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Northwest Forest History

The Past | The Present | The Future |

Present Day Interdependence

More than ever, the forest today is vital to the economy and society of Northwestern Ontario, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Forest resources dominate its industrial base. Forest products account for 77 percent of the manufacturing economy of Northwestern Ontario, compared to 36 percent of that of Ontario’s equally resource-based Northeastern region..

Qualitative studies judge forestry eight times more important to Northwestern Ontario than to Ontario as a whole; wood-product, paper and allied industries are seven times more important. Direct employment in the region’s forest-related sector is 15,000. Indirect and induced jobs spun from this are estimated to be as high as 26,000. Data recently compiled for the Northwestern Forest Network show an estimated 40 percent of total employment and nearly half of the total employment earnings in Northwestern Ontario are generated by forest-related industry.

Modern Paper MillThe region’s total forest industry plant consists of ten major pulp and paper mills, 14 permanent sawmills and four major panelboard plants. The combined economic output of this sector is conservatively estimated at roughly $3 billion a year. Annual reinvestment by the industry is approximately $500 million on average. The Crown land harvest to supply these plants totals 9.3 million cubic metres of wood a year (1995 data). Of this, 80 percent is softwood, 20 percent is hardwood. In addition about 500,000 cubic metres of softwood and hardwood in equal parts come from private lands.

Even Northwestern Ontario’s biggest city is heavily reliant on forest products. They make up 82 percent of Thunder Bay’s manufacturing output of $2 billion a year and employ eight percent of its labour force. Wood processing and related manufacturing produce 4,500 direct jobs. Based on Natural Resources Canada’s community impact model, it is thought a further 10,000 jobs in the city are indirectly created.

Forest industry is the economic backbone for most Northwestern Ontario communities. In some towns more than 40 percent of the work force is directly employed by the industry. An economic study by the Ontario Forest Industries Association found that forest product-based communities tend to be "wealthier and healthier than non-forestry communities, less dependent on public funding, had lower unemployment, a strong tax base and a higher rate of home ownership.

Dryden is a good example of a prosperous town that owes much of its livelihood to the forest industry. By 1998, Dryden will be consolidated with neighbouring municipalities into a city of 8,700. Dryden’s Economic Development Committee calculates the presence of Weyerhauser's pulp and paper mill and related woodlands pumps $200 million a year into the local economy. More than 1,340 are directly employed by the company, for a payroll of $75 million a year. The property tax value of the company’s holdings to the city and board of education approaches $6 million a year.

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