With the election campaign in full swing, the CSN and Nature Québec are warning the public against the current depletion of Québec’s public forests, which could have serious repercussions for workers, biodiversity, forest communities, landscapes, vacationers and First Nations. The public forest is deteriorating and the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) must quickly change course to regain the community’s trust and put an end to the climate of confrontation that is taking hold in the forest.
By Louis Bégin, President of the CSN Manufacturing Industry Federation, Frédéric Venne, Biodiversity and Forest Coordinator at Nature Québec and the co-signatories Louis Bélanger, eng.f., Nature Québec, Marie-Ève Desmarais, eng.f. , Jean-Pierre Jetté, F.Eng. and Gérard Szaraz, ing.f., Chief Forester from 2010 to 2015.
Halt the economic and ecological depletion of forests
Several aspects of current forest management worry us about the economic and ecological value of Quebec forests. Decisions made by the authorities of the Department seem to us to jeopardize the vitality of forest ecosystems and the sustainability of the resources we draw from them.
The Ministry does not take sufficient account of the progressive impoverishment of the public forest. There is a tendency to harvest the most interesting wood while abandoning the less interesting one. The more time passes, the more the public forest contains a significant proportion of forests that are not profitable for the industry. At the slightest jolt of the markets, factories will be in danger.
The allowable cuts are often overestimated since the Chief Forester does not properly integrate the risks into his calculations. For example, it underestimates the impact of natural disturbances while climate change will aggravate the situation. Sudden drops in the harvest level are therefore to be expected.
In addition to being poorly applied in terms of wood resources, the forest regime does not sufficiently take into account all the other ecosystem services provided by the forest. These values are also to be protected. Ecological impoverishment weakens forests and puts the resources we draw from them at risk. We want rich, strong forests to bequeath to our children.
The CSN and Nature Québec are therefore asking the government that will be elected on October 3 to rebuild confidence in forest management.
To achieve this, the MFFP must report on the value of the wood supply in the short, medium and long term, and the Chief Forester must reassess the allowable cut, taking into account all the risk factors and other uses of the forest.
The mandate and function of the Chief Forester should also be thoroughly reviewed in order to ensure his real independence and responsibility with regard to sustainable forest management. This revision would include the notion of a forest land manager responsible for its sustainable management, like the proposal of the Ordre des ingénieurs Forestiers du Québec. The CSN-Nature Québec alliance also recommends the creation of an independent forest inspection office, based on the model of the Forest Practices Board of British Columbia.
Restoring social peace in the forest
In recent years, changes in the way the forest regime is applied have led to setbacks in the achievements of several stakeholders in the forest area. This situation leads to a polarization of positions and the birth of numerous conflicts. Increasingly dissatisfied people have lost faith in the very idea that sustainable and equitable development is possible. We will also have to take into account reconciliation with the First Nations.
The loss of support for projects to exploit forest resources does not bode well for workers in the field. They are worried to see the social climate that is taking hold in the forest. In addition to the devaluation of forestry trades, the business environment is increasingly unpredictable, which weakens jobs and creates a climate that is not conducive to investment. Restoring social peace in the forest is one of the first mandates that the next Minister responsible for forests will have to tackle in order to restore a serene climate, both from a social and economic point of view.
Diversify the economy
More careful management of the forest will lead to some reduction in cuts in public forests and this will have an impact on the 154 communities in Quebec that are heavily dependent on the forest industry economically.
The CSN and Nature Québec therefore believe that it is absolutely necessary for governments to provide a strategy and sufficient funds to ensure a trafair nsition for workers and communities. New jobs in the forest region could come from a diversification of sometimes mono-industrial structures and greater innovation within the timber sector. It is high time to act more firmly in this direction and thus diversify our offer of local and ecological products.
We hope that the election campaign will encourage all political parties to make a clear commitment to these issues. It is about the future of our Quebec forest, the communities that live from it and the forests that we want to leave to future generations.