Unit 2 - The History of Forest Use and Management

Lesson 6: Canada's Forest Firsts

Canada's First Forestry Branch

In 1899, Canada's first Forestry Branch was established. It was named the Dominion Forestry Branch.
Responsible for forests in Canada's interior western region (that later became Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories), it became Canada's largest forest service for the next 31 years.

The two main priorities of the Dominion Forestry Branch (DFB) were to

  • protect and manage the forested area at the time

  • encourage tree planting on the prairies

The DFB also engaged in public education campaigns aimed at reducing forest fires, which had become a major problem due to human carelessness.

The DFB established the Forest Reserve System. These reserves were not intended to supply wood for the lumber trade; rather, they were intended to preserve and produce a perpetual supply of timber for the people of the Prairie, with the needs of the homesteader being top priority. The system of forest reserves was also intended to protect the watershed and provide opportunities for grazing and recreation.

Canada's First Forest Congress

Laurier was the seventh prime minister of Canada, from July 11, 1896 to October 6, 1911.  This 15 year tenure remains the longest unbroken term of office among Canadian prime ministers.

Canada's first forest congress was held in 1906, hosted by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a dedicated conservationist and Canada's prime minister at the time. 
Attended by the continent's leading forest conservationists, this congress succeeded in defining a new direction for forestry in Canada. Forests were to be used, but used wisely. To this end, conservationist principles were embedded in official government policy and trained foresters were hired to manage Canada's forested lands. 

It was at this time that the first Forest Reserves Act came into being. This act stated that most of the forest areas previously excluded from settlement were now confirmed as "forest reserves." 

In addition, many new areas of forest were also added to the system of reserves. These protected areas were to be safeguarded in order to ensure a continuous supply of timber, to benefit water supply and to protect the fish and wildlife within the reserves. Furthermore, these areas were to be managed scientifically, under the direction of professionals. They were not to be converted to other uses.