With the Canadian forestry sector in decline, pulp mills are feeling the pangs of an industry that is seeing some of its biggest outputs – such as newsprint – fall to the wayside.
But all hope is not lost, says Thomas Beckley, a professor at the University of New Brunswick’s Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management. The key to a modern successful forestry sector is diversity, he says.
“There is strength and resilience in diversity,” he says in an article written for CBC.ca.
This diversity comes in many forms: ensuring re-planting projects reflect natural biodiversity, emphasizing new policy initiatives for the sector, and engaging the public on forestry issues.
However, one of the best ways to stimulate the forestry sector is through diversity of products.
“Politicians continually come up with variations of the same solution, policies that intend to ‘grow more trees, faster’ rather than policies that focus on quality, value-added, innovation, and supporting an entrepreneurial forest culture,” he says referring to New Brunswick’s forestry sector. “Rather than doing more of what we did before faster or more efficiently, we need to explore opportunities to harvest less wood, but generate more wealth from it. Other jurisdictions, like Finland, Sweden and Taiwan have made just such a transition.”
Innovation in the forestry sector in order to keep it afloat and profitable is something that others have touted as well. Recently, The Ottawa Citizen reported that while traditional pulp and paper outputs such as newsprint are falling short these days, specialty sectors are thriving. Products made from “fluff pulp” – paper towels, feminine hygiene products and diapers – are seeing annual increases.
Innovation – both from a production standpoint and an environmental standpoint – is key to succeeding in a weakening sector says Beckley.
“The forest sector only employs half as many direct employees as it did only a decade ago, and employment in those sectors is not likely to rebound to previous levels even if production does,” he says. “However, that does not mean our forests no longer have value. Quite the contrary, our forests are more valuable than ever.”