The provincial government is looking at new ways to use low-quality wood left behind by paper mills in the province, which includes new low-carbon products and renewable energy sources.

Ontario’s released its revised five-year Forest Biomass Action Plan, which aims to support economic development in Ontario by using underutilized forest resources, such as paper mill by-products and underutilized forest biofibre.

This would be similar to how Dryden’s Domtar mill uses wood pulp to create a variety of paper products, diapers and personal protective equipment used during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to create hundreds of jobs in Dryden.

“Innovative uses of forest biomass will create new sources of renewable and environmentally friendly products and ways of doing business,” explained Kenora-Rainy River MPP and Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, Greg Rickford.

“Our government’s Forest Biomass Action Plan will secure forestry jobs across the north and ensure our province has the materials we need to Build Ontario,” the Minister adds.

The plan coincides with Hearst’s Calstock Generating Station, which plans to create 158,000 tonnes of renewable energy through biomass-fired electricity, which President of the Ontario Forest Industries Association, Ian Dunn, notes is a clean, low-carbon form of energy.

“We know that biomass is essential to our forestry industry, and that the industry is essential to Northern Ontario, which is what makes our government’s action plan a win-win for all,” explained Minister of Energy, Todd Smith.

Ontario’s Natural Resources Forests 2021 report shows that Ontario’s forestry sector generated over $17.6 billion in 2019, and supported 143,000 jobs in 2020.

The province’s new action plan also calls for the involvement of Indigenous communities in forest biomass supply chains, and includes feedback and input from Indigenous communities and the public.

Ontario’s forests make up more than 70 million hectares, 56 million of which are public forests. The remaining areas include provincial and federal parks and reserves, as well as 7 million hectares of First Nation and federally owned forests.

Ontario’s 70 million hectares of forests represent 2 per cent of the entire world’s forests, and 20 per cent of Canada’s forests. Roughly two-thirds of the province is considered a forest.