Common Sense Canadian

Canada surpasses Brazil as global leader in deforestation

PostedSeptember 16, 2014 by in Canada
Canada surpasses Brazil as global leader in deforestation

Clearing of “overburden” forests for oil sands development in Alberta

Read this Sept. 3 story from the Washington Post on a new report suggesting wild fires and industrial activity are giving Canada the dubious distinction of being the new global leader on deforestation.

WASHINGTON – The world’s virgin forests are being lost at an increasing rate and the largest portion of the degradation is in Canada, according to a new report.

No longer is Brazil the main villain in the struggle to stop forest destruction.

“Canada is the number one in the world for the total area of the loss of intact forest landscapes since 2000,” Peter Lee, of Forest Watch Canada, said in an interview.

He said the main drivers are fires, logging and energy and industrial development.

“There is no political will at federal or provincial levels for conserving primary forests,” he said. “Most logging done in Canada is still to this day done in virgin forests.”

Using satellite technology, scientists from the University of Maryland, Greenpeace, Global Forest Watch and the World Resources Institute have tracked changes in the earth’s forest coverage. The scientists discovered that the pace of decline is accelerating with more than 104 million hectares – about 8.1 per cent of global undisturbed forests — lost from 2000 to 2013.

If this rate of degradation continues, “business as usual will lead to destruction of most remaining intact forests this century,” Dr. Nigel Sizer, director of the forest program at the World Resources Institute, said.

Computer graphics ( based on satellite imagery show huge degradation of Canada’s boreal forest from the Maritimes to Alberta with little compensatory gain. The boreal forests of Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta appear to have been hit particularly hard by wild fires and resource exploitation.



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    John Foster

    Clear cutting and reforestation with monocultures of pine and spruce has created even more serious problems such as white piNE terminal weevil, roit rot and maladapted trees due to a variety of factors including genetic, edaphic, and other issues. Massive soIL preparation including trenching and spot scarification, improper road and sit rehabilitation as well as a lack of stand tending and application of knowledge regarding the use of prescribed fire has impacted the resilience of man made forest disturbance negatively by reducing the future ability of forests to provide any thing but pulp and small diameter timber.


    This article doesn’t mention regeneration rate, either. Brazil can grow a tree to marketable size in 30 years. In Canada, that takes 50-100 years for the same sized tree. Couple that with the fact that the forest with the greatest effect on the environment is the mixed hardwood forest in Southerly regions, and these are the areas that are suffering the most deforestation. By the time you get to the latitude of, say, Gillam, Manitoba, the forest consists of 50 year old Spruce trees that are barely 2 inches in diameter, and they won’t grow much bigger than that, either.


    Actually this study has been completely debunked. The researchers included loss of forest by forest fire. That is ridiculous. Canada loses, to natural forest fire (trees that will be replaced), more forest than many nations even have, every year. To include that and then imply this is permanent, industrial, non-natural deforestation that could be prevented is, basically, a lie.


      where are all the big forest companies in BC like Mac andBlo bc international forest … Weldwood canada…..? well they long gone after they made billions for BC and canada… Once BC was forced to deal with first nations they jumped ship and left…it is soooo sick that BC government let them do this.. all for the almighty dollar… them rednecks are long gone but they have others who still doing the same with big companies like for energy firms and IPP … I expect the court challenges to the site C dam to be discarded as a just a effort to slow down so called progress…. no faith in the government for they are owned by big companies who have lobbied for and got what they want …. and they say MONEY MONEY for the share holders and the hell with the scared lands and water… time to exercise Aboriginal title and rights to save whats left for future generations… and we need support of the decent people of bc for this…all my relations


      You are certainly correct in stating that wildfires are a natural part of the forest cycle. In the past, however, most wildfires were started by lightning strikes, whereas most wildfires today are caused by human activity. The recent use of forests as bio-fuel for power generation and home heating has done nothing to slow the rate of human use, either.
      Just walk into any lumber yard, and compare the quality with what was available in the past. The telling blow for me was when I saw finger jointed 2 x 3, made from pieces less than a foot long.
      Argue all you want, but yes, our forests are in trouble.


    People take too many things at face value!!!
    Sure, industry and wildfire temporarily change the face of a forest ecosystem, but wildfires are natures way of regenerating your precious “virgin” forests …and in many ways forest management mimics natural disturbance. It’s most likely that wildfires account for much more than 50% of “deforestation” across the country; most of which is throughout secluded and uninhibited areas where tax dollars are not wasted on wildfire suppression.
    The only part of this article that touches on permanent deforestation is the oil/gas industries and their operations. Which I’m sure that if you look deep into it, accounts for the same or less permanent deforestation area than the constant expansion of city’s and suburbs. Imaginably, agriculture accounts for more deforestation than any of the above mentioned factors.
    I realize that I’ve stated no facts in this comment, but I hope it compels people to research things more thoroughly before forming a negative opinion based on one very bias article.

    BC Professional Forester

    Logging and re-planting = reforestation.
    Regeneration after fire = reforestation.

    This article is wrong on the terms and makes Canada look bad. I have had to correct so many people who publish this to social media. It is embarrassing that the author is ignorant, the article should be corrected, or deleted because the content is wrong.

    Roger P Mulligan

    The problem described here isn’t forestry/logging in Canada (“He said the main drivers are fires, logging and energy and industrial development.”). Fire is natural and controlling starts is out of our hands; forestry/logging is highly regulated (green wood from Canada is way more regulated and therefore greener than green wood from China – check it out with an eye to the local rules part); energy and industrial development are left to account for their deforestation (not to be confused with forestry) habits.

    So I too think this article is another example of the half-truths and BS fed to the uninformed public. Remember, trees grow back whether we plant it or through natural regeneration, and you can’t say that about much else. Cheers.


      Yup, trees grow back – and take 50 to 100 years before they are big enough to affect our atmosphere in a positive way. You want to wait that long for cleaner air while during that time more and more forests are being destroyed? Replanting is a long term solution, we need solutions now, like stop killing our forests for paper money!!!


      Well, foresters and business are known to be experts in saying half-truths and BS, and back it up with “better economy”. (Shut up and take this money!)

      Environmentalists whom see the broader, long-term perspective are being treated as irrational for a real philosophy.


    Really the biggest issues we have right now is INSECT OUTBREAK, and yes that is deforestation!


    Check p 19-20, and the balance between what is harvested versus what grows and is replanted. I am a green, but I am taking a forestry class. Some of the myth went away, and some other issues came up. Do your own research, don’ gulp all that is in the media!

    Reinier Kanis

    This is the first time i read s story here that I profoundly disagree with, reading stuff like this makes we wonder about people who expect medical, dental and a standard of living, that someone else should pay for, how is not even a consideration.

    In BC we replace trees, some that is not done in Brazil.

    I find this a very irresponsible article, I hope its the last of its kind.

      John Paul

      u must be kidding! Shame on us for tar sand. This is unnecessary and disgusting. Our kids will this debt the high price.


      Keep telling yourself we’re fine just because we plant trees, we plant a monoculture after a complete cut of an entire area. New trees need older one to grow, the roots of all trees are connected underground and old trees help new ones trive throught the maze of root. Most cuts are done away from road so people cannot see it. If you take a tourist helicopter tour in Quebec more than 1/2 the trip in the air is a detour to avoid showing the massive cuts but according to you there is nothing to worry about because we do some replanting!

    Marlene Stobbart

    The story is just that – a story. BC was not included and it has the most trees and logging. Also, a replacement tree planting in place. Alberta has trees on the Rockies Eastern slopes and, frankly, the government has allowed too much logging – which didn’t help for last years flood. And from there – Alberta becomes a prairie, adjoining Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The northern areas of these provinces have scrub trees, and lakes. Calgarys horrendous winds several months ago brought down huge trees throughout the City = people like their trees and protect them as best they can.


    Forest Fires – the Wild Card in Kyoto

    Ted Robak

    Other than the tarsands and power lines, there is no deforestation in Canada’s provincial forests, as Mathieu points out (in French) above. Most of our harvested forests grow back naturally and, when they don’t, they have to be replanted. There are many criticisms that can be made about Canadian forestry, but calling it deforestation is plain BS.


      Please, do tell me what you would refer to it as, if not deforestation? After all, it is the removal of our forests, our wild life, and our clean, breathable air. Yes, trees do grow, but not at the rate at which they’re being cut and taken for all the useless over produced shit of this century.


        yes you are right, what it takes to humans to destroy in a minute, nature spends years to repair it

        BC Professional Forester

        Reforestation. Google the definition or reforestation and deforestation. Logging is a sustainable industry because the trees always come back!

      Marlene Stobbart

      Thank you for expressing it so nicely.


    I applaud all of you for your passion. Everyone has good points (some totally unfounded) but wherever it comes from, I hope we can put it to good use and find a balance. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, balance is the key.


    The soils in Canada can regenerate because the nutrients are in the soils, however the soils in Brazil are leached of all nutrients, the nutrients is in the canopy. Canadian forests will regenerate in a couple decades after deforestation, but the Brazilian forest will take a millennia. Canadian forests have extremely low biodiversity that is relatively safe, the Brazilian forest has high biodiversity. Comparing the 2 is like calling a rock an apple.

    John oja

    Everything all u people are saying is sort of true but the real problem is with greed and till we stop greed we will never change a thing because every body want to live in a twenty bed room house and drive five or six different cars or trucks and travel the world in luxgerie and eat the best good, so unless we give up the riches nothing will ever change , and so the poor people will just have to eat the rich shit


    Propane fuel and solar energy. If its possible. Get the money out of the rich hands and spend it usefully on new age technology. If not this world is going to hell no matter who you are


    La déforestation, c’est mal, mais cet article fait fausse route en tâchant de rallier les “éco-sensibles” à leur cause par l’exagération. C’est vrai en terme d’hectares déforestés. Mais la grosse différence, c’est que la forêt boréale est adaptée aux perturbations du cycle des feux (la plupart des peuplements brûlent à tous les 80 ans), ce qui fait en sorte que la forêt boréale repousse aisément, moyennant certaines précautions lors de la coupe (par exemple, éviter les coupes à blancs, ne pas retirer les arbres morts, maintenir une diversité en terme d’espèces et d’âges et ne pas trop abimer la couche organique à la surface du sol, ce qui est trop souvent le cas). D’ailleurs, 90% de la forêt boréale québécoise a déjà été coupée et est donc “secondaire”. Au Brésil, particulièrement en Amazonie, les sols sont extrêmement pauvres et la forêt revient difficilement une fois la mince couche de matière organique lessivée par les pluies diluviennes atteignant directement le sol après la déforestation. Ce qui a présentement lieu en Amazonie est absolument incomparable à la situation Canadienne, et les pressions sur la la forêt amazonienne sont milles fois plus complexes et multiples.

    brandon sparks

    This article has much to be contemplated. First off wriiten by the washington post in the united states. I know ask you what is your country doing to provide wood for your country? How many trees are being planted in your country every year and where is your wood coming from? How about you research that.i can assure that most of it is coming from canada and trees planted in your country for the future isnt even 10% a year compared to canada. Get you statiticians to figure out the stats whatetever they may be i am sure you will be disgusted. As for the planters i am sure you will find the us employs mostly illegal immigrants to undertake this ardous task as trying to replinish forests. Shame on you for not mentioning anything in this article about the reforestation efforts of canadian treeplanters. I will leave it at that for now. I understand there is much work to b done in managing forests but come on get your facts straight before you publish such propaganda n these comments are coming from a treehugginplanting dirtworshipper!!

      Stefan Vagelatos

      Worship dirt over concrete after all we are all born to the earth beneath our feet. Try hugging a tree some time it might give you some perspective. One great thing about trees is that they aren’t corrupted by patriotic bull shit that allows people to say “as if your country is any better” that argument is ridiculous on so many levels. If everyone is competing for who is not as bad as their neighbors the human friendly environment we all love will not be hospitable for long.


        Canada’s current PM has thumbed his nose at the IPCC report & consistently squirms when ‘global warming’ is mentioned. He points fingers at other countries when asked to do his part – like a spoiled child.
        Deforestation in Canada is not a recent thing. From UNESCO sites all the way to municipalities, trees are not respected nor cherished. They are removed because they block a ‘better view’ in cities; logging is looked at like farming – reforestation as mono-crops causes huge problems: insect infestations, soil changes, animals unsupported. Not to mention erosion on our mountains and theft of oxygen production.
        Face it, Canada – you are engaged in Ecocide. It is a Crime.
        The penalty will be paid by our grandchildren, if not sooner.


    We are all to blame, not just the money hungry business executives that drive the extraction of resources. Everyone who drives a car, rides a bicycle, or eats foods that have to be packaged or transported is to blame for the current state of our world. By minimizing our consumption and making smart choices, governments and corporations will have to change their ways. But pointing the finger at the people who are giving us what we want, is not going to solve anything.

      Ron van der Eerden

      “…rides a bicycle…”? Really? You are comparing driving a car to riding a bicycle with respect to one’s impact on the environment? I agree with your sentiment but… really? Giving up your car and riding a bicycle is one of the best things you can do to reduce your impact.


        I agree that riding a bicycle is a better option for the environment that driving a car, but the fact remains that we all want consumer goods for which we rape and pillage this incredible world. Some things make less of an impact, but it still has an impact.

        Michael H. Mundt

        Re: bicycle riding

        Remember, time is the only non-renewable resource.

    Kyle Blezard

    From a study on Deforestation and Climate Change, conducted by two Specialists in Natural Resource Policy: : “Forests exist at many latitudes. Many are concerned about the possible impacts of losing boreal and temperate forests, but existing data show their loss has relatively modest carbon consequences….”
    Essentially they are concluding, from data, that deforestation has no impact on climate change (according to causation by the “man-made” climate change theory). Thus, it is not linked to frequency of forest fires unlike the assumptions in the above comments. Obviously if you read a conclusion from an inherently biased study – the researchers are from Green Peace! – you have to question it at least a little.

    Anyways, it also gives no credit to a very evident and critical fact about this country: “If counting direct, indirect and induced employment, approximately 390,000 Canadian jobs were linked to the oilsands in 2010. This represented 2.3 per cent of ALL jobs in Canada.” (From a study by the Pembina Institute )
    That is not a small number folks, and that has a very very measurable impact on the quality of life for Canadians and tax revenue for the government.
    The key point of discussion that is lost with this is what is of real significance: controlling the rate of oil sands expansion to roughly equal the rate of forest expansion + reclamation over periods of 100 years; in other words true, long-term “sustainability.” The real problem is this has become a buzz word to push pure environmental agendas.
    A society needs a working balance between economic benefits and environmental impact.

    We don’t even know what portion of this deforestation was caused by a historically very high frequency of forest fires the past 3 years, and what was caused by oil sands? I’m actually having trouble finding a quantitative figure on this over the net. Perhaps some can help here.

    It is legally written in the permits to oil sands developers that every single mine after it is depleted of oil reserves must be reclaimed to its original ecosystem as assessed/inspected by both third party and government environtal agencies and specialists.

    Anyways, the point is, the true point of debate is being lost by publications like this. What is critical is:
    1) Assessing economic impact versus potential environmental costa
    2) Focussing on the rate of change or acceleration of trends to a point beyond TRUE “sustainability”
    3) And doing such assessments over very long periods of time ~100+ years as the lift cycle of these mines are often at least 50 years

    Learn to think critically, and don’t get stuck on ideologist views. We live, breathe, work, and play… in reality.

      Stefan Vagelatos

      Wow you’re really reaching to justify the oil sands development by saying that deforestation has no effect on climate change. How about the fact that every barrel of oil taken out of the ground, refined, and burnt has a measurable impact on the temperature of the planet which is quite clearly reaching a tipping point. I think the point that any rational person should be making is that we need to stop subsidising the extraction of resources through tax incentives for companies who are getting rich by risking the future of our environment. Let’s be clear here environmentalists are not fighting for the planet, their fight for the human environment, we can’t survive without it and neither can the theoretical economy which perpetuates this idiotic march toward extinction.


    Many people don’t want to hear about the destruction that’s happening to the environment and the troubles our children will be facing later on. Others just don’t think there’s anything we can do about it, relying on scientist to come up with a solution. I care deeply about this as I have a young girl. This is the best solution I’ve seen. I’ve attached a video and a link to the volunteer page.

    “If we can take enough carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in grass land soils, If we do that on half the worlds grasslands, we can take us back to pre-industrial levels while feeding people. I can think of nothing that offers more hope for our planet, for our children, for their children and all of humanity.” Allan Savory.

    name withheld



    Just because it is published doesn’t make it so!!


    More money to be made by fear mongering!


    Wild fires are a natural and necessary part of healthy Boreal forest ecosystems, to claim that they are contributing to deforestation in the same way logging does is disingenuous at best and displays a lack of scientific knowledge and rigour.

      Damien Gillis

      Sure, JM, fires are an important, natural component of forests’ ecosystems. We’ve probably gone too far in the past trying to prevent them.

      The question is whether unnatural human-caused climate change is creating unnaturally high rates of forest fires – and whether this is ultimately outweighs the benefits of fires to the long-term health of our forests.

      Of course, fires are just one piece of the deforestation this study discusses – the other being for industrial expansion on places like the bitumen sands. Hard to argue that’s beneficial to the health of our ecosystems…


    Three couple devastating years of wildfires has devastated communities across Canada.

    It’s annoying and opportunistic that “Forest Watch” is trying to add those lost forests in with the regular forestation numbers to support their narrative of “accelerating” loss of virgin forests.

    Have some shame.


      It doesn’t really matter where it’s going or how. What matters is that it’s gone and we need to be doing something to stop it. Whether it’s fires, or industry. Shame on industry for not recognizing the toll these fires have taken and been forward thinking about what their controllable actions would be doing to add to the de-forestation.

      Damien Gillis

      Climate change contributes to wild fires; Canadian fossil fuel extraction contributes to climate change. Funny how it’s all connected like that…


      Finally someone using critical thought instead of just accepting everything they read as gospel as long as it fits into their preconceptions! Thank you, Chris, for stating what should be pretty obvious!


    Does this take into account that Canada often will plant 3 trees for each one it cuts down? If you consider that, then we actually triple our forests when we remove them


      Wrong, as only so many trees can fit into a single square KM. Virgin forests are the produce of hundreds if not thousands of years of canopy competition among tree’s. Starting all over with saplings will not produce the same effect.


      Funny, if we’re trippling the amount of forest in Canada, I have no clue where it’s actually going?!? You’re saying the amount of fores is increasing, so the amount of land being used by humans and industry in Canada is shrinking?
      Please tell me where, I’ve been looking for it!


      You can’t honestly believe that 3 saplings will give back the same CO 2 output as a majestic Douglas Fir never mind the survival rate of planted seedlings. I believe you are being deliberately obtuse. Shame on you.

    Paul Ross

    you look back now and back in time when hemp could have changed the world in lot of ways. today we give are minerals for stuff that gives us cancer like microwaves iPods junk that pollutes are water and air like its a race.i think we have to start looking at things differently.

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