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The federal government controlled forestry in Saskatchewan prior to 1930. The first legislation applicable to the area’s Forests, the Dominion Lands Act of 1872, permitted the designation of timber districts and forest reserves. Ottawa continued to regulate forestry administration until the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement of 1930 transferred natural resources and Crown lands to Saskatchewan. Forestry has long served as a major part of Saskatchewan’s economy: early logging and wood processing operations concentrated in the southern fringe of the commercial forest zone; large sawmills operated at Prince Albert, Big River, Crooked River, and Prairie River by the early 1900s; timber sawn by a large mill at The Pas, Manitoba also came mainly from Saskatchewan. Over-cutting of accessible forests and forest fires led to the closure of many early mills. During the 1930s, The Pas Lumber Company carried out one of the largest operations in Saskatchewan, with six camps and about 1,200 men working. A shift from the use of axes, cross-cut saws, and horses to power saws and mechanized skidding and hauling eliminated many forestry jobs.

Over-cutting of accessible stands again increased during World War II. The appointment of the Saskatchewan Royal Commission on Forestry in 1945, the imposition of strict limits on cutting, and the launching of the first general forest inventory in 1947 brought unprecedented planning to forestry. An upward revision of the estimated available resource took place, preparing the way for a greatly expanded forest industry: utilization of the forest increased, from 12% of the sustainable supply in 1965 to 61% in 1995. A local pulp and paper industry took a long time to develop in Saskatchewan. Prior to construction of a local pulp mill, whole logs suitable for pulp production were exported. The first, and for many years the only, pulp mill began operating at Prince Albert in the late 1960s. Weyerhaeuser took over the Prince Albert mill in 1986, adding a paper mill in 1988; a second pulp mill began production in 1992 when the Millar Western mill opened at Meadow Lake. Relatively large sawmills and plywood, waferboard, and oriented strand board plants have also proven important to the industry. A shift towards operations using smaller Trees and hardwood species also occurred. Meadow Lake, Big River, Prince Albert, and Hudson Bay serve as centres for wood processing. Over the decades, hundreds of small mills also operated, utilizing timber from Crown and private lands. Fire and fire control continue to determine many details of what happens in the forests.

Various companies have entered into Forest Management Agreements with Saskatchewan, designed to allow sustainable yields and benefits from the forests. More than 90% of Saskatchewan’s forests grow on Crown land; nine provincial forests, designated by the Forest Act, cover about 35.6 million hectares or 54.5% of the province. Today’s commercial forest zone lies largely south of the Churchill River; it includes about 14.4 million hectares, of which about 6.4 million hectares are available for production of forest products. In the past, centres near the southern fringe of the forest benefited most from the jobs and other benefits that flowed from forestry. A recent estimate suggests that the value of Saskatchewan’s forest production can double within a decade; the challenge is to extend the benefits from forestry to the high-unemployment areas and especially the Aboriginal communities located deep in the forest.

David M. Quiring

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This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
Ce site Web a été conçu grâce à l'aide financière de
Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.