Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the importance of the forest sector in Canada in general and the challenges we're facing, including that of forest pest management.
I know many of you are aware of the importance of the forest sector to Canada, given your recent study on value-added products; however, I'd like to begin by providing some context of the overall sector within which we're considering the impact of forest pests.
Canada's forest sector is economically important to Canada, responsible for 210,000 jobs, including 9,700 for indigenous peoples. It contributes $24.6 billion to Canada's GDP, representing 7% of Canada's exports. These jobs are coast to coast in over 150 rural communities, and between 70% to 80% of our indigenous communities live within a forested landscape.
Canada has 347 million hectares of forests, ranking third in the world in forest area, and over 40% of the world's sustainably managed forests are found within our borders.
I'm proud to say that Canada is considered a world leader in the management of forests, as well as in research and development, including product and market diversification and our commitment to advancing the bioeconomy.
Not only do Canada's forests contribute to the economy and the resilience of our rural communities, but they also play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in 2015 Canada's forests removed 26 million tonnes of CO2, and the increased use of wood products will continue to support Canada's commitment to the Paris accord and advance our pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change.
We are world leaders, constantly innovating to maintain our competitive edge, as evidenced in the government's work to support such initiatives as changes to building codes and standards, which have enabled the construction of the tallest wood building in the world; the creation of an eco-district in China made of 100% Canadian lumber; and support for indigenous communities to transition off diesel using forest biomass for both heat and energy, while increasing economic development.
We're a sector that supports the government's core values of economic growth, competitiveness, action on climate change and meaningful partnership with indigenous communities.
Given this context, as Canada's chief forester and head of the Canadian Forest Service, every day I think about what we can do, and need to do, to secure the competitiveness of our sector. At the core is maintaining the health and resilience of our forests.
There's a lot happening on the forested landscape, and we're paying attention to the cumulative effects from both an environmental and socio-economic perspective. For example, we've been witness to the direct impacts of a changing climate with the increase in magnitude and frequency of wildland fires and possible links between a changing climate and the spread of pests such as the mountain pine beetle. There is also a desire to increase our efforts on the recovery of species at risk. It's fair to say that both the industry and the provinces are concerned, and the federal government has a key role to play.
Pests, whether invasive alien species such as the emerald ash borer or the Asian long-horned beetle, or native pests such as the mountain pine beetle or spruce budworm, have been here for decades and will likely be here for years to come. That doesn't mean we shouldn't take action to prevent the introduction and minimize the spread of these species. In fact, with increased cumulative effects, we need to focus our efforts to mitigate the damage to our forest resources.
To provide a bit of history, NRCan's Canadian Forest Service research centres in Fredericton, Quebec City, and Sault Ste. Marie were established as a result of the spruce budworm.
The CFS is primarily a research organization, with significant programming in industry transformation, product and market diversification, and indigenous economic development. However, pest management, understanding the effects of climate change and the use of forests as carbon sinks, fire science—including modelling fire behaviour—and sustainable forest management practices are at our core.
It's important to understand that diseases and pests are a natural part of the life cycle of forests; however, with a changing climate and increased globalization and trade comes an increased risk of pest introductions. As well, for those pests that are native and always present, a changing climate could influence their dynamics, making outbreaks more severe, long-lasting and frequent. The damage caused by pests, combined with the loss of forest fibre to fire and the potential impacts on the international trade in forest products if pests are detected, is significant.
As you know, the management of Canada's forests rests primarily with the provinces and territories, with a small percentage under private ownership. Natural Resources Canada spends approximately $20 million annually in salary and operations across our five research centres to develop solutions to prevent and respond to pest outbreaks. Our colleagues at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are essential partners on regulatory measures and ensuring compliance to phytosanitary standards to protect our trade in forest products.
Canadians living in urban centres like Toronto, Winnipeg, Quebec City or Halifax may have heard about pests such as the emerald ash borer, the Asian long-horned beetle and the brown spruce longhorn beetle. With the emerald ash borer, the CFS has developed a couple of approaches and products, such as TreeAzin, a biological insecticide; and parasitoid wasps, a natural enemy.
Preventing and responding to outbreaks in large-scale forests is a great challenge. We know that with the spruce budworm, it's a 30-year cycle. NRCan is working closely with the Atlantic provinces, forest industry stakeholders, academia, and private woodlot owners, and employing citizen science to implement a new approach, an early intervention strategy for which the federal government allocated $74 million over a four-year period beginning this year.
When we consider the mountain pine beetle in B.C. and Alberta, to date, the federal government has allocated $338 million to implement forest pest and fire management techniques, support the recovery and use of fibre, improve monitoring and increase risk assessment. However, the mountain pine beetle continues to spread eastward.
Our staff who work on pest issues are key to understanding the risks of pests and what can be done to minimize the impacts. In fact, a recent evaluation of our pest program confirmed, from our clients such as the provinces, territories, forest industry and other forest land managers, that we are the only national entity that can bring key players to the table to produce relevant and practical science-based results that are used by our clients to develop pest management policies and programs.
This type of collaboration is our history, and it will continue to be our strength into the future.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate the invitation to participate in this study and the opportunity to explain CFIA's role in the context of protecting the Canadian forestry sector from the spread of forest pests.
The CFIA is a science-based regulatory agency. Our business stems from a very broad mandate that encompasses food safety, animal health, plant protection and market access. Sine 1997, the CFIA has enforced Canada's federal plant health, animal health and food safety regulations, and has upheld the country's food safety standards. The CFIA is responsible for and has a mandate to protect Canadian plant resources and the environment from invasive foreign pests that can destroy our forests and crops.
Today, the CFIA faces many challenges affecting our work, such as climate change, increased volume and pace of trade, and a very diverse range of non-native quarantine pests that threaten our forests, agricultural crops and our environment.
The most effective way to deal with growing pest threats is to focus on preventing the entry of these foreign pests. Once they are established in Canada, they're extremely difficult. It is a real challenge to stop their progression, and it is very costly to manage these pests.
Since 1990, we've only had two successful eradication attempts. We succeeded in eradicating the Asian gypsy moth in Vancouver in the early 1990s, and more recently the Asian long-horned beetle in Toronto and Vaughan.
Pests have a devastating impact on our economy, on our farmers and exporters, but there's more at stake than dollars and cents. There are potential impacts on our environment and production, as well as public and market confidence in our control systems. That's why the CFIA is focusing on a strong preventive approach.
I'm aware the committee would like to explore how to prevent the spread of native pests such as the mountain pine beetle and the spruce budworm. This is why I need to clarify that the CFIA is responsible for administering Canada's Plant Protection Act and regulations to prevent the entry, establishment and spread of quarantine plant pests.
This includes invasive alien forest pests such as the Asian gypsy moth, oak wilt disease, the Asian long-horned beetle, the brown spruce longhorn beetle and the emerald ash borer. We focus on quarantine pests that are new regulated pests and are not yet established.
Let me explain further. A newly identified plant pest is regulated following a pest risk assessment where it is determined that impacts are significant to natural or urban forests or production crops, such as maple trees or apple trees. A plant pest is regulated when the pest is not already established here: It is either absent from Canada or of limited occurrence in Canada and under official control, such as with the Asian long-horned beetle and the emerald ash borer.
So how do we take a preventive approach? We use our inspection skills and scientific knowledge to check potential pathways that the pests could be using to come here.
Plant pests are notorious hitchhikers. Pests are not restricted to agricultural and forest commodities. They have been found on everything from car parts to furniture and decorations. That's why the CFIA monitors and inspects regulated pathways, such as plants or plant products, which include logs, lumber, woodchips, bark, wood packaging materials, firewood and nursery stock. Some conveyances are also regulated, such as ships, railcars and shipping containers. For example, we inspect marine ships from Asia to prevent the entry of the Asian gypsy moth.
These programs are designed based on the nature of the pest incursion, the availability of management tools and the likelihood of success. The responses can range from eradication or slowing the spread to alternatives to regulation—including traditional pest control, such as using pesticides.
In addition to inspection, we have management programs in place. For example, the Asian long-horned beetle falls under a containment and eradication program, whereas the emerald ash borer falls under a "slow the spread" program. We apply a "slow the spread" management to the emerald ash borer to allow time for development of alternative long-term management tools, such as biocontrol agents or more pest-resistant trees.
Management options vary depending on the pest biology and distribution, the pathway, and the availability of detection and response tools such as survey methods, recommended pest treatments, and so forth.
I might add that these pests can be and are unpredictable. A certain pest may behave differently than expected, meaning that the response may need to vary depending on whether the pest is found in an urban setting versus a natural forest or a farm.
I mentioned the emerald ash borer. The CFIA is currently applying a “slow the spread” management strategy, which includes keeping people from moving firewood and ash logs over long distances from defined emerald ash borer regulated areas.
We also play an education role, collaborating with partners on outreach and awareness programs, such as our annual Don't Move Firewood campaign.
Mr. Chairman, you may have heard very recently that the CFIA has confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer in Bedford, Nova Scotia. This finding was outside the current areas regulated for the emerald ash borer in Canada. Effective immediately, the movement of all ash materials such as logs, branches, woodchips, and all species of firewood from the affected site is restricted. Property owners in the affected area have been notified of these restrictions.
As mentioned by my colleagues from CFS, we cannot do this work alone. At the CFIA, we value our partners and work closely with other federal departments, the provinces, territories, municipalities, academia and industry.
We have been collaborating with CFS to develop a risk management decision framework. This model provides guidance on plant pest response approaches based on science—biology, socio-economics and environment—and risk management principles that are derived from international plant protection standards.
In addition, the CFIA has entered into formal and informal partnerships with various stakeholders, such as other federal departments, provincial governments, first nations, municipal governments, industry, non-governmental organizations and international entities to deliver on our mandate. These partnerships deal with regulated pests.
The CFIA has also entered into memoranda of understanding with several provinces—I believe British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario—to collaborate on the management of introduced invasive alien forest pests. This includes conducting surveys and working on response programs together.
With respect to the mountain pine beetle and the spruce budworm, our partners have mandates as well. The provinces have the mandate for forest health, including the management of native forest pests like the mountain pine beetle and the spruce budworm.
As I mentioned earlier, our approach focuses on the prevention of the introduction of foreign pests into Canada. On the international front, the CFIA is Canada's representative to the International Plant Protection Convention, or IPPC. We work with our partners and stakeholders to promote the development of international plant health standards and support their acceptance and implementation globally.
Adherence to these standards by our partners reduces the likelihood of introducing a foreign pest. For example, wood packaging material used in global trade of goods has been identified as a major pathway for introducing pests. Canada has been a global leader in the development of global acceptance and implementation of an international plant health standard that requires wood packaging material to be composed of heat-treated material, such as kiln dried wood.
To summarize, as the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Once again, I appreciate the opportunity to explain CFIA's role regarding this important subject.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss forest pests from a New Brunswick perspective. The protection of our forests is something we take very seriously in New Brunswick, and we are happy to share our views and experience on the subject.
I'll speak for just a moment about the New Brunswick context and then focus on the spruce budworm and the current strategy we're taking to fight that.
New Brunswick has a diverse forest, where many tree species are found in pure conifer, pure hardwood, and mixed conditions. The forest industry that is dependent on the forest is also diverse, and includes over 40 mills that depend on long-term conifer supplies of spruce-fir, pine, cedar, and several species of broadleaf trees, including maple, birches and poplars.
The forest ownership pattern is also complex. It's a mixture of Crown forests, small private woodlots, and industrial managed forests, where approximately half of the forest is privately owned. The Crown Lands and Forest Act places the responsibility of forest protection from insect, disease and fire on the Minister of Energy and Resource Development. This responsibility exists for all forest land, including that owned by private organizations and individuals.
The duties related to pest and disease are carried out by the forest planning and stewardship branch in the Department of Energy and Resource Development. Staff conduct a combination of aerial and ground surveys for all forest health issues throughout the province. The coordinated and integrated response to threats like insect and disease in a landscape of complex ownership is particularly challenging. It requires much engagement and collaboration with industry and other stakeholders and organizations.
Through our department, New Brunswick relies heavily on knowledge transfer and resources provided by the Canadian Forest Service and the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers pest working group to optimize our work and inform the minister's direction with respect to forest protection.
The spruce budworm is a significant pest across Canada. Its prolonged outbreak cycles and the extent of those cycles are well documented in scientific literature and won't be covered here. The spruce budworm is, without a doubt, the greatest pest concerning New Brunswick. Evidence dating back to at least the 1700s indicates that cyclical outbreaks have been occurring in New Brunswick every 30 to 40 years. A significant resource in the management of spruce budworm in New Brunswick has been the support of Natural Resources Canada's Canadian Forest Service. The prioritization by scientists of budworm research and technology in Atlantic Canada has led the way for the advancements in management strategies for spruce budworm since the early 1900s.
The Green River project, which was conducted from 1944 to 1973, is still considered one of the most influential studies ever conducted on forest entomology. This research resulted in over 80 peer-reviewed publications and untold knowledge exchange. It has greatly enhanced our understanding of the factors influencing the spruce budworm. This research has continued as a priority of the CFS since the last collapse of the spruce budworm. Scientists in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick have dedicated their careers to understanding the ecology of the spruce budworm. This ongoing dedication has ensured that we are well positioned to address this new outbreak with well-educated and well-experienced professionals.
In 2012, leadership in the CFS, universities, the forest industry and the New Brunswick Department of Energy and Resource Development recognized the looming threat of spruce budworm in New Brunswick. At that time, they developed an initiative, the first of its kind, to take actions to suppress the outbreak of spruce budworm before it occurred.
This concept was supported federally through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the resulting program, named Early Intervention Strategies to Suppress a Spruce Budworm Outbreak, was initiated. This unique collaboration between federal and provincial departments, universities and the forest industry was given the name “Healthy Forest Partnership”. The effort is to focus on the research and management of spruce budworm rather than the management of the damage from spruce budworm. In other words, the focus is on controlling and managing the insect, not the injury.
In detail, the early intervention strategy uses innovative tools and techniques to detect locations with increasing budworm population and treats them with registered insecticides before populations reach epidemic levels.
We greatly appreciate the support of the federal government in this endeavour. It announced support of around $74 million over five years, based on a sixty-forty federal to provincial and industry cost-sharing basis.
Some of the recent advances made by the early intervention strategy that have had immediate practical application to budworm management in Atlantic Canada include the following. First is a greater understanding of the population dynamics of emerging outbreaks, because we've never had the chance to study the onset of an outbreak and understand how an outbreak grows and spreads.
We are getting a refined understanding of treatment timing and application that provides safer product choices, lower volumes and more targeted applications in an economically and environmentally responsible approach. An early intervention strategy allows us the opportunity to understand if treating low-density populations is effective at keeping them low. We are also able to use smarter aircraft technologies to be more precise in application rates, location and timing. We are also seeing improvement in the radar tracking of migratory events that allows the early detection and planning of population shifts. Researchers at the CFS in Quebec and Ontario have been working on identifying not only when large dispersal events occur, but also what might trigger these events.
We have also strengthened communications with the public and media through communication strategies such as the award-winning budworm tracker citizen science project. The communications teams have had tremendous success in reaching the public, explaining the nature and goals of the research, and answering questions as they arise. The budworm tracker now reaches almost 500 homes annually from Thunder Bay, Ontario to St. John's, Newfoundland, with more than 300 traps in New Brunswick alone. This puts some of the outreach into the hands of the concerned public and empowers them to do something to help.
The collaborative nature of the EIS program is a model for how management of large-scale disturbance can be successfully implemented. It demonstrates that multiple agencies with differing interests and goals can work effectively toward a common objective of preserving forest values from the destructive nature of the spruce budworm. The results of the early intervention strategy have been a measurable success. Less than 1,000 hectares of defoliation were identified in New Brunswick in 2018, which is less than that identified in 2017. This result is despite continuous severe defoliation in the lower St. Lawrence area of Quebec, which exceeds two million hectares and is taking place within 50 kilometres of the New Brunswick border as of 2016.
Also, there were lower than projected treatment needs toward the treatment program this year. Based on work from leading population growth models by Dr. David MacLean at the University of New Brunswick, treated areas in New Brunswick were almost one third less than originally projected. There is very high acceptance by members of the public and by private landowners to date as well. In fact, less than five per cent of the woodlot owners we contact about treatment choose to opt out of the treatment program.
Spruce budworm outbreaks can last decades. This is the first proactive approach to manage an outbreak, and we believe that it is a $300-million approach to a $15-billion problem. With the ongoing support of our federal partners, we may be able to reduce the impacts not only on the New Brunswick economy, but also on our Atlantic neighbours. If this strategy proves successful, it will become the new standard across Canada for future outbreaks of spruce budworm and have major economic and ecological savings.
Thank you very much for your time and for the opportunity.