Non-Timber Forest Products

Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are defined as botanical products growing in forests that can be used for nutritional, medicinal, ornamental and industrial purposes.

Examples of NTFPs include maple sap, birch bark, wild mushrooms, blueberries, wild rice, cranberries, ginseng, bearberry, fireweed (also known as willow herb), sweet grass, Canada yew (ground hemlock), St. John’s Wort, evening primrose, and echinacea. Wild plants and wood waste products are sources of anti cancer drugs, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidizing compounds, ethanol, other bio-fuels and surfactants.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines Non-Timber Forest Products or NTFPs as:

The demand for natural source, herbal and wild-crafted plant products and for original ornamental and art products is increasing. At present, non-timber forest products contribute $241 Million to the Canadian economy. An estimate of the potential for NTFPs is $1 Billion per year based on developing new products, increasing yields per hectare and creating markets. 

There is a rich history of cultural and social values associated with NTFPs. First Nations communities use a variety of forest plants in feasts, in healing ceremonies and as herbal remedies.

There are opportunities for enhancing both wild harvesting and to develop commercial cropping of Non Timber Forest Products. The development of local NTFP products based on sustainable harvest or cropping, can contribute to economic diversification and community stability. There is a need to do forest inventories, to conduct wild plant species research to determine growth and reproduction requirements, to protect and value traditional knowledge, to develop harvest guidelines, and to develop regulations, controls and fair licensing practices. 

The development of Non-Timber Forest products will require adaptation to new uses of the forest. The recognition of rights and ‘good management’ principles and practices must be instituted in forest management policy and regulations. 

     NTFP Issues and Concerns
  • There is very little known about site requirements and abundance of many species of plants. 
  • Pharmaceutical and neutraceutical industries expend significant funds to develop and market new plant products.
  • Large-scale harvesting - lack of regulations governing sustainable harvest may imperil wild stock. 
  • Concerns about effects of clear-cutting, and loss of eco-systems. Lack of protection for NTFPs and habitat.
  • Lack of ‘inventory’ of NTFPs done prior to timber harvesting. Some species – e.g. goldthread - disappear after logging. 
  • Concerns that herbicide application of forest areas can affect NTFPs.
  • Loss of Traditional Knowledge about forest plants and loss of skills in identifying, harvesting, creating, and marketing products.
  • Concern that management decisions that affect NTFPs are not made by the local community, but by outsiders.
  • Appropriate regulations and controls are not yet in place to protect Intellectual Property (IP) rights. 
  • Complex product license and patent issues. 
  • Fair ‘site licensing’ practices should be developed to ensure economic benefits flow to local communities and that employment opportunities are created in harvesting, transportation, and ‘value added’ products and marketing. 


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