The Edge: The history, results, and opportunities in reforestation of managed Canadian forests

by | Jun 27, 2024 | 2024, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, May/June 2024, The Edge

Current forest management and reforestation practices over the past half-century have done an excellent job of renewing forests to the free-to-grow stage to maintain a sustainable fibre supply, says Derek Sidders, Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer at the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC).

“The results of our plantation management strategies over the past 50 years and actions have achieved results well above what we were expecting,” he says. “We have good productivity, our densities in terms of stems per hectare are a bit too high in some cases, but we are definitely being successful in terms of sustainability.”

However, he adds that there are issues as it relates to the tendency to regenerate pure stands because of market demand for certain high value wood products, as well as ignoring managed forests once they achieve free-to-grow status, which can leave them vulnerable to the consequences of a changing climate such as more intense wildfire, pests and pathogens.

Adjusting future forest management practices based on lessons learned from the past—such as giving greater consideration to regenerating more diverse forests, adopting selective harvest and commercial thinning practices, and committing to longer term management strategies—can deliver multiple benefits in forest health, resilience and enhanced productivity.

“We have a huge country with diversity in our species types and great opportunities for the future,” he says. “But I think where we may be lacking is in not learning and following up on our management practices from our early years to understand the implications of those practices, and then designing our new management to take advantage of those lessons. We carry the ball as far as free-to-grow status, but we may not follow it far enough as it relates to what are the risks, technology progress implications and value opportunities in the future.”

It is important to understand that these are not naturally evolving forests, but are managed forests with natural species that actually exhibit enhanced productivity and reduced rotation cycles in many cases. The concern is the vulnerability of these stands going forward once they achieve free-to-grow status and are primarily left unattended till mature.

In these photos are a few examples of different management intensities and designs from research and demonstration sites observed by the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre/Canadian Forest Service to meet varying objectives that forest practitioners planning and implementing reforestation strategies may find interesting. They show potential outcomes 35 to 73 years after establishment.

“The economic, environmental and climate resistance values are evident and replicable,” Sidders says.

Share your operational reforestation experience from a 35 year-old plus site with a photo and description to Derek Sidders at

Site 1 – This site features results from some of the Boreal Plains mixedwood management strategies applied in Western Canada by CWFC, featuring White Spruce as the primary species with Trembling Aspen and Balsam Poplar as secondary species, resulting in 200 cubic metres of productivity per hectare 40 years after site preparation, planting and selective crop tree brush control.

Site 2 – Further east, in Ontario, here is an intensively managed 73-year-old Red Pine plantation where the trees have achieved on average 40 cms DBH, measuring 26′ to 28′ tall, with productivity of 650 to 700 cubic metres per hectare at 500 stems per hectare. These large, straight stems offer the potential to tap specific markets like utility poles and building logs, in addition to lumber and pulp related to the earlier thinnings.

Site 3 – This 35-year-old site was site-prepared and seeded with Jack Pine cones, resulting in multiple stems establishing in close proximity to one another and over time thinning out or continuing to fight for space, causing variable stem characteristics and susceptibility to natural elements, thus reducing growth, stem shape and potential value.




































Tony Kryzanowski



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