Commentary

Commentary: The Future of Our Forest Economy

Image: submitted

Huddle publishes commentaries from groups and individuals on important business issues facing the Maritimes. These commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Huddle.

By Ron Smith, research scientist at University of New Brunswick.

When we think of Atlantic Canada’s forests, the image is mostly one of tall green trees, where the value of the forest comes mostly from timber. Although trees are some of our most valuable resources, they actually represent only a part of the true value of our forests. Thousands of products and services other than timber and pulp come from Canadian forests. These are called ‘Non-Timber Forest Products’ or NTFPs. NTFPs include medicinal plants, resins, saps, essential oils, fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish and game, wild rice and greenery such as boughs.

Image: submitted

Image: submitted

NTFPs have been an afterthought because they are harvested at a small scale, making it difficult to know their economic value and social impact. But estimates from across Canada indicate that the current value of the NTFP industry is easily $100 million annually and perhaps much more. Significant NTFP revenues are generated by people in rural communities, the regions hardest hit by the recent downturn in the forest sector.

Our forests hold immense amounts of valuable NTFPs that have not been used to their full economic potential. To unlock this potential, where should we start?

We should begin with education. Land owners, nature-lovers and rural entrepreneurs are already aware of what is in the forest. They see and smell berries and greenery that are rich with oil and resins that can be transformed into medicines, nutraceuticals and other high value products that are sought after around the world. Where sector experts need to come into play involves knowing how to recognize the commercial potential of these resources, how to harvest them sustainably and how to transform them into businesses.

Image: submitted

Image: submitted

This October 20 and 21, a community will gather to learn and connect at From Field and Forest 2016. This conference is an opportunity for natural resource managers and rural entrepreneurs to connect and learn how to harvest and domesticate products, enter new markets, and export NTFPs both regionally and globally. Delegates will hear 20 presentations from speakers across Canada and the United States with expertise in quality control, commercialization, marketing, land management and more. This marks the first major effort focusing on developing economic opportunities from our region’s non-timber forest products.

To learn more about From Field and Forest, visit http://www.fromfieldandforest.com/

Other Huddle Stories You Might Like: