Garden Clippings for December 25, 2021

Lumber is big business.  Very big.

Before moving, we lived south of the railway tracks on Brigden Sideroad.  Invariably when I was in a rush to get to work or home, a freight train would interrupt my schedule.  Most annoying was when the train would slow down and stop just before passing our road.  Or just when a train from the east would pass, another train would arrive from the west.

Most freight train cars contained gas of some sort.  The rest were box cars filled with anything and everything, or lumber.  Lots of lumber.  Bound for the big USA markets.

According to the Natural Resources department of the Government of Canada, the forestry sector contributed $23.7 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product in 2018.  We Canadians exported $33 billion in forest products.  The best news is that we taxpayers enjoyed $1.9 billion in revenue for provincial coffers.

Nearly half of Canada’s forestry business stems from British Columbia.  Having visited BC a few times, there is plenty evidence of a thriving forestry industry.  Wood is the preferred siding on homes in BC.  Logging trucks are everywhere.

Trees in Canada’s west coast grow bigger and faster than anywhere else in Canada.  Most are conifers, with the most abundant being Lodgepole Pine.  Other significant species include Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Hemlock and White or Engelmann Spruce.  The beauty of these trees is they grow tall and straight, a rather necessary feature for building homes.

Half of Canada’s forest products is considered softwood lumber and eventually finds its way in solid wood products such as residential construction, fencing panels, and utility poles.  Just over a third is used in pulp and paper manufacturing, and is turned to tissue, newsprint and fine paper.

Canada’s forestry industry, strong as it is, is not a cakewalk.  The recent spike in lumber prices was simply caused by supply and demand.  Covid forced people to stay at home, giving renewed interest in building additions, decks, and garages.  Low mortgage rates continue to stimulate new home construction.  There was big demand, but the forest industry could not instantly increase production.

Those in the tree business are keenly aware that what comes up might come down equally fast.  It was only 13 years ago that that the housing industry went for a downward spiral.  Forest fires and insects are two serious threats to the forestry business, both quite beyond our control.  The advancement of information technology has made it easy for people to read the daily news on their tablet than the traditional newspaper.  The ongoing threat of climate change looms large for those who grow lumber.

Not long ago, only the tree hugger types were worried about the sustainability of our forests.  These days, every Canadian is concerned about the long-term viability of Canada’s precious natural resources.  Forestry is now a highly regulated activity.  Nobody can simply decide to get into the tree harvesting business.  To ensure that Canada’s forests remain healthy, every forest company must outline and adhere to a strict management plan which includes a commitment to honour forest values, track and record harvesting activities, and commit to a regeneration plan.