The chief forester of Quebec, Gerard Szaraz, submitted its report late-term this week in the National Assembly. After five years, he says the Quebec forest is alive and well – contrary to the forest industry – and that forest tenure reforms are bearing fruit. Interview.
Q You notice that the public forest is in good condition. Is this the result of the crisis in the industry or of reform in forest management?
A It’s both. Natural disturbances – fire, epidemics – were below the historical average. Human disturbance also: only 55% were harvested forest potential from 2008 to 2013. But it was interested in several indicators. Is the forest area and forest volume are maintained? Yes I do. Are old-growth forests are expanding? Yes I do. It has established objectives and measures that work. We still have work to do, but within a couple of years, the acceptable levels of old growth ratio will be achieved.
Q The forest is in good condition, but the quality and value of wood are getting poorer. What do you mean?
R Overall, it has only 55% of the crop as possible, but if it breaks down by species, it varies a lot. Black spruce is 70 or 80%. While less desirable species such as birch or aspen are neglected. Looking at the deciduous forest, there are stems that are intended for peeling and sawing, for cabinet, we will look first. There is a skimming. It leads to impoverishment.
Q Does climate change will make a difference?
R Climate change is a very big question. We know that the climate movement to the north is faster than the forest adaptation capacity. Science advances, but it is still early in its practical application. With the forest ecosystem management, we try to reproduce the past, but the future is not what it was, to quote Yogi Berra! So we must introduce probability models. This is a more complex world.
Q You deplore the lack of intensive forest culture. Your predecessor too. Why are there no change?
R The economic analysis is rarely used. Wanted volume, not value. If we want to move towards value-added products, we must make more intensive plantations. A little is actually in the Mauricie region, but it has not spread elsewhere. Our forestry is still kind of gathering. The benefits of intensive plantations are clear: wood close factories, workers and communities, the most interesting trees, an annual productivity of four, six or eight cubic meters per hectare, instead of one cubic meter per hectare natural forest.
Q What should we think of the role of forest certification by international agencies? Is it an intrusion into our forest regime?
A No, this is an opportunity. Moreover, over 80% of our public land is certified. So it is a proof that our forest system is an asset and a key to market access.
Q In the public debate, it opposes the protection of woodland caribou and protecting jobs. What do you think?
R Indeed, currently, the situation is polarized. I hope more nuanced scenarios will emerge. There may be some areas where there are very strong disturbances, not just related to forestry, but also to the resort, to snowmobiling. In the Monts Valin, for example. So it would expropriate people? Perhaps the conservation objectives must be adjusted. All conservation approaches are consistent, whether at the federal or the FSC standard: if we want to maintain the species, it is necessary that the fault rate is restricted. And current strategies are not sufficient. The resources deployed will not achieve the goals set by the law. We will have to modify one or the other, or both. We should have a range of solutions where human presence is modulated.
Q The entry into force of the new forest regime in 2013 gave more voice to local communities and indigenous peoples in planning decisions. Is it producing results?
R In practice, it is still somewhat in its infancy on this element. That remains a mode of information-consultation and there is room for more involvement of communities upstream decisions. The industry has a bias for the fiber, it’s normal, and I hope that the Department has a more comprehensive approach in relation to other resources and land uses.
“This report identifies a significant margin of maneuver […] for the conservation of woodland caribou. It is clear that we can protect the caribou without employment is threatened, contrary to the claims of a part of the industry. ”
Director General, Nature Québec
“The statue compared well on the state of the forest, and that’s important for the people who request to be reassured. It also highlights the need for research and innovation. With climate change, we are dealing with situations that we can not predict. Knowledge is necessary. On the management framework, there has been much change in a short time and emphasizes that lack of assessment tools. ”
Forestry and Supply Director, Forest Industry Council of Quebec