Management of Canada's forests evolved through Aboriginal
use, then under the influence of European settlement and development.
Aboriginal life was based largely on hunting and gathering activities.
In most regions they used fire to influence patterns of vegetation
to encourage the plants and animals on which they depended. These
fire-influenced areas were more extensive than previously recognized.
When the Europeans arrived, their initial focus was on furs.
This was soon followed by interest in masts for ships and seapower,
then timber for trade, and land clearing for settlement. The
forest initially seemed limitless, and was cut and burned without
much concern. However, by the time of Confederation in 1867,
interest in conservation and protection began to be expressed,
and by 1910 forest services had been established and programs
for fire control and timber management had begun. Under terms
of Confederation, the provinces were granted authority over the
public forests. Ninety-four percent of Canada's forests are in
But our forests had characteristics that made forest
management difficult to achieve: 1) they were vast, 2) they
were diverse, and 3) with few exceptions, they were strongly influenced
by forest fires and other disturbances. Forest fire posed a consistent
threat to forest-based activities.
Not until the 1950s did we have aerial photographs
and complete mapping of forest areas, and with growth and yield
data in the early 1960s that enabled more rational calculation
of allowable cuts. Great strides were then made to achieve sustained
yield forest management, and new forests were established after
harvesting, with a longer-term goal of a more "normal"
age class distribution. By 1987 Canadians realized there was
more to forest management than the normal forest, and steps were
taken to define sustainable forest management and to determine
ways to achieve it. This was done through a series of national
consultations involving a wide range of interests, including governments,
industry, forestry practitioners, Aboriginals and conservationists.
Some of the more notable were the National Forest Strategy 1992,
Forestry Round Table Principles 1992, UNCED - Rio Summit 1992,
Canadian Council of Forest Ministers - CCFM - Criteria and Indicators
for Sustainable Forest Management, and Canadian Standards Association
- A Sustainable Forest Management System.