Canadian Geographic
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Fueling Canada


Firewood for heating, transportation, and factory power is often considered an agricultural rather than a forest product since much of it came from farm wood lots. If it is added to other forest products, the economic contribution of the primary forest industry in the late 19th century may well be doubled.

In the latter part of the 19th century, when all forest products including square timber (pine and hardwoods), sawlogs for deals, planks and boards, and firewood are considered, forest resources and their processing may have accounted for up to 20% of the total economy.

Early resources were being depleted and new ones were found to take their place. Wave after wave of axemen and sawyers moving down the scale of timber quality removed virtually all of the original pine from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec, and Ontario. Fires among the slash may have removed as much as was commercially harvested. Much of the hardwood resource had also been burned during agricultural clearing, though sometimes the process of clearing yielded potash and sometimes square timber. In 1890 the commercial-forest resource of eastern Canada was probably at an all-time low, waiting for the redefinition of the industry with spruce and fir as the new forest staples in the 20th century. In the West the assault had begun on the great cedars and spruce of the Pacific Coast.

To explore the role of forestry in Canada’s development, click here.


This animated map depicts the change that occurred in per capita wood fuel production between 1871 and 1891. The user can control which percentages appear with a scroll bar, and can explore portions of the map by clicking to zoom in and out, and dragging to pan around it.


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Quiz :

What trees became the staple of the Canadian forestry industry in the 20th century?

Pine and birch
Spruce and fir
Maple and oak