being paid to both the chemicals and fuels that can be extracted from wood. Of all these products, lumber is the most significant in terms of value and volumes manufactured.
In Canada, the principal softwood lumber species are spruce, pine, hemlock, Douglas fir, larch and western red cedar, while the predominant hardwood species are birch, maple and oak. British Columbia produces roughly two-thirds of the softwood lumber supply, and as a result, softwood plywood is manufactured predominantly in that province. Hardwood lumber and plywood are manufactured in Ontario and Québec, and oriented strand board is made across Canada near the necessary supplies of aspen and poplar.
Most of the lumber produced in Canada is exported; less than 40 per cent is consumed domestically. Since the mid-19th century, the United States has been the most important buyer of Canada’s lumber. For nearly as long, however, and especially since the 1980s, Canadian lumber producers have been subjected to a number of tariffs and restrictions that were imposed by the American government in an effort to protect lumber producers in the US from Canadian competition. The result has been a long-simmering trade dispute that has been punctuated by agreements that have never resolved the issue). As a result, Canadian lumber producers have endeavoured to decrease their dependence on the American market, enjoying considerable success in this regard. While the European Union and Japan have been important buyers of Canadian lumber for several decades, since the early 1990s, China’s consumption of it —particularly lumber produced in British Columbia — has increased exponentially. The same can be said for India and Korea, which are now important purchasers of Canadian lumber.
Over roughly the last half century, the number of large sawmills in Canada has decreased significantly. Although this attrition has been a function of the trend towards larger, more technically efficient manufacturing complexes, other factors have also been at work. These include the recession beginning in 2008, the permanent reduction in the size of Canada’s newsprint industry and the diminishing volume of roundwood available to lumber producers because of ever tightening environmental regulations.
Lumber and Plywood Manufacturing
Mechanical or hydraulic debarking is the first step in converting a sawlog into lumber. In conventional sawmills, large logs are placed on a moving log carriage and passed repeatedly through a band or circular saw, each pass producing boards that normally require further processing on edgers, resaws and trimsaws.
In sawmills that process small-diameter logs, the primary unit may be a chipper canter with integrated sawing units, or a system of multiple-band or circular saws, designed to operate at speeds up to 100 m per minute. About three-quarters of the lumber produced in Canada is further processed in planer mills that smooth the rough surfaces and dimension the pieces. Over half the lumber is dried, either in kilns or outside, to remove excess moisture and/or kill pathogens that may be present in the wood.
Plywood is an engineered product. Wood is reduced to thin sheets of veneer, then glued together with the grain direction of adjacent sheets at right angles, making each panel stable and strong.
Veneers are produced by holding a log firmly at each end in a lathe and rotating it against a knife. The veneer exits from the lathe knife in a continuous ribbon that is clipped to desired widths or to eliminate defects. After drying, the veneers are sorted into sets, each of which will form a plywood panel of the desired thickness and size. Alternate sheets are coated with glue that forms a waterproof bond when subjected to high temperature and pressure in a hot press. The rough plywood panels are then trimmed and may be sanded.
To ensure uniform quality, lumber and plywood are graded into categories by standardized procedures. Most of the lumber produced in Canada is used in construction, mainly for house building; it is classed as dimension lumber and is graded into width and use categories. Other classes of lumber include factory lumber and shop lumber (used to manufacture high-quality mouldings), panelling and flooring.
Softwood plywood is produced in three grades: sanded (for high-quality finishing), unsanded (for construction use) and overlaid (for special uses). For general construction and other structural purposes, the most common type of panel is sheathing, the unsanded grade. About half the plywood consumed in Canada is used in house building and agricultural construction; industrial uses take up another third; the balance is consumed in a multitude of miscellaneous uses.
Manufacturing Particle Board
Wood particleboard is a panel product manufactured by bonding particles of wood together with an adhesive in a press. Since the product is manufactured from small pieces of wood, properties of the finished board, such as density, hardness and elasticity, can be engineered into the panel.
The various wood elements are screened and separated by size and shape so that their integration in the finished product can be controlled. The particles are then dried by heat and circulation and mixed with thermosetting bonding agents. The mixture is then meshed together in a layup for final pressing under heat.
The most common type of particleboard manufactured in Canada is the three-layered, graduated mat-formed variety. By preparing the core and surface material separately — segregating the coarser materials into the centre and the finer particles to the surface — the manufacturer can create a board that can be sanded to an even, smooth surface, with the desired mechanical properties in each layer.
The fibre lengths of the particles are distributed in a random pattern, so that internal stresses average to zero, resulting in an extremely stable finished product. Major uses of particleboard are furniture and cabinet panels and cores, and floor underlay; minor uses include interior-wall sheathing and mobile-home decking.
Oriented-strand board is an engineered, structural panel made from large, thin strands cut from roundwood. Like particleboard, the panel is manufactured from pieces of wood which can be designed in size, thickness and profile, allowing the properties of the board to be engineered into the panel. These strands are mixed with waterproof phenolic resin and interleaved together in thick mats, which are then bonded together under heat and pressure. The result is a solid, uniform building panel with high strength and water resistance, properties that make strand board suitable for most construction applications. Some examples of uses are wall and roof sheathing, subflooring and underlay, cladding and soffits. The panels are also widely used for farm structures, industrial packaging, crating and warehouse pallets.
In the 21st century, Canada’s lumber and wood industries have worked towards manufacturing new, high-tech products by studying wood’s microscopic, or nano, properties and developing applications for them. These include the production of a range of wood composites that can be used to replace traditional materials, most often plastics. Significant research has been conducted into at least one major application of this new use for wood, namely the manufacture of car mouldings; automobile manufacturers are keen to utilize wood instead of petroleum-based materials because it is seen as being “greener”. Many one-industry towns in Canada that previously relied upon the lumber and wood industries for their existence and have since lost their mills or watched them shrink in size are hopeful that applying technology to their traditional enterprise will reinvigorate their communities.
Pulp and Paper Industry
The pulp and paper industry consists of manufacturing enterprises that convert predominantly woody plant material into a wide variety of pulps, papers and paperboards.
The pulp and paper industry consists of manufacturing enterprises that convert predominantly woody plant material into a wide variety of pulps, papers and paperboards. The Canadian industry began in the 1800s, and has undergone revolutionary changes over the years. Most recently, the move from newsprint to electronic media caused the industry to decline; however, pulp and paper remains a fundamental part of the Canadian economy, especially for remote and northern communities.
Understanding the Industry
Typically, paper has been made from “pulping” or crushing fibrous plant or woody material into its cellulose components using either friction or chemicals. During this process the waste, or non-cellulose material, is eliminated, as is the water, which is removed using heat and pressure, resulting in paper. The world’s first sheets were made in ancient Egypt by layering thinly-cut strips of papyrus plants at right angles (the word “paper” is derived from papyrus). However, the modern process of turning pulp into paper was born in China during roughly the earliest part of the Common Era. When knowledge of this enterprise migrated to Europe near the end of the first millennium, the raw material of choice for paper-making became animal skins and the product was called parchment paper. Its high cost spurred a search for a cheaper raw material, namely old cotton and linen rags. By the 19th century, trends in the Western World — including rising literacy rates and the proliferation of high-circulation newspapers — spurred a drive to find an even less expensive raw material, and wood was chosen. European (largely German) papermakers developed machines to break down logs from various tree species into pulps and also dry and flatten the pulps using a series of rollers that grew progressively larger and faster. This allowed for the mass production of many types of pulps and papers, of which newsprint was by far the least expensive. The former were turned into an ever-widening array of items, most importantly personal hygiene products such as tissues and toilet paper.
The Industry’s Pioneering Years in Canada, 1800–1900
Canada’s pulp and paper industry was born in the early 1800s. During its nascent years, the industry was relatively tiny, diversified and localized. Initially, the need for paper was met by importing it from the United States. But as the colony’s population grew, so too did demand for paper, spurring the industry’s growth. Paper producers were initially clustered in the urban centres of Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia. They located there to be near their raw material (rags) and markets, and most were erected by newspaper proprietors. The first of these enterprises was built over the course of 1803–1805 by James Brown. His Argenteuil Paper Manufactory in St. Andrews East (near present-day Montréal) was associated with the newspaper now known as the Montreal Gazette.
The development of Canada’s modern pulp and paper industry took place in the second half of the 19th century, and was marked by several trends. First, the industry paradoxically both diversified and specialized. It began churning out much larger volumes of a wider variety of products, including book paper, printing paper, wallpaper and wrapping paper. At the same time, the demand for newsprint was growing exponentially, and it spurred a number of entrepreneurs to focus exclusively on manufacturing this type of paper. John Riordon was on the vanguard of this movement, and his devotion to it earned him the title, ‘the father of the Canadian newsprint industry.’ He built his flagship mill in Merritton, Ontario, along the Welland Canal, roughly five years before Confederation.
Soon after 1867, Riordon’s firm arguably became the first in Canada to convert to using wood instead of rags as its raw material — marking one of the most important industry shifts to take place over the last quarter of the 19th century. In very short order, the country’s bounty of conifer forests and untapped water powers were eagerly sought by pulp and paper makers at home and abroad. They were interested specifically in producing newsprint, both because American demand was growing exponentially and Canada’s spruce and hydroelectric resources were its crucial raw materials. They were eyed most intensively by producers in the Northeast US, whose concerns were deepening over their rapidly dwindling supplies of pulpwood trees. The construction of a railway through Northern Ontario around this time helped render this region’s trees and cascades accessible for development.
During this time, provincial governments were thrust into playing a central role in Canada’s pulp and paper industry. Canada’s colonial legacy and the British North America Act had given them control over crown resources (i.e., public land, timber, minerals, water power, etc.). This meant that governments in Ontario, Québec and British Columbia, whose hinterlands were blessed with abundant supplies of trees and water power, held potentially enormous authority over the industry. The same was true in less well-endowed provinces, provincially those in the Maritimes. That authority was reinforced by the provincial governments’ decision to lease — and not sell outright — the timber and hydraulic resources the industry sought. When the Ontario government began executing such deals with mill developers in the 1890s, they set a precedent of landlord-tenant relationships between the politicians and the industry that other jurisdictions would soon emulate.
Boom and Bust, 1900–1939
During this period the Canadian pulp and paper industry enjoyed a prolonged period of meteoric growth (roughly until the mid-1920s) but then endured a sustained downturn. The good times were largely a function of the dramatic expansion of the newsprint industry, and its boom was fueled by numerous factors. These included the practically irresistible allure of the country’s timber and water power resources (especially in northern Ontario and Québec), the end to the American tariff on newsprint on the eve of the First World War, declining supplies of spruce in the Eastern US, and the increased drive to produce close to the burgeoning newsprint market in the Midwestern states. The result was a string of new mills — and communities around them — across the hinterlands of Ontario and Québec, with a smattering also erected in British Columbia, the Maritimes and Newfoundland (an anomalous plant was built in Pine Falls, Manitoba). Canada therefore emerged as the world’s preeminent newsprint maker, one that was highly dependent on supplying the American market. The industry’s annual capacity exploded from approximately 60,000 tons at the turn of the 20th century to roughly 65 times that total three decades later.
These years saw the industry undergo a major consolidation that affected its behaviour. Initially, it was made up of a large number of smaller firms, but gradually it came to be dominated by a few behemoths. In Québec and the Maritimes, Canada Power and Paper, Canadian International Paper, and Price Brothers rose to the top, while in Ontario it was Abitibi Power and Paper. The few newsprint companies in British Columbia — Pacific Mills and Powell River — operated virtually independently of their eastern rivals. There were a few exceptions to this rule, namely the newsprint companies which were owned in whole or in part by American newspapers. The Chicago Tribune, for example, built one mill in southern Ontario in 1912 and a second in Baie Comeau, Québec a few decades later. Similarly, the New York Times owned roughly half the enormous mill that was constructed in Kapuskasing, Ontario, in the mid-1920s. Nevertheless, the industry remained heavily weighted towards a few dominant players, and this boded well for its efforts to operate as a cartel, which recurred throughout this period.
In the mid-1920s, the newsprint industry began a downturn that lasted well into the next decade. Contributing to this decline was the industry’s overexpansion and enormous capital requirements. Massive amounts of money were needed to erect the enormous new pulp and paper plants and the often ancillary power-generating facilities. This dynamic transformed the industry from one dominated by family-owned firms to those that relied on the ability to obtain financial backing, principally from the US. As the industry’s demand for capital grew, this situation quickly became problematic, as financial backers increasingly sought to generate profits from marketing and selling the enterprises’ securities as opposed to their pulps and papers. As a result, the industry became egregiously overcapitalized, encumbered by huge fixed borrowing charges, and largely controlled by American interests. By the early part of the Great Depression, nearly all the firms in Ontario and a few in Québec had fallen into receivership, while others teetered on the brink of insolvency. By the late 1930s, the situation had stabilized, but the industry was still suffering from significant overcapacity.
While the newsprint makers lorded over the Canadian pulp and paper industry, its other sectors (which made items such as cardboard and pulp wadding) enjoyed far more stability and prosperity during these years. They produced pulps and non-newsprint grades of paper almost exclusively for the “home market,” which consisted of Canada and the British Empire and was protected by favourable tariffs. Able to exert highly effective control over these areas, as a group these non-newsprint producers remained relatively small yet profitable, and each sector was dominated by a few key firms. For example, nearly all the capacity in the fine paper industry (including both writing and book paper) lay in the hands of E.B. Eddy, Rolland Paper, Howard Smith and Provincial Paper in Central Canada.
Riding the Wave of Good Times, 1939–1972
The early years of the Second World War triggered nearly three and a half decades of practically uninterrupted good times for Canada and its pulp and paper industry. In no uncertain terms, newsprint remained king and highly concentrated in Québec and Ontario. There, the provincial governments supported the newsprint makers’ drive to exercise monopolistic control over their industry, principally by refusing to allow new mills to be built. This policy dictated that the only means by which a company could increase its capacity was by upgrading its existing facilities, which entailed adding ever-larger machines and also speeding up the rates at which they produced newsprint. This the industry did with remarkable effectiveness. Whereas it had the capacity to produce roughly 4.3 million tons of newsprint on the eve of the war, by the early 1970s its capacity had more than doubled. These years also saw ownership of and control over the industry shift back into Canadian hands, with firms such as Abitibi becoming emblematic of Canada’s world dominance in this domain.
Despite this supremacy, newsprint makers also faced certain challenges that only grew over time. For example, they faced increasing competition from producers in the Southern US and Scandinavia, as well as rising production costs. As a result, the industry intermittently suffered through difficult times, which entailed temporary mill closures and shutdowns and the steady erosion of its international predominance.
At the same time, production of other types of papers in Canada grew modestly. Producers of packaging papers, for example, augmented their operations largely through mergers and acquisitions, and a few dominant players emerged. Bathurst Power and Paper joined forces with Consolidated Paper in the mid-1960s to form Consolidated-Bathurst, and Brompton Pulp and Paper merged with Dominion Tar and Chemical to create Domtar, which remains one of the Canadian pulp and paper industry’s central players.
But the greatest growth occurred in the country’s pulp industry. This expansion was fueled by the barriers that existed to entering the newsprint industry, the interest in exploiting previously unused tree species and the drive by foreign interests to secure dependable and relatively inexpensive sources of raw pulp. Most important, however, was the nearly obsessive push by several provincial governments to exploit their control over crown resources to foster economic development, specifically in the form of new pulp mills. In the late 1950s, for instance, the Nova Scotia government convinced a leading Swedish pulp and paper maker, Stora Kopparberg (now Stora Enso), to construct a major sulphite pulp mill in Port Hawkesbury by offering it access to the local supply of pulpwood. Similarly, the British Columbia government facilitated the construction of over a dozen new bleached and unbleached pulp mills that made kraft; their output generally went into making paper products that were known for their strength and not colour (kraft means “strong” in Swedish, and typically kraft paper is brown). Many of these new mills were built in British Columbia’s interior during the 1950s and 1960s because of the provincial government’s willingness to provide them with guaranteed supplies of inexpensive fibre. These years also saw the pulp and paper industry establish major operations in the Prairies, principally in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and these projects were backed by both domestic and foreign interests. As a result, during this period the Canadian pulp industry’s capacity rose from just over 4 million tons in 1939 to approximately 23 million tons in 1972. The latter figure represented nearly 25 per cent of the world’s capacity, with most of it geared towards producing kraft pulps for sale on the open market.
Checkered Success, 1973–2000
The Canadian pulp and paper industry enjoyed buoyant periods during these years, but its challenges continued to mount. In terms of the provincial governments, some continued to play positive roles in the industry’s development. In Alberta, for instance, the government offered luxurious financial incentives during the late 1980s as a way of diversifying the province’s resource economy. These efforts produced a half-dozen new pulp mills, most of which made kraft pulp, and were erected by American, Japanese and Canadian interests. Paradoxically, these years also saw the provincial governments’ involvement in the industry’s affairs become an unprecedented hindrance to its success, specifically because of the rise of the modern environmental movement. Born in the late 1960s, it was highly adept at exploiting the modern media to convey to the public gruesome images of the industry’s logging practices and the effluents that spewed into the air and water from its mills. It quickly gained significant political traction, and led to the enactment of increasingly stringent environmental laws at both the provincial and national levels. For the industry, this meant much higher production costs but a much “greener” modus operandi.
Other factors created huge hurdles for all Canadian pulp and paper producers to surmount. The federal government continually rebuffed their moves to consolidate their operations for fear that this would monopolize the industry, and this attitude hindered the domestic industry’s ability to gain the mass needed to compete with its global rivals. Its production costs also increased dramatically during this period because of rapidly rising prices for both energy and labour. Moreover, its competitors both old (the US and Europe) and new (Asia and the developing world) generally enjoyed much lower production costs and the added advantage of utilizing the latest technology. This situation was exacerbated by the enactment of new laws in the US that required ever-higher proportions of recycled paper in products such as newsprint, a move that undermined the Canadian industry’s principal advantage of being able to access high-quality virgin fibre.
For the newsprint sector, these changes and its inadvisable business strategy were particularly devastating. Its position as a global leader continued to erode; by the end of this period it represented well under 30 per cent of the world’s productive capacity, and much of it was inefficient. Moreover, the industry demonstrated a remarkable blindness to changing trends in paper consumption and an unshakeable faith that its salvation lay in creating ever-larger enterprises. Abitibi Power and Paper was the best example of this line of thinking. It first acquired Price Brothers in the mid-1970s, and roughly two decades later merged with Stone-Consolidated to form Abitibi-Consolidated.
Amidst the difficulties that beset the entire industry, however, there were some bright spots. In the main it remained profitable, and it invested in new, vastly more efficient technology, such as thermomechanical and chemi-thermomechanical pulping processes (the former uses heat and friction and the latter chemicals, heat and friction to extract the fibres). Moreover, the industry became a leader in terms of forest stewardship and pollution control, and by the late 1990s Canada had become the world’s largest producer of paper grade market pulp.
After the Millennium, 2000–Present
The first few years of the millennium were prosperous for the Canadian industry; however, a host of factors combined to deal the industry, and in particular the newsprint sector, a blow that left it practically dead. Canada’s primary newsprint market, the US, witnessed a precipitous decline in newspaper circulation as more readers migrated to electronic media sources. Moreover, pulp production in the developing world, particularly South America, exploded. And these mills operated in a business climate that enjoyed far lower manufacturing costs and a source of raw fibre that could be “farmed” on a relatively short rotation. Then, in 2008-2009 the Canadian dollar shot above its US counterpart and the American housing market crashed, while the Canada-US softwood lumber dispute intensified to the point where it bankrupted many sawmills which had been the main suppliers of wood chips to nearby pulp and paper producers. Together, these forces represented the pulp and paper industry’s worst nightmare. Not even one decade into the new millennium, pulp and paper mills were closing on what seemed like a weekly basis. Unlike previous downturns, this one saw many of the shuttered enterprises being gutted of their equipment; they would never operate again.
As the dust settles on the havoc that rocked the industry during most of the 21st century so far, the picture is still unclear as to what lies ahead. Despite all its ailments, the industry remains a mainstay of the Canadian economy, particularly in remote and northern hinterland communities. The forest industry as a whole (both pulp and paper and lumber) employs directly and indirectly nearly 600,000 workers (2012) and contributes roughly two per cent, or over $20 billion, to Canada’s annual GDP (2011). Canada remains the world’s largest producer of newsprint and northern bleached softwood kraft pulp, and demand for the former has seemingly stabilized. In addition, Canada still sits on what is arguably the world’s largest supply of well-managed, high quality conifer wood fibre. Moreover, most of the firms that have survived the travails of the recent past have emerged from the ruins stronger than ever. Domtar, for instance, has focused on producing fine paper and is now one of the world’s leaders in this regard, and Abitibi, rechristened Resolute, is operating only its most efficient mills and has begun diversifying into paper grades other than newsprint. New ideas and innovations also hold out hope for the future. Experiments into wood’s micro- and nanofibres are underway with the aim to create opportunities for turning wood pulp into a host of new products, including environmentally friendly substitutes for plastics.
WILDLIFE IN CANADA
Large and charismatic mammals are important for wildlife tourism in Canada and several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries cater to these needs. Visitors can see some mighty creatures during their Canada-visit. Whales, polar bears and the goofy, twig-eating moose are wildlife-watching favorites. The vast and huge land offers stunning wilderness and natural experiences.
In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to Canada’s wildlife; in response, National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) are set aside under the Canada Wildlife Act. There are National Parks, National Wildlife Areas, as well as Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. National parks protect natural regions in Canada. NWAs conserve habitats for species at risk. Migratory bird sanctuaries protect the breeding grounds of migratory birds during the nesting season.
Bobcat, Brown bat, Canada Lynx, Reindeer (caribou), Coyote, Grizzly bears, Gray Wolf, Red fox, Lemming, Meadow mice, Moose, Mountain lion, Mule Deer, Musk ox, Muskrat, Polar bear, Porcupine, Prairie dog, Pronghorn, raccoon, Pinniped (seal), Skunk, Snowshoe hare, Walrus, Wapiti, Weasel, Whale, white tailed deer, wolverine.
To name a few of the birds identified with Canada would be the American Robin, Bicknell’s Thrush, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Burrowing Owl, Canada Goose, Canvasback, Downy Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Great Blue Heron, Great Horned Owl, Greater Snow Goose, Killdeer, Loons, Piping Plover, Purple Martin, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Whooping Crane.
No other animal has shaped the history of Canada more than the Beaver, whose coveted pelt brought the first permanent European settlers to these shores. North America’s largest rodent has a beefy body, webbed hind feet and a long, muscular tail that serves as a rudder when swimming. The axiom ‘busy as a beaver’ is well justified: skilled loggers and engineers, they each cut down up to 200 trees per year and build elaborate ‘lodges, dams and canals.
They live in forests throughout the country and are most active between dusk and dawn. If you’re lucky, you might spot one paddling across a stream or lake with its head just above the water.
The porcupine is Canada’s second-largest rodent. This curious, slow-moving animal is covered in up to 30, 000 quills, which form a formidable defense mechanism. When under threat, the porcupine vigorously lashes its tail, thereby dislodging loose quills as if throwing them. It feeds mainly on bark and tree buds, and used to be a staple of the Aboriginal diet. The quills are sometimes used in aboriginal decorative work.
The white-tailed Deer can be found anywhere from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia to the Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. Its bigger relative, the Caribou, is unusual in that both males and females sport enormous antlers. Barren-ground caribou, which feed on lichen and spend most of the year on the Tundra from Baffin Island to Alaska, are the most common. Some Inuit hunt Caribou for hides and food, and it occasionally shows up on menus as far south as Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.
One of the biggest deer species is the Elk (wapiti), a formidable creature whose ‘bugling’ roars can scare the bejeezus out of you. Their relatively small herds roam around western Canada, especially the Kootenays and Vancouver Island in BC, although quite a few also hang out in the national parks of Banff and Jasper, and Waterton Lakes, Riding Mountain and Prince Albert.
Still more humungous is the Moose, whose skinny, ballerina-like legs support a hulking body with a distinctive shovel-like snout. Males grow a spectacular rack of antlers every summer, only to discard it in November. You’ll spot moose foraging near lakes, muskegs and streams as well as in the forests of the western mountain ranges in the Rockies and the Yukon. Newfoundland has grown a huge moose population since they were first introduced there in the early 1900s.
Neither moose nor elk are generally aggressive, and they will often generously pose for photographs. They can be unpredictable, though, so don’t startle them. During mating season (September), the males can become belligerent.
The huge, heavy-shouldered, shaggy bison (buffalo) that once roamed the prairies in vast herds now exists only in parks. It is said that there were once as many as 70 million bison in North America. Their herds would often take days to pass by a single point. Their 19th-century slaughter – often by chartered trainloads of ‘sportsmen’ who left the carcasses to rot – is one of the great tragedies of the North American west, affecting the very survival of Aboriginal peoples. To check out the largest herd of bison, take a trip to Wood Buffalo National Park, close to the Alberta–Northwest Territories border. Smaller herds roam the national parks of Waterton Lakes and Elk Island in Alberta, Prince Albert in Saskatchewan and Riding Mountain in Manitoba.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a bear in the wild, it’ll most likely be a black bear. (Keep your distance, though.) About half a million of these furry critters patrol the forests and bushland just about everywhere except Prince Edward Island, southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan.
Ursus arctos horribilis, better known as the grizzly bear, makes its home on the higher slopes of the Rocky and Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon. It stands up to a fearsome 3m tall and has a distinctive hump between its shoulders. Grizzlies are solitary animals with no natural enemies except humans. Although they enjoy an occasional snack of elk, moose or caribou, they usually fill their bellies with berries and other vegetation.
The fiercest member of the bear family, the polar bear, weighs less than 1kg at birth but grows to be as heavy as a Volkswagen (up to 800kg). Pretty much the only place to observe them is from late September to early November in Churchill, Manitoba, one of their major maternity denning grounds.
Another formidable predator is the wolf, which can be every bit as fierce and cunning as is portrayed in fairy tales, although it rarely attack humans. Wolves hunt in packs and aren’t afraid to take on animals much larger than themselves, including moose and bison. They’re still fairly common in sparsely populated areas between Labrador and the Yukon. If you’re out in the bush, you may hear them howling at the moon.
Canadian skies are home to 462 bird species, with BC and Ontario boasting the greatest diversity. The most famous feathered resident is the common loon, Canada’s national bird. It’s a waterbird whose mournful yet beautiful call often rings out across quiet backcountry lakes early or late in the day. The great blue heron, one of the country’s largest birds, is a timid fellow that’s an amazing sight on take-off.
There is only one creature in the water that fears no enemy other than humans: the killer whale (orca), so named because its diet includes seals, belugas and other whales. Their aerodynamic bodies, signature black-and-white coloration and incredible speed (up to 40km/h) make them the Ferraris of the aquatic world. They’re most commonly seen around Vancouver Island and along the Inside Passage to Alaska.
Other whale species frolic in eastern waters, such as around the Fundy Isles in New Brunswick, the tip of Digby Neck and the north shore of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and in Witless Bay in Newfoundland. Belugas are the smallest, typically measuring no more than 4.5m and weighing about one ton. They are chatty fellows who squeak, groan and peep while traveling in closely knit family pods. Blue whales are the planet’s largest animals, reaching up to 27m in length and weighing as much as 30 elephants. Each one chows down about 40 tons of krill per day. Finbacks aren’t much smaller; they’re easily identified by the asymmetrical coloring of the lower jaw – white or yellowish on the right side and black on the left side. Humpbacks average 15m and typically weigh 30 tons.
CONSEVATIONISTS EXPOSING WILDLIFE TO THREAT.
Photographers, poachers and eco-tour operators are in the crosshairs of a Canadian conservationist who warns that tracking tags are being hacked and misused to harass and hunt endangered animals.
Steven Cooke, a biology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, says that the very tools used by scientists to study and protect animals and fish are being hijacked to do just the opposite.
Cooke, the Canada research chair of environmental science and biology, is the lead author of a paper published this week in the journal Conservation Biology.
The research paper cites the example of anglers in the US state of Minnesota who petitioned for access to data on northern pike movements, arguing that it should be publicly available because the research was publicly funded.
Australian authorities have used tags to locate and cull sharks while in India, attempts were made to hack the global positioning system (GPS) collars on endangered Bengal tigers in a case of “cyber poaching.”
Cooke said that it is a new phenomenon and there is no data available to quantify this “troubling and unanticipated” problem.
But he provides a broad range of anecdotal evidence in his scholarly article.
Scientists are scheduled to meet in June in Australia to discuss the problem as well as potential fixes.
In the meantime, Cooke is calling for encryption and strict rules to secure data and limit the use of telemetry tools for non-research activities.
In an interview with AFP, Cooke noted that natural history, ecology, conservation and resource management have all benefited from the use of electronic tagging technology. But if left unchecked, abuses could not only cause harm to animals, it could significantly hamper research.”Just think about all the weird ways that people might try to exploit this technology,” Cooke said.
The idea for this research came during a family vacation last summer to Banff National Park in Canada. It was then that he learned that the park authority had imposed a public ban on VHF radio receivers after photographers used telemetry to track tagged animals.
Canadian officials were concerned that the animals may be spooked, stressed or habituated to human interaction, which can alter their behavior and thus influence research findings, or lead to human-wildlife conflicts.
Follow the ping
The tags, Cooke explained, send out pings that can be tracked with a cheap handheld radio receiver.”So you can stalk these animals in their natural environment, instead of waiting for them to wander over to you,” he said.
Following one tagged animal could also lead poachers to others in its group.
US ranchers have been accused of trying to interfere with the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park.Convincing scientists to restrict access to their data may prove problematic, Cooke acknowledged.
“It runs counter to the open data movement,” he said, describing the widespread use of social media and other outreach to share findings.
In some cases, researchers who receive government grants may be obligated to disseminate the information.
Citing cases of US ranchers accused of trying to interfere with the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and divers in the Bahamas who removed satellite tags from sharks, Cooke also warned about so-called “telemetry terrorism.”
There is potential for this if people oppose tagging. For example, some Canadian Inuit fear acoustic transmitters will scare away culturally important marine wildlife, and some park visitors have complained that tags distract from the “wilderness experience.”
Where commercial interests conflict with conservation goals or where they overlap, there is also a risk.
After the publication of his article Monday, Cooke said he received a call about a safari company that has been tagging animals in order to find them to show guests, rather than waiting patiently near watering holes hoping for wildlife to show up.
Many eco-tour operators offer discounts if no wildlife is seen during a trip.
“There’s a pretty strong financial motivation for them to consistently find animals,” Cooke commented.