Overview of Canada's Forests

Photo: Moresby Creative,

Forests and forest resources are an integral part of Canadian life. Comprising about half of Canada's landmass, well over 400 million hectares of forests moderate climate, purify water, stabilize soil and provide sanctuary for wildlife. This wealth is vital to Canadian geography, culture and industry. It provides a place of beauty and well–being in which to rest and play. And it feeds the dreams and imaginations of Canadians and visitors alike.

For the many Canadians who live or work in forested areas, the forests provide material, cultural and spiritual sustenance. Aboriginal people use their community forest resources—timber, wildlife, herbs and medicinal plants—in a sustainable manner. Maple sap, mushrooms, resins and craft-making materials are harvested by communities and entrepreneurs.

Photo: Moresby Creative,

Wood is the pride of many Canadians, not only in the form of standing timber but also in the structure of our buildings and the material of everyday objects. The logging industry harvests about 0.3 percent of the trees to provide these things for the domestic and the international market. Environmental groups monitor forest conditions and report on how well we are preserving our forest riches. And federal, provincial and territorial governments oversee and integrate all of this activity through policy and legislation.


The forest industry, a strong financial contributor to the Canadian economy and the gross domestic product, brings in about $80 billion annually. More than 361 000 individuals find direct employment in the forest industry. Tourism related to Canadian forests also gives Canada's economy a boost.

Canadian citizens across the country use the forests for recreation, from weekend camping trips to educational wilderness vacations. The beauty of scenic views, the nearness of forest wildlife, and the purer air and water of this natural environment can bestow a sense of peace and well-being.

From the lush rainforests of British Columbia, to the boreal forests stretching from west to east, to the sparsely wooded areas at the Arctic tree line, our forests are an invaluable natural resource. Because the forests have always been a part of the Canadian ethos, we can easily take them for granted. But Canadian forests today face serious challenges.


The effects of climate change are not yet totally clear, but significant changes are predicted with regard to fire and insect disturbances, ecosystems, plant growth and the carbon cycle. Adaptation strategies to cope with the coming changes are being explored.

Environmental degradation has often resulted from human activities such as oil and gas exploration, hydro-electric projects, logging, and expansion of urban dwellings into rural forested environments. Another ongoing challenge is the loss of wildlife habitat. To meet these challenges, government and industry researchers continue to monitor the state of Canadian forests and to examine the factors influencing their health. Increasingly, sustainable management practices are followed by forest users in order to restore and protect the environment.

Canada's forests are a precious national treasure. Wise management, practised through cooperation and dialogue, will ensure that they will continue to be a vital part of Canadian life for generations into the future.


  • Canada has a total of 979.1 million hectares of land, of which 402.1 MILLION hectares are FOREST AND OTHER WOODED LAND.
  • Of this 402.1 million hectares, 92 MILLION are “OTHER WOODED LAND,” consisting of treed wetland as well as slow-growing and scattered-treed land.
  • Canada has 310.1 MILLION hectares of FOREST LAND; of this, 294.8 MILLION hectares are NOT RESERVED and therefore potentially available for commercial forest activities.
  • Of the 294.8 million, 143.7 MILLION hectares are most likely to be subject to FOREST MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES.
  • Of these 143.7 million, 0.9 MILLION hectares of forest are HARVESTED ANNUALLY.
  • FOREST PRODUCTS’ CONTRIBUTION to the Canadian economy (GDP) in 2004 was $35.9 BILLION, slightly higher than the 2003 contribution of $33.7 billion.
  • The value of FOREST PRODUCT EXPORTS increased in 2004 to $44.6 BILLION from the 2003 total of $39.6 billion.
  • NON-TIMBER FOREST PRODUCTS contributed over $725 MILLION to the Canadian economy in 2004.
  • DIRECT EMPLOYMENT decreased by 15 200 person-years to 361 100 in 2004. This result is consistent with the trends observed in the last 10 years.
  • The number of FOREST FIRES in Canada in 2004 was 6 634, below average for the year compared to the 10-year average of 7 631.
  • The amount of FORESTED LAND BURNED in 2004 was 3.3 MILLION hectares, slightly above the 10-year average of 2.8 million hectares.
  • Canada has 15 TERRITORIAL ECOZONES, 11 of which are in forest areas.
  • About 93 000 of Canada’s estimated 140 000 species of PLANTS, ANIMALS AND MICRO-ORGANISMS live in the forest.
  • TREE SPECIES indigenous to Canada total 180.

Forest Sector - Environmental Track Record

  • New operational harvesting techniques have reduced industry's ecological footprint in the forest.
  • Pulp and paper mills have greatly reduced their greenhouse gas emissions - to 28% below 1990 levels.
  • Industry has virtually eliminated chlorinated dioxins.
  • Since 1989, industry has spent $2.6 billion on recycling.
  • Canadian mills recycled 5 million tonnes of paper into new products in 2003.
  • Of the fibre for new Canadian paper, 24% comes from recovered paper and 56% from chips or sawmill residues, for a total of 80%. This is the highest content of recycled paper and residues ever used in the making of Canadian paper.
  • Today, 55% of the pulp and paper sector's energy consumption comes from biomass, a renewable resource.
  • Sustainable forest management certification has tripled in the last two years. Canada has more certified forest land than any other country in the world.