On behalf of the membership of the Canadian Institute of Forestry—l'Institut forestier du Canada—and the Canadian Forestry Association, I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. In my capacity as executive director, I am representing over 2,000 forest professionals and practitioners from across Canada. Our non-profit voluntary organizations work actively with all who have an interest in maintaining the health of Canadian forests and promoting a better understanding of forestry.
Our institute's mission is to promote excellence in forest stewardship and sustainability, based on the application of sound science and research. We also proactively organize and deliver opportunities for continuing education and professional development to all Canadian forest professionals and practitioners to help them maintain their competency. Through the Canadian Forestry Association, we promote forest education and public awareness with programs such as National Forest Week, Envirothon, and the Forest Capital of Canada. Our activities are driven by our passion for forests and our desire to help people in a constructive and positive manner.
Canada's publicly owned forests are unique in the world, as vast renewable resources controlled by the provincial governments, but generally leased out to private corporations or cooperative groups of companies. This system has produced many benefits for our citizens, including the creation of high-paying jobs; access for a variety of recreational uses; and annually, a positive balance of trade. However, to continue to receive these and other benefits, we need to ensure that we protect the ecological integrity of these forests, that is, to ensure the ecological functions of the forests are not impaired. The acceptance of sustainable forests as the key concept in the national forest strategy demonstrates that Canadians want their forests to maintain biological diversity, carbon storage, water regulation, and the other myriad benefits we obtain from them.
Forests can and must continue to play a major role in Canada's future economic, social, and environmental solutions. The majority—or some 90%—of Canada's forests are publicly owned. Investment in these resources must be considered a long-term environmental investment, with significant corollary social and economic benefits. Despite current global economic uncertainty and the underutilization of forests in many jurisdictions of what can be sustainably harvested, governments should look to investing in the renewal and maintenance of our publicly owned forests. This would immediately employ people across Canada—especially those living in small, remote, rural, forest-dependent communities—to grow, plant, and tend young forests. In the longer term, this investment would create wood products, bioenergy, and habitats for wildlife, as well as sequester carbon. Science is telling us that good forest management can have a net positive impact on carbon sequestration and, possibly, the mitigation of climate change.
Harvested areas, as well as areas depleted by natural causes such as fire, wind, insects, and disease—which is substantial, but varies annually—should be considered for more rigorous, large-scale regeneration programs. We recommend the development of sound plans for areas where forest regeneration is required, and the development of a national seed crop forecasting system to assist in the timing of site preparation and tending operations. Such an investment would be beneficial to many remote rural communities. Our members are also seriously concerned that Canada is losing its silvicultural and forest regeneration capacity and knowledge base, both of which are well-respected throughout the world. Thoughtful and strategic investment will help to reverse this situation. Our institute's recently announced collaboration with like-minded forestry organizations in China has been largely fostered by this positive Canadian forestry reputation. This is something we do not want to lose and cannot afford to lose.
While there are differences in the processes used in each province and territory to monitor and regulate forest activities, certain similarities are uniquely Canadian. Electronic data and analytical methods, for example, are fundamental components of forest management in Canada. Unlike many other forest nations, the management of Canada's forests is based on forest inventories created primarily through the use of digital aerial photography. These forest inventories are the principal data sets used in computer models to project changes in the structure and composition of forests due to harvesting, regeneration, growth, and mortality caused by aging, natural, and human-caused disturbances. These usages of interpreted data and virtual forest computer models are beneficial, as they enable us to efficiently test and compare a variety of different harvest regimes and regeneration scenarios over very large land masses. However, we must recognize their limitations, as well as our need, ability, and obligation to use new science tools and technologies to improve the quality of this derived data and to ensure both it and the rules used in sophisticated electronic tools are verified in the real world.
This again presents an opportunity to train young forest professionals and practitioners in remote communities to develop, produce, and use enhanced forest and natural resources inventories and the associated technologies.
Currently, the human resources capacity across Canada is quite limited in terms of forest inventory production, while the need for up-to-date, high-quality, enhanced, and accurate inventories has never been stronger, especially if we want to be competitive within the global forest products sector. Addressing this need proactively through training could create high-tech employment opportunities in numerous communities where forestry is a primary or sole employer.
Advances in remote sensing technology, including the use of multi-spectral digital imagery and LIDAR technology, must soon become a pervasive part of the tool kit that significantly improves forest and natural resources inventories, improves our competitive advantage, and allows for overall improvement in forest management planning and practice.
Creating a desired future forest condition requires investment in information, planning, implementation, monitoring, and research. Remote rural communities would not only benefit directly, as described, but could also potentially see a benefit in a new and more focused type of ecotourism that includes visits to and interpretation of forest science and research and development installations and sites. From our experience, public interest is considerable with respect to learning about modern forestry and interdisciplinary forest science.
The bioenergy sector, which is developing rapidly around the globe in response to a need to reduce the use of fossil fuels, also creates opportunities for remote rural communities. As a forest nation, Canada has the potential to become one of the world's largest producers of forest biofuels and bioenergy.
While the use of residual biomass from existing forest products processing is beginning to see use in energy production in some centres, many remote communities also have the opportunity and potential to become more self-sufficient in terms of their own energy requirements through the use of biomass or bioenergy, if provided with incentives and some measure of initial investment. Billions of dollars have been spent in Canada to foster bioenergy in general, and tens of millions of dollars have been committed by governments to develop bioenergy networks to foster establishment of conversion plants. Remote communities should be seeing some share of this type of investment funding, especially when considering that the proximity of available forest biomass should allow for reduced transportation costs.
The task of ensuring the sustainability of the forest resource while extracting more biomass has not received as much attention from government agencies and networks, even though this is needed to underpin a sustainable bioenergy sector. It is therefore imperative that emerging forest bioenergy guidelines, regulations, policies, and legislation covering increased removals of forest biomass be built on a solid knowledge of environmental sustainability, be relevant within the context of current and anticipated forest operations in different jurisdictions across Canada, and be consistent in principle within a global context. Enhanced forest and natural resources inventories, as already discussed, play a vital role in this respect.
Youth internship programs that provide opportunities for recent graduates to gain experience, knowledge, and a network of personal contacts are an excellent vehicle and should see expanded use across Canada, especially in remote rural communities. Our institute partners and affiliates have achieved significant success with these programs over the past decade, providing a year-long experience to over 40 young people, most of whom have succeeded in establishing good careers in government, industry, and other non-profits upon completion of their internships.
FedNor, Industry Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation have been our main funding agencies, and we recommend that the internship programs they offer be thoughtfully and strategically expanded to meet the challenges of remote communities, ideally within the context of our other recommendations. Given our own structure of 18 sections across Canada, with many of our members living and working in remote rural communities, we would like to offer our experience and expertise to help expand the scope, scale, and impact of youth internship programs.
On a personal note, I was recently a part of a Canadian delegation that visited China. At the Asia-Pacific forestry week conference in Beijing, we had the opportunity to meet many young people from different countries and heard first-hand how Asia-Pacific nations are currently ramping up educational opportunities for young people with respect to forestry and forests. We also heard from these young people their adamant belief that forestry was a future growth industry. One young Chinese forester said that in the past a young man would not apply to post-secondary forestry programs, as he would not make enough money to get a girlfriend. He said that this had changed, that forests and forestry were now seen as playing a major role in our environment and also for manufacturing, through the sustainable use of wood products and bioenergy. Many of these young forest professionals and practitioners in the Asia-Pacific region are coming from relatively remote rural communities themselves.