Activity 2: Historical and Modern Patterns of Use in the Forest (Timeline)
What relationships do humans have with forests? How has our approach to protecting and managing forests evolved over time?
In this activity you will explore how human uses of the forest have progressed over time. We’ve pulled some interesting historical facts out of the woodwork to trace the history of forest use and forest management in Alberta. Read through the timeline and download/complete the handout below (alternatively your teacher will provide you with the handout in class).
Forest Facts Timeline
Can you guess who the original forest managers were? How were forests harvested 100 years ago? How do we do it today?
Discover these facts and more on our interactive timeline.
Click on the arrows to navigate through the timeline.
- Humans arrive in Alberta 10,000 years ago. They use wood for warmth, cooking, and shelter.
- Indigenous Peoples are the original forest managers. They prevent the spread of wildfires by burning small sections of forest ahead of a blaze, depriving it of fuel.
- Fire is set intentionally to create habitats for desired species (such as moose and bison), to encourage growth of edible plants, and to clear travel routes.
- Europeans arrive in Alberta mid-century. Trees are cleared to make way for habitable land. Conservation is not yet a priority.
- The fur trade industry realizes the importance of forest management in protecting its commercial interests. Strategies are developed to increase access to animal pelts. Prescribed burns help maintain young forest habitats preferred by beavers and muskrats, while fire suppression helps maintain mature habitats preferred by squirrels and martens.
- Settlers harvest wood to heat homes and institutions.
- Manual sawmills produce 50-150 boards/day.
- Most sawmills are semi-permanent and located along rivers to transport logs by water. They’re usually built near large settlements and railway lines.
- Crown Timber Act (1849): The Crown grants cutting rights on its lands to the highest bidders.
- Alberta’s first powered sawmill is constructed in Lac La Biche (1871), producing 500 to 1,000 boards/day.
1900 - 1940s
- Arrival of the first steam-powered log hauler (1901).
- Alberta’s first wildfire lookout cabin is constructed. Rangers watch for smoke and fire, and monitor weather conditions (1921).
- Alberta assumes ownership and responsibility of forests from the federal government (1930).
- Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA) is founded (1942). It establishes guidelines and standards around lumber quality.
- A new provincial act requires companies to limit harvest to the amount of new growth occurring in the area and to replant in harvested areas (1949).
1950s - 1980s
- The start of large-scale forestry in Alberta.
- Permanent mill sites take root in communities where forestry will become a key industry.
- Alberta’s first Forest Management Plan is created in 1961 – based on sustained yield practices and information gathered from forest inventory.
- Modern logging trucks increase hauling capacity.
1990s - PRESENT
- Modern sawmills become capable of producing 24,000+ boards in just 8 hours.
- Environmental certification programs are introduced to establish consistant sustainability standards for forestry companies and to educate the public on the sustainability of the forest sector.
- Starting in 1998, detailed Forest Management Plans are required for every company harvesting trees on public land.
- The FireSmart program is introduced in 2002 to promote awareness and education aimed at reducing risk of loss of life and property from fire in the wildland/urban interface.
- The Alberta Land Stewardship Act (2009) requires consideration of all environmental factors, including water, wildlife, and air when managing Alberta’s forests.