Gord Cumming

Gord
I have always been proud to work in the forest sector in Ontario, ever since I started my career in Thunder Bay back in 1986.  Since then, I have worked across Ontario’s boreal forest in places like Chapleau, North Bay and Sudbury. I now find myself working in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence forest in beautiful Algonquin Provincial Park.

I am very fortunate to work as a Registered Professional Forester in Algonquin Park.  It is an incredibly diverse forest with 34 native tree species that are managed under three different silvicultural systems.  Tolerant hardwoods dominate the west side of Algonquin and white/red pine and mixedwood ecosystems dominate the east side of the forest. Less than 55% of the total area is available for harvesting on a periodic basis, and forest management activities are permitted only in the Recreation/Utilization (R/U) zone.

Logging in a place like Algonquin Provincial Park is a challenge! As the Chief Forester of the Algonquin Forestry Authority (AFA), the Crown agency responsible for Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) in Algonquin Park, I often find myself explaining why it’s happening, and why it should continue to happen.

Algonquin Park supplies approximately 44% of the industrial wood supply from Crown land in the southern region of Ontario. Last year AFA supplied wood to more than 20 mills. There are over 300 people employed in Algonquin woods activities and over 3,000 people employed in these mills. Last year, sales values of forest products by AFA exceeded $20 million, contractors engaged from communities in the region were paid $19 million, and the Algonquin Park Forest contributed $356 million to the Ontario economy in terms of value added. These numbers are significant, and very important to the economic stability of the region. These contributions are worth standing up for!

I often hear that we should just let natural disturbances run their course in places like Algonquin Park.  While this sounds like a good idea, it is difficult to implement with over 2,000 km of canoe routes throughout the R/U zone over a million visitors per year, mostly during peak fire season.  There is just too much risk to public safety and to all of the values we work so hard to protect during SFM planning and operations.

With the suppression of natural disturbances like fire, SFM is necessary to manage biodiversity and protect values in the R/U zone of Algonquin Park. Forests are disturbance-based ecosystems and forest management is the tool that we use to create these disturbances, to regenerate the forest and to maintain forest health.  This is worth standing up for!

The forests we are managing are publicly owned forests and we need to get our message out to the people. Using our Local Citizens Committees and our Forest Certification Advisory Groups are a great start. Partnering with our forestry associations like Forests Ontario, the Ontario Forest Industry Association (OFIA) and the Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF) also provide great opportunities to share accomplishments and broaden the scope of our message.

Another tool that we can use to get the good word out about SFM is social media. Social media has become a primary communication mechanism for many people throughout the world, especially the youth. I personally manage four Twitter accounts to promote SFM: AFA Algonquin, PEFC Canada (Algonquin Park is a PEFC certified forest), Canadian Institute of Forestry Algonquin Section and my personal account. Social media allows us to get SFM into the conversation and onto the radar screen. The more this message is heard in the public arena the more understanding there will be, and the more support we will have.

And finally, SFM and using wood products is one of the best ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change. Not only that, but the social and economic value of using wood (which stores carbon) is critical for our economic success, especially for our northern communities.  So it’s really is a win-win situation that is worth talking about!

I was very honoured to be this year’s recipient of the Ontario Forest Sector Champion Award presented to me in February by the OFIA.  It’s an exciting time for the forest industry, and I’m happy and proud to help spread the message about all the great things we are doing – not only here in Ontario, but right across this great forested nation. I encourage everyone to help connect the dots for people, and to help the public understand that SFM is at the heart of everything we Canadian’s love about our forests. This is worth standing up for!