My country [ …] is winter …
says Québec singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault. And forests
too, would be an appropriate postscript. Because Québec’s
forests provide shelter for approximately 225 bird species and more
than 60 mammal species. Because they contain nearly 50 tree species
and a broad range of plants and bushes. Because more than three
and a half million people visit the forests every year to practise
outdoor leisure activities. And because the forests provide direct
jobs for nearly 90,000 Québecers. The forests, like winter,
have shaped both the history of Québec and the hearts of
Approximately 90% of Québec’s forests are under public
ownership; in other words, they belong to the population of Québec
and are managed on its behalf by the gouvernement du Québec. To
help it fulfill this responsibility, the government has devised
a Forest System composed of a set of legislation and regulations
governing the protection and renewal of the forests while allowing
for economic development.
Some background information
The forest industry only began to flourish in the early 1900s,
with the development of the pulp and paper sector. The government
introduced some significant incentives to attract the large
pulp and paper companies to the province. In 1934, for example,
it introduced the timber limit system that allowed the companies
to appropriate and control large tracts of forest.
The Forest System dates back
to 1820, when the government first became involved in forestry
by charging dues for timber harvested on Crown lands. Most
of the timber was exported in its raw state, and the benefits
of processing were lost.
| However, the dues paid
to the government for the timber harvested in the public forests
in no way reflected its true value. Environmental concerns were
virtually non-existent, and the public was completely excluded
from the forest management process.
In the latter half of the last
century, mechanization of forestry work and the growing demand
for timber led to some major changes in the management of
Québec’s public forests. In 1986, the National
Assembly unanimously adopted the Forest Act and revoked the
timber limit system. Under the new Act, the companies harvesting
timber from the public forests had to:
- Ensure that wildlife and habitats, watercourses and shores,
landscapes and soils are preserved during logging and management
work, and be respectful of the needs of other forest users
including hikers, hunters and fishers.
- Pay dues that reflect the true value of the timber harvested.
The timber supply and forest management agreement (TSFMA)
The Forest Act introduced a new timber allocation mechanism
known as the timber supply and forest management agreement (TSFMA).
A TSFMA is an agreement signed by the government and a wood processing
mill owner, authorizing the mill owner to harvest a predetermined
volume of timber every year. In return, the mill owner is required
to carry out the silvicultural work needed to ensure the regeneration
of a new stand, and to pay dues for the timber harvested. The dues
are payable in money or in the form of silvicultural work.
The general forest management plan (GFMP)
Companies that are authorized to harvest timber in the public forests
must first prepare a general forest management plan (GFMP). The
plan, which applies to a predetermined area, presents the management
strategies – in other words, the combination of silvicultural
work – required to protect the environment and regenerate
the harvested stands. It also contains a description of the area,
the locations and sizes of treatment sites and an estimate of the
timber available for harvesting.
All GFMPs must be approved by the Minister of Natural Resources,
Wildlife and Parks. However, before approval, they are made
available to the public for a period of 45 days, so that members
of the public have an opportunity to express any concerns
they many have about the plan’s content. The plans must
also be submitted to the regional county municipality (RCM)
so that it, too, can comment on the proposed work.
The Regulation respecting standards of forest
management for forests in the domain of the State (RSFM)
Everyone who harvests timber or carries out management work
in the public forest must comply with the Regulation respecting
standards of forest management for forests in the domain of
the State (RSFM).
The RSFM, prepared
jointly by the authorities responsible for wildlife and the
environment, contains a series of rules aimed at promoting
the renewal of the forest and the protection of water, wildlife,
plant and soil resources. The Regulation also ensures that
forestry work is harmonized with other forest-based activities.
Among other things, it requires protective strips of forest
to be left standing along watercourses, and establishes the
maximum size of logging areas. It contains nearly 400 standards,
all of which are designed to protect the forests and their
The public land use plan (PLUP)
Forestry work must also comply with the public land use plan,
which is a map-based document establishing the sites requiring
special protection. For example, forestry work is prohibited
in parks and ecological reserves, and is authorized on certain
conditions in wildlife habitats and on recreational, cultural
or archaeological sites. It is permitted everywhere else,
provided it complies with the various laws and regulations
An in-depth review
The Forest Act is amended regularly to reflect new knowledge
and new public needs. The most recent round of amendments began
in 1998 with a review of the forest system and a reassessment of
the issues emerging from sustainable development requirements. In
2001, following extensive public consultations, the National Assembly
finally adopted the Act to amend the Forest Act and other legislative
The goals of the review were to reconcile different forest uses,
ensure that the forest is used in a way that is beneficial to the
entire population, and encourage public participation in the forest
Reconciling forest uses
In future, the forestry companies must invite the RCMs, wildlife
area managers and Native communities to take part in the GFMP preparation
process. This new rule is designed to make sure the individuals
and organizations that use the forests know one another and have
an opportunity to talk about how to harmonize their activities.
The GFMPs are made available to the general public before being
approved by the Minister.
As a result of the amendments to the Forest Act, mill
owners no longer have exclusive rights to harvest timber and manage
the public forests.
Municipalities, Native communities and forestry cooperatives can
also obtain forest management contracts (FMCs), which allow them
to harvest and sell timber and apply the treatments required to
ensure renewal of the forest. These new stakeholders are subject
to the same obligations as mill owners holding TSFMAs.
Greater public participation
The new forest system also reinforces the role played by the general
public in the forest management process. The Consultation Policy
on Québec’s Priorities for the Management and Development
of the Forest Environment stipulates that consultations should
be open to everyone, and that individuals and organizations wishing
to express their views should be given at least 12 weeks to do so.
The general public and the communities can therefore express their
opinions of forestry policies and orientations, amendments to the
legislation and regulations, and the use and development of the
To facilitate public participation in the forest management process,
all plans and reports, including the general forest management plans
(GFMPs), the annual forest management plans (AFMPs) and the annual
forest management reports, are made available for consultation at
the Department’s offices.
A modern system, respectful of the values of Québec
If the forests of Québec are properly
managed and their diversity is protected, they will always
be able to meet the social, economic, cultural and spiritual
needs of Québecers.
They should therefore be managed in a careful and sustainable
way that is respectful of the values of Québec society.
Concerns such as environmental protection, the conservation
of biological diversity and
harmonization of different forest uses are
just as important as economic development.
Québec’s forest system is designed to help achieve
this goal. However, success will only be possible with the
support and participation of the general public. The forest
system review therefore reinforced the requirement for forest
managers, developers and decision-makers to consult the individuals
and communities affected by forestry work.