Forests are Essential to Alberta
Forest week in Alberta has just ended, but we’re still celebrating everything that our forests mean to our province, and all of the different values that they provide. Alberta wouldn’t be Alberta without forests. They cover 60% of the province’s landbase and are intrinsically tied to our culture and identity as Albertans.
Forests aren’t just beautiful and culturally significant, though, they’re essential to daily life in our province.
First, they are key to our sense of well-being and recreational opportunities. Countless studies demonstrate the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in forests and other natural spaces. This is why forest companies take our responsibility to manage forests so seriously. We make detailed plans for water and wildlife, plant two trees for every one that is harvested, and work very hard to reduce the risk of fire and pest infestations. The end goal is to make sure that areas that are forests now will be forests forever.
Forests are also essential to our economy. In Alberta, forestry supports 40,000 jobs and contributes $8 billion to the provincial economy. As we look for ways to reduce our reliance on oil and gas revenue, forestry will be a key part of the strategy. In fact, this year, forestry companies paid $350 million to the provincial government in taxes and royalties and another $73 million to municipal governments in property taxes and other royalties. This money goes to support services like healthcare, recreation facilities, and transit, that we all use every day.
Forestry’s economic contribution to Alberta isn’t just about numbers, though. It’s about people. Each of the 40,000 people who work in our industry make tremendous contributions to our province and their communities. They steward our resource for future generations and make essential products like building materials for our homes and pulp for medical supplies, hygienic tissue, food packaging, and other critical goods.
Finally, forestry has a lot to contribute to Alberta’s climate change response. You’ve probably heard that as trees grow, they capture carbon and produce oxygen. In fact, just a single tree is capable of storing up to 1 tonne of carbon. But did you know that when trees are harvested and turned into wood products, all of that carbon remains locked in the wood instead of getting released back into the atmosphere as it rots or succumb to a forest fire? Your typical wood-framed house actually stores the carbon equivalent of the emissions that would be given off running a car for 5 years. With over 100 million new trees planted in 2020 alone, coupled with an increased demand for sustainable forest products, our forests – and our forest products have a lot of carbon-storing potential.
Carbon storage isn’t our only contribution, though. Alberta’s forest sector is committed to achieving zero-waste. Wood by-products created from the manufacturing process are now being used to generate sustainable green energy. In fact, Alberta’s forest sector produces enough green energy to power 4 cities the size of Grande Prairie.
Our forests are vast in size and in opportunity. They provide numerous jobs, recreation opportunities, and green energy. Not only do they provide the materials we need to build our homes, but the wood products themselves have incredible carbon-storing capabilities that allow forestry to be a leader in Alberta’s climate response. Our forests are many things, but most of all they are essential. Essential to Albertans, essential to our livelihoods, and essential for our futures.
Jason Krips is President and CEO of the Alberta Forest Products Association. AFPA’s award-winning Love Alberta Forests campaign highlights the care that forestry professionals put into taking care of Alberta’s forests.
You can learn more about the essential nature of our forests and our forest sector in the video below.