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A birthday blog in honour of my mother


It may come as a surprise to you, but my mother was a lumberjack.

It was her passion for the outdoors (that she also shared with me) that brought her to working in the forests of Nova Scotia, running her own small business, logging on private lands for property owners who needed to make way for housing or farms.

She was the first female certified forestry worker in Nova Scotia history. She was passionate, careful and always made sure she used the most environmentally-sound practices in her work. Most of all, being out in nature was central to her being.

She gave birth to me 42 years ago today, but her passion for the outdoors will stay with me forever.

When CPAWS signed the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement in 2010, it was an important step in helping to work with industry to further improve the environmental impact of forestry. It was also through this agreement that I discovered that many of the people CPAWS has worked with in the forest companies were much like my mother, passionate about being outdoors and about nature itself.

90% of Canada is publicly owned land. Most forest companies are working on tenures and leases on that same land, just as most of the extractive industries. That’s why it is important for the public to take an interest in what is happening on our collective lands – many of which are also the traditional lands of indigenous peoples throughout millennia.

Canadians should be pleased to know that the forestry sector is committed to achieving a 35% improvement in their environmental footprint by 2020 and have taken steps to that end, especially around reducing waste to landfills and decreasing energy use. In other areas, such as reducing greenhouse gases, improving on the ground sustainable forest management practices and implementing caribou action plans, the industry still has progress to make, but we are committed to working with those industries that are taking steps to achieve their goal around these metrics. Over the years, we’ve seen evidence of some companies pushing the boundaries of the past to achieve these goals. That is very encouraging.

The ability to ask the hard questions and sit down with your traditional critics and work through the challenges together is tough, but it is how you create reformation with integrity. I’m pleased to see most of the forest sector members of FPAC (the Forest Products Association of Canada) making the effort to balance their economic needs and the needs of our ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems are, after all, critical to our own survival as a species. Forests provide us with clean air and fresh water as well as economic benefits.

My mother may have cut down trees for a living, but her heart and soul were tied to the land and its health. The playground of her youth, the natural world she taught me to love, were key reasons for her entry into the forestry profession. As non-traditional a role as it was, she embodied the delicate balance between the environment and financial considerations – not because she was required to do so, but because she wanted to.
I’m encouraged to see that many in the forest sector in Canada are equally engaged in making forestry in Canada world-leading when it comes to conservation and long-term ecological health. Setting the world-wide standard should be our goal – and it needs to come from our heart as much as from our pocket-books.

Of course I cannot claim to support every position taken by the forestry companies. Nor am I saying that there aren’t difficult discussions, both past and future. However, I do recognize that we can start from the same love of nature and share common goals while we work together to find the paths that get us there.

For more information on what FPAC and the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement are doing to continuously improve forestry practices in Canada and contribute to conservation, visit any of the following links:

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
Forest Products Association of Canada’s vision statement
CPAWS’ Forest Program work