is impossible to simultaneously protect, and print on, ancient
Issues of fibre supply are overshadowed by the ecological implications of clearcutting of ancient forests, compounded by the assorted sources of wood fibre, form natural forests to tree plantations.
The Cut and the OverCut
There is no doubt that British Columbia forests are being radically overcut. No working forest in BC will have more than a fraction of trees more than 200 years old within the next 100 or 200 years, in a province which built its wealth on old, even ancient, trees. This overcut of old strong-fibre trees is part of the reason British Columbia is so richly endowed with pulp mills and their pollution.
Most environmental organizations in British Columbia have been protesting this overcut for years:
Clayoquot Sound (
Haida Gwaii (
the Interior (
As the David Suzuki Foundation writes:
Despite the environmentalists' charges of overcut, the BC government responds that the cutting of natural old growth will be replaced in the next 50 years by harvesting trees planted and tended in plantations. Northern pulp suppliers face stiff competition from pulp produced in pine plantations in the southern United States, and from eucalyptus plantations in South America.
But no matter how handy these plantations can be to cut and chip with
computer-guided machines, they do not replace natural ecosystem forests.
Call them hybrid poplars, genetically
enhanced poplars, or super-trees, there are plantations of them springing
up all over the world, many of them in Canada and the US. In
the Pacific Northwest, the Weyerhaeuser Company has dozens of variants
under patent. The main feature of the trees is that they grow fast, as
much as three metres in height per year, or an average Mean Annual Increment
of between 20 and 50 cubic metres per hectare in fertile coastal soil.
Because of their fast growth, they can return significantly higher revenue
to the farmer than food crops.
Unfortunately, they also require the best cultivars, the best soils,
plenty of water but not too much, good weed control, concentrated cultivation,
and are somewhat prone to fungi infection.
Read a MillWatch Special Report on hybrid poplar in BC from 1998.
For lots of information about hybrid poplar in Canada, including the
progress of applications for expansion of herbicide approvals to
treat disease, visit the
And then there's Genetically Modified Trees. Genetically modified
to have less lignin which has to be treated in pulp making, modified
to be sterile, modified to be disease and bug resistant. Ecologists
worry that these traits could transfer to wild forests. In the
Paper, of course, doesn't have to be made from trees. In fact, through most of history, it wasn't. Now about 10% of the world's paper is made from alternative fibres, which includes waste straw from prairie farms, kenaf, grown in the US south and of course, that old stand by, hemp.
For more information on tree-free alternative fibres and paper see the following sites:
Canadian content on