On July 29, 2002, the Canadian government, the Kaska First Nations, and the Yukon government undertook a memorandum of understanding on forest stewardship in the Kaska traditional territory.
The agreement provided for the governments to establish the Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council and provided a mandate to implement regional forest management planning for the southeast Yukon.
The MOU also allows for the council to provide regional guidance on recommendations identified by George Tough in his report, Yukon Forestry Issues: A Reality Check and a New Direction, (commissioned by the then minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Robert D. Nault, and released on May 1, 2002).
As of February 2003, the Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council began its duties for forest management planning in the Kaska traditional territory in southeast Yukon.
Its main role is providing consensus recommendations to the Kaska and Yukon governments regarding ecosystem-based forest resource planning (regional and sub-regional plans), policy, legislation, tenures and other aspects of forest management.
It is a body composed of three Kaska representatives and three Yukon representatives with an independent chairperson.
The consensus recommendations are made only by the Kaska and Yukon representatives and only after public and community review and input have been considered.
Furthermore, Kaska land stewards must be involved and traditional knowledge considered as a separate layer of information and on par with scientific information.
The main tasks of the council are to complete a Regional Forest Management Plan, two Subregional Forest Management Plans (Little Rancheria woodland caribou herd, and Garden Creek), and identify an interim wood supply so that any interested individual could access wood while regional planning was proceeding.
All of these tasks had to be completed in an open and transparent fashion for the communities and the public to provide direction and comments as the work moves forward.
In regard to current outcomes, the KFRSC has completed planning for an interim wood supply that was based on identifying areas with existing access, low land use conflicts, and involved Kaska information and public review.
Further, with the extreme 2004 fire season, the council was asked to plan for fire salvage opportunities.
The interim wood supply has made available 290,000 cubic metres of which approximately 36,000 cubic metres have been awarded in permits.
The fire salvage wood has made available 340,000 cubic metres over the next 10 years.
The Regional Forest Management Plan for the Southeast Yukon is a plan based on first defining the ecological and cultural values on the land, and then overlaying the economic values to assess the values and degree of overlap.
It’s a way to zone the land base into areas for forest economic development, ecological values, cultural values, and all other values in a way that will ideally keep the land base and values intact for a very long time.
Areas are being zoned for forest development because the Kaska, governments, industry and communities want to have a forest economy.
The KFRSC is working with community members, trapline holders, Kaska land stewards and other land users to create this economy while protecting the land values that are important.
This is being done by supporting the Kaska traditional knowledge process that includes a Traditional Knowledge Protocol (a legal agreement with the KFRSC and the Kaska Nation about the Kaska ownership, data collection, management, and storage of traditional knowledge); elder’s workshops for all Kaska communities; community traditional knowledge co-ordinators, and traditional knowledge oversight committees.
This support has been accomplished through partnerships with the Kaska Tribal Council, and Kaska First Nations.
The KFRSC has supported the Kaska traditional knowledge process by utilising a third of its budget.
The KFRSC has also supported community workshops for the public and community members to provide direction on the planning, comments on draft materials, and opportunities for asking questions about the process.
An example was the workshop held in June to seek community direction about their vision of a regional forestry economy.
The council invited speakers to provide information on the challenges and successes in northern forestry operations.
Currently, the KFRSC will be providing a draft regional forest management landbase in April that identifies where logging could occur, areas withdrawn from logging due to cultural and ecological values, and areas of special management for all the forest values.
Management objectives and the next steps to complete the plan by July will be provided as well.
This will have all been completed faster than any other forest strategic planning process in the Yukon to date, and has provided access to timber for years to come.
Similar, land use planning processes in British Columbia for smaller areas have taken as long as seven to 12 years.
Finally, in reviewing the KFRSC’s activities and outcomes in an economic context the council’s annual expenses include an office and related expenses, plus an office co-ordinator for three days a week, an independent chair, technical services, travel and the council member expenses and honorarium.
While planning in this manner takes time and has a cost, the planning done to date has an economic benefit.
If just the stumpage from the interim wood supply is considered, the economic value of the planning is more than 1.2 million dollars.
This will increase once an annual harvest level is brought forward after all the forest values and uses have been considered through the process.
Norm MacLean, Kaska Forest Resources Stewardship Council