Forests and other natural features symbolize Canada. From the earliest times, the inhabitants of Canada have relied heavily on the forest and have had a close association with it. Aboriginal peoples in Canada have lived within the forest environment for thousands of years and are an example of this long association with the forests of Canada.
The French settled in Canada during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and relied on the forest to provide the furs needed to support the colony's principal source of economy - the fur trade. At this time, timber was exported only on a small scale; it mainly served local needs in shipbuilding, the construction of homes and heating.
The early part of the nineteenth century saw the decline of the fur trade and the beginning of a more intensive exploitation of the forest. Great Britain had been at war with France since 1793 and was in need of wood to rebuild its navy. For more than half a century the English removed timber from the forests of Quebec and Ontario. The felled timber was shaped on site, and the term "squaring" reflects the characteristic shape it eventually took. A lot of the timber had defects and could not be used; as a result much of it was wasted. A period followed when people demanded only knot-free pine and spruce lumber. This demand for square timber, coupled with bad forestry practices, had a detrimental effect on the tree species involved. The pine trees disappeared from New Brunswick around 1860 and from the Ottawa Valley at the end of the nineteenth century.
Pulpwood logging, the use of trees for paper manufacture, began in the late 1800’s with small spruce, balsam and jackpine trees being felled. The first enterprises in this area were modest, producing mainly wood pulp, which was shipped in its raw state to be processed in the United States and Great Britain. After 1910, however, the development of advertising in the United States increased the demand for newsprint. In Canada, producers decided to make their own paper and built new paper mills, which by around 1920 were supplying about 80 percent of North American requirements.
The forest industry continues to play a key role in the Canadian economy, second only to agriculture in importance, directly providing 300,000 jobs and indirectly providing some 700,000 more. This industry continues to develop and change. Today, all tree species are cut. Almost no wood is left in the bush; large logs are sent to sawmills for lumber and veneer and small logs are sent to pulp and paper mills. The waste from the trees is often used as biomass fuel. Areas of felled trees are replanted or reforested, often with only a single species of tree, a practice referred to as monoculture. This may decrease diversity in the forest but is argued that this helps ensure success of the forest for future generations and for the forest industry itself.