Conserving Forest Values: Biodiversity & Conservation
Interfor is a leader in sustainable forestry management and responsible purchasing, sourcing logs in a manner that ensures environmental, economic and social opportunities for current and future generations.
Interfor manages nearly 2.4 million hectares of forests on public lands in BC. These lands are 100% third-party certified to the globally recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) 2015-2019 Forest Management Standard, and covered under forest stewardship plans that achieve government objectives for soils, timber, wildlife, water, fish, biodiversity, visuals and culturally important areas. We understand that forest values are important to First Nations, our communities and the public. Two chapters in this report, Building Economic Partnerships with First Nations and Working with Communities & Contributing to Healthy Local Economies, provide detailed information regarding engagement before harvesting begins and how we address input and concerns in our planning.
Sustainable Forestry Certification
Our commitment to sustainable forestry practices was amplified in 2000/01 when we became the first Canadian company to achieve independent third-party SFI certification across all our Crown forest lands in Canada. Since then, our forestry practices have been subject to annual third-party audits with the results posted on our website. SFI surveillance audits for Interfor’s BC coastal and interior woodlands operations cited good practices such as:
- a detailed analysis of past audits and compliance trends over time included in the annual management review;
- high levels of attention and professional support for bridge planning and installations;
- a supplier ledger that provides an effective means of tracking log suppliers and supporting records to ensure conformity with the fiber sourcing policy;
- a requirement for logging contractors to sign off an acknowledgement that they have reviewed the detailed logging plans prepared by Interfor; and
- a high level of awareness at all levels from planning to operations regarding species-at-risk habitat requirements.
Interfor also has a culture of continuous improvement. Through third-party SFI certification, we address non-conformities and act on opportunities for improvement identified in the annual audit reports.
The 2019 audits for both BC coastal and interior woodlands found we had addressed all non-conformities from previous audits, and identified three new minor non-conformances related to:
- follow-up not completed on one action from the Interfor 2018 Internal Audit Operations Audit Action Plan on the BC Coast;
- frequency of interim inspections on active harvesting operations in the BC Interior; and
- keeping staff training records up to date in the BC Interior.
The reports, available on our website, also listed opportunities for improvement for the BC Interior woodlands. These included resolving mapping data inconsistencies related to tenure and private land boundaries, improving availability of site-specific information in pre-works, improving culvert installations, and improving the risk assessment process for private land procurement.
Since the audits were completed, Interfor has developed corrective action plans. Auditors will conduct follow-up assessments in 2020.
Professional foresters and forest technologists working for Interfor are registered and regulated by the Association of BC Forest Professionals. We also engage other qualified persons with expertise such as professional engineers and geoscientists, hydrologists, biologists and archaeologists.
Benefits of Third-Party Certification
Certification is a market-based, non-regulatory forest conservation tool designed to recognize and promote environmentally responsible forestry and sustainability of forest resources. Currently there are more than 50 forest certification standards worldwide, reflecting the diversity of forest types, ecosystems and tenures. There are subtle differences, but most promote sustainable forest management through principles, criteria and objectives consistent with local government processes and public expectations.
Like other credible forest certification programs, the SFI standard promotes principles, criteria and objectives that are viewed around the world as the basis of sustainable forest management. It has balanced governance, with a board that represents environmental, social and economic interests, and it revises its standard regularly through an open public process.
Biodiversity & Conservation
We operate under a range of formal frameworks and internal procedures to protect wildlife, biodiversity and forests of high conservation value.
We play a leading role in managing and protecting forests of high conservation value, including old forests:
- We are a founding member of the historic land use agreement in BC’s Great Bear Rainforest, which includes legislation to protect 85% of the forest—including 70% of old growth—over time.
- Our sustainable forest management certification confirms that we protect Forests with Exceptional Conservation Value as well as old-growth forests.
- Through the BC Old Growth Management Area process we contribute to the identification and conservation of old-growth forests, giving priority to areas with high biodiversity value.
Species at Risk and Wildlife
Identifying, tracking and conserving habitat and habitat features for species at risk and other focal species is built into our operational planning process. Training for our staff includes learning to identify species at risk as well as rare blue-and red-listed ecosystems. Our logger training includes information on species at risk, and we require all woodlands employees and contractors to report sightings.
We manage and maintain areas that have been identified as meeting the unique winter habitat requirements of ungulates based on forest cover, aspect and elevation. Our woodlands operations maintain mapped networks of winter range for deer, moose and goats.
In many cases we work closely with First Nations communities to better understand and manage wildlife habitat based on traditional ecological knowledge. For example, we work closely with a number of coastal First Nations to improve mapped networks and protect grizzly bear habitat.
Working with Log Suppliers
The environmental performance of our major suppliers is a key factor in our log supply. Interfor mills in BC and the US South are certified to the SFI 2015-2019 Fiber Sourcing Standard. This conformance includes, but is not limited to, working with log suppliers on the following:
- Compliance with applicable federal, provincial, state and local social laws and regulations such as: freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, freedom from discrimination, harassment and abusive behavior, and no child labor or forced labor.
- Best management practices to protect water quality and conserve biological diversity. Working with the Western Canada SFI Implementation Committee, Interfor provides log suppliers with a Wood Purchase Information Package that outlines the objectives of SFI and provides information on practices for ensuring sustainable harvesting such as conserving biological diversity, water quality management, soil conservation, fuel handling and spill response.
- Use of qualified resource and logging professionals. We use state logger training or equivalent programs in the US to ensure our procurement suppliers are trained in the SFI standard and at least one supervisor at each logging site is a Qualified Logging Professional, which means they are accredited or trained through an SFI-recognized program.
- Broadening the practice of sustainable forestry on all lands through community involvement, socially responsible practices, and through recognition and respect of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
In our Wood Procurement Policy, we clearly state our commitment to avoiding trading wood or wood fiber from controversial sources. 100% of Interfor’s log supply is from Canada or the USA.
Other practices implemented in our wood procurement programs include:
- individual supplier risk assessments used to identify potential concerns;
- signed purchase wood agreements that clarify our expectations with suppliers; and
- site inspections to monitor our suppliers for non-conformance with our policy.
In addition to the assurance provided by our fiber sourcing programs, many of our log suppliers have third-party sustainable forest management certification such as SFI, Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). For example, in 2019 more than half of our purchased log supply in our BC Interior woodlands was purchased from sources certified to SFI, CSA or FSC.
Working with Other Suppliers
More than 99% of Interfor’s non-log suppliers and vendors are based in Canada or the USA, countries which are both considered to have effective environmental and social laws.
Our BC sawmills are certified under both SFI and PEFC Chain-of-Custody Standards and our Wood Purchasing Guide encourages our customers to choose products from sustainably managed forests.
Interfor manages forests sustainably and does not engage in any deforestation or conversion of forests to non-forest use. We do not use, purchase or conduct research or field trials on genetically modified trees, and we do not use nanotechnology in any of our products.
We minimize chemical use, only using them where required to achieve reforestation objectives while protecting people, wildlife and the environment. We prohibit the use of WHO type 1A and 1B pesticides, and where practicable we avoid the use of all other pesticides and herbicides.
The Great Bear Rainforest
The Great Bear Rainforest Order (GBRO) is another great example of a formal framework that affords world-leading management and protection for a wide range of forest values on BC’s Pacific Coast. We work with First Nations, government officials, industry partners and stakeholders to implement the new forestry approaches of the GBRO. Key initiatives have included:
- using LiDAR data to develop a tree height model to comply with the GBRO riparian objectives that state harvesting must take place one-and-a-half tree lengths away from high-value fish habitat boundaries;
- providing professional guidance on interpreting and implementing the environmental standards in the GBRO as guidance documents are published;
- seeking—on a continuous basis—input from First Nations, the public and other organizations on the landscape reserve designs, compiling the information and adjusting plans accordingly; and
- partnering with the BC provincial government to support western red cedar trials and genomic studies regarding browse resistant traits.
Disturbance versus Deforestation
Disturbance is a natural process within forested ecosystems, integral to forest health and function. Sustainable forest management seeks to mimic natural disturbance in harvesting operations to the extent possible. Disturbance from sustainable forest harvesting is not deforestation or land conversion, nor do areas harvested using sustainable forest practices require reclamation. For more information regarding disturbance as applicable to our woodland operations, please refer to the following fact sheets from Natural Resources Canada: Disturbances and Deforestation and Deforestation in Canada: Myths and Facts.
Forest Values on the Ground
- In the US South, Interfor financially supports the Georgia Tree Farm Program to promote sustainable forest management to non-industrial landowners in areas where we purchase
logs. We participate on the executive committee for the tree farm, contributing organizational leadership direction and support.
- In partnership with the Olympic Forest Collaborative, Interfor supported a stewardship project designed to accelerate the development of old forest characteristics within the Olympic National Forest through developing selective harvest prescriptions. These forest characteristics are needed by sensitive and threatened species.
- On BC’s Pacific Coast, we continue to support First Nations, environmental organizations and the Canadian government in efforts to restore fish habitat on the Effingham River.
- We support BC Wildlife Federation’s research that aims to learn how to restore mule deer populations in BC by studying how landscape change and the predator-prey community are affecting current populations. In 2019, our staff contributed in-kind support to set up and install a number of trail cameras in the summer, then retrieve them and download the images for the research team in late fall.