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Wildfire and the regional economy



Is the forest of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Northern Quebec still sustainable?


This summer’s forest fires in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Northern Quebec demonstrated that nature is much stronger than any management strategic planning, fortunately for us, for this renewable natural resource.

In the article by Louis Pelletier, ing.f. Forestier en Chef (LeSoleil June 22, 2023 in French), he essentially addressed 4 questions:

Is the current forestry potential (2023-2028) still viable, given the extent of forest fires? We need to carry out a new forest assessment to determine what the forest will be able to offer in terms of timber production after the passage of these fires. A number of factors will determine this capacity, such as precise mapping of the areas affected by the fires, which stands are affected, their maturity, detailed plans for salvaging burnt wood, etc.

Did we anticipate fires of this magnitude? We were expecting an upsurge in forest fires.

Do our allowable harvest estimates take into account the risks associated with forest fires? The allowable harvest estimate incorporates past fires in the form of forest updates. The current approach is to establish these precautions where fires have been most active in the past.

Are our management strategies adequate in the light of fire recurrence? A number of current factors need to be reviewed in order to adapt them to the challenges of climate change.

We won’t solve all the challenges raised by the modeling results, but our intention is to implement and offer decision-support tools to reduce the risks associated with climate change on our forests.

The vitality and resilience of our forests and biodiversity must be at the heart of our concerns.

So here we are, in a situation where predictions must also include the unforeseeable, and enable forestry contractors to anticipate changes in their industry.

What do these Quebec forestry contractors represent today?

In an article on the “Opérations forestières” website dated April 13, 2023, we present some statistics from a study carried out by Mr. Louis Dupuis.

See the original article (in French) HERE

  • +/- 500 active forestry contractors in Quebec
    +/- 3,500 direct jobs, including operating managers
    +/- 1,500 forestry machines in operation
    +/- $850 million in direct annual revenues
    +/- $280 million payroll including payroll deductions and employer contributions


The study reveals that the average founding age of these companies is 22 years, with the median founding year in 1994.

Furthermore, according to our non-scientific estimate, there must have been between 1,000 and 1,200 forestry contractors in Quebec in the mid-1990s. Today, only around 500 remain, which is extremely worrying for the future of the forest industry.

Can these entrepreneurs still generate profits?

In a February 11, 2021 post (in French) by L’Étoile du Lac, the same author pointed out that lumber prices may be reaching record highs, but forest logging contractors aren’t benefiting. Worse, prices have stagnated for over twenty years. For him, the situation is untenable.

“In the mid-90s, the price offered to forestry contractors was around $18 per cubic metre. Today, although there have been some rather timid adjustments, we’re still at around $18 per cubic metre. Contractors’ operating costs, on the other hand, have skyrocketed,” he explains

Also from L’étoile du lac, May 22, 2022 by Serge Tremblay: The weighted index of variations in the costs of forestry contractors in Quebec (IPVCEFQ) developed by Louis Dupuis is clear: it costs 147.5% more to operate a logging business than it did in 2011. With prices per cubic metre barely budging since then, it’s no wonder some contractors are jumping ship.

Faced with the emergency and the ” wildfire panic ” on July 5, the Quebec government announced $50 million in assistance for businesses affected by the forest fires, in the form of loans or loan guarantees.

Some of the companies concerned have not welcomed this announcement, perceiving considerable financial and material losses.

LeQuotidien July 10, 2023 (in French) by Guillaume Roy quotes a testimonial in his article:

“It is far from meeting my needs as a general contractor or the needs of the companies that work for the cooperative,” says Stéphane Gagnon, general manager of the Coopérative forestière de Girardville, which works with some forty forestry companies.

Although the collection of burned wood (disturbance wood) has not yet begun, forestry contractors are already anticipating that this work will generate expenses such as equipment/machinery maintenance (air filters, lubricant, blades, masks, and more). Can they claim fair compensation?

In anticipation of difficult times ahead, some of them are already planning to reorient their operations to explore new niches, such as reforestation.

What will be the direct and indirect economic impact on the affected regions?

In addition to forestry, how many directly affected businesses had to suspend operations during the fires?

What are their immediate, medium- and long-term financial losses?

Will creditors be understanding?

What are the chances of ever recovering the financial assets that went up in smoke?

No one can guarantee the future of forestry. In the near future, we’re likely to see the emergence of some very different business models.

Unfortunately, the economic conclusion of this natural cycle will have to wait a few more years. When it does, we’ll be able to point to the resilience of the forestry sector as it rises from the ashes.


  • Jean-Yves Poitras, industrial commissioner