Unit 2 - The History of Forest Use and Management

Lesson 1: Before the Europeans

Canada's Indigenous people relied on the forest for thousands of years, long before the arrival of the first Europeans. The forest provided them with wood for fuel and shelter and plants for food and medicine. The forest also provided much habitat for wildlife, which the Indigenous people hunted and trapped. Canada's First Peoples tried to balance their needs with nature, thus their use of the forest had less impact on the land.

In terms of forest management, fire was used by some Indigenous people to modify the forest to suit their own needs.

First Nations peoples living in the northern boreal forest used fire to create meadows that would, in turn, attract wildlife. They also deliberately set fires in the springtime to rid the forest of trees that had been blown down or killed by insects. This management plan reduced the amount of dry fuel in the forest, a strategy that helped reduce the likelihood of uncontrollable forest fires burning in the summer or fall.

On the prairies, Indigenous people used fire as a means of increasing the deforested area of the plains. This created a habitat for the buffalo.

In the deciduous forest region of Canada, First Nations peoples used fire to clear land for agricultural purposes, using the rich fertile soil for the cultivation of corn, beans, tobacco, sunflowers, and squash.

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Today Canada is recognized as a global leader in forest management. Our forest regulations and laws are among the most stringent in the world. However, this was not always the case. Indeed, there was a time in our history when Canada's forests were actually viewed as an impediment to progress.

In this unit, we will examine how our use and management of the forest has changed over the centuries. We will also gain insight into how our attitudes towards forests have evolved over time.