The OWA is the voice for private woodlands in Ontario and, as such, emphasizes the importance of forest cover to society and the environment as well as the need to sustainably manage this important resource for future generations.
In addition to providing information to private woodlot owners and partnering with others such as the Stewardship Network of Ontario and the Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners, the OWA also provides its perspective on important issues as they arise.
Recently, two opportunities presented themselves for us to submit comments on initiatives of the Government of Ontario.
In May, we presented to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing our views on the government’s Greater Golden Horseshoe review. In our submission, we emphasized the importance of the biodiversity found in intact forests as well as their role in providing clean air and water, moderating weather and storing carbon. We recommended that retaining existing woodlands in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region should be a priority and, since most of these are privately owned, additional incentives should be put in place to encourage this.
In October, we commented on the government’s review of the Conservation Authorities Act. We pointed out the importance of the CA’s as major owners of forest and wetland and voiced support for any initiative that would help them to manage their lands sustainably. In particular, we recommended that the roles and responsibilities of the various government agencies, provincial, regional or municipal, be clarified in regards to forest management.
We supported the CA’s watershed approach to land management and pointed out their important role in providing employment and training opportunities to the next generation of foresters, ecologists, botanists, hydrologists and planners.
Firewood, the Greenest Energy:
In 2009, the Ontario Woodlot Association published a paper titled “Fuelwood, the Environment and the 21st Century” which argued that firewood should be recognized as a renewable resource with strategic value as we adapt to climate change.
The paper suggested that firewood harvests, carried out as part of a sustainable forest management plan, removing the trees with the poorest characteristics, leaves room for the best specimens to grow faster and sequester carbon faster. The result is a healthier, more productive forest for future generations. The firewood market provides the incentive to do all the work involved in removing those poorer trees.
In addition, it is argued, homes heated with properly dried, locally harvested firewood, and used in today’s advanced technology wood stoves, results in a much smaller carbon footprint than other conventional fuels. The pollution leaving the wood stove chimney, while still slightly greater than that of heating oil, compares favourably when all factors are weighed.
The total environmental cost of resource extraction, processing, transportation, storage and burning to heat our homes needs to be factored in and is far higher for all other fuels.
As well, the paper argues that firewood is part of the rural culture and a local economic engine. Money spent on this traditional activity stays in the local community.
The Ontario Woodlot Association advocates for firewood to be recognized as part of the green energy strategy for this province.
Family Forests: The Unsung Heroes:
Ontario Woodlot Association members own their properties for a variety of reasons. Some augment their income through forest products; others see their woodlot as an environmental oasis, protected from the footprint of human activity. In between these two ends of the spectrum are those who focus on recreation, wildlife habitat, hunting or simply a place of solitude.
What we all have in common, however, is our fascination with trees and forests and a desire for their wise use.
The Ontario Woodlot Association believes that private forests have never been given the recognition they deserve in our frenetic world of consumerism and instant gratification. It’s ironic that in a society where something only has value if you can put a dollar sign on it, forested land goes largely unnoticed. In fact, some see forests as merely an impediment to making real money.
And yet, it can be argued that our woodlands are the most valuable of our possessions; outweighing all else. They are an inheritance to be handed on to the next generations.
The Ontario Woodlot Association advocates for the recognition of all the services forests provide to our society and that landowners be encouraged and assisted in their efforts to manage their woodlots sustainably.