Follow the plan
Forest planning process: good
One million cubic metres: bad
I want to clarify the Yukon Conservation Society’s concerns about the offering of approximately one million cubic metres of timber to industry in the Champagne and Aishihik traditional territory.
We are not criticizing the forest planning process in the traditional territory, or the draft forest management plan.
We are criticizing the fact that the planning process has been shut down and the draft plan ignored.
Over the past months a resource assessment technical group worked hard to develop a draft forest management plan for the southwest Yukon.
I believe they worked in good faith to understand what local people want, and what is necessary to protect the environment, wildlife and non-timber uses of the forest.
But there had only been consultation on priorities and values — there had never been a draft plan to review.
We were looking forward to seeing a draft plan.
Instead — before anyone saw the draft plan — the Yukon and Champagne and Aishihik governments offered one million cubic metres of wood to industry, and disbanded the technical group that was working on the plan.
The draft plan (called the integrated landscape plan) was finally made available to the public almost a month after the request for proposals to for a million cubic metres was advertised to industry.
The integrated landscape plan is really quite good.
There are a few important things that need to be added, but it’s an excellent start.
It’s clear the technical group listened to public input and did its research on best practices.
But the assumptions that the million cubic metres are based on ignore some of the most important parts of the draft plan.
It is also disturbing that the two governments say the plan is finished, when it isn’t.
The draft plan identifies a general area where logging can be planned.
Almost all of this forest resource management zone overlaps with high wildlife value areas.
The draft plan says a reserve network needs to be planned within the resource management zone to protect wildlife, but this has yet to be done.
Much of the forest in the Champagne and Aishihik traditional territory is affected by spruce bark beetles, but in most places there are a lot of living trees mixed in with the dead ones.
The draft plan says to target the dead trees for harvesting, except for a small amount of green saw logs and house logs for local people.
It also says to only log in stands that are at least 30-per-cent dead.
Instead, the million-cubic-metre scenario includes all green and dead wood in the resource management zone, and all stands regardless of percentage of beetle-kill.
The draft plan says to concentrate on high volume stands.
A million cubic metres would mean logging 50 per cent of the low volume stands in the resource management zone.
The draft plan says to avoid harvesting in high wildlife areas, and use lighter logging methods when logging does occur there.
To get a million cubic metres 75 per cent of the high wildlife value area within the resource management zone would be logged.
In-block retention (leaving merchantable trees standing within clear cuts) helps reduce the impacts of clearcutting by providing wildlife habitat, visual screening, and seed sources, and moderating soil moisture.
The draft plan recommends at least 25 per cent in-block retention in the high wildlife areas and an average of 20 per cent retention in other areas. In large clear cuts the draft plan recommends leaving as much as 50 per cent retention.
The million-cubic-metre scenario assumes only 20 per cent retention in high wildlife areas and 10 per cent elsewhere.
The draft plan says to log a maximum of 20 per cent of any watershed — the million-cubic-metre scenario doesn’t even mention this.
The two governments say that logging one million cubic metres would only impact 15 per cent of the forest in the resource management zone, and six per cent of the forest in the traditional territory.
But what would this level of logging really look like?
They propose to log 40 per cent of all stands with more than 25 cubic metres per hectare in the resource management zone.
That means the majority of the ‘forest’ that they would leave behind would be stands with at most 75 mature trees in a 100 by 100 metre area.
I don’t think most people would call this a forest — it’s more like a meadow with a few trees scattered in it.
So logging a million cubic metres would mean that almost half of the areas that you or I would call mature forest in the resource management zone would be gone.
Some representatives of both governments are saying the draft plan is still open for input.
That’s good. But with the technical group that produced the
plan having been dissolved and the million cubic metres having been offered to industry, what faith can we have that public input will be taken seriously?
To restore faith in the process the two governments need to commit to consulting on the draft plan, bringing the resource assessment technical working group back to together to complete it, and then running a timber supply analysis based on the plan.
A lot of time, money and goodwill have gone into the forest planning process in the Champagne and Aishihik traditional territory.
But all of this effort will be wasted if the plan isn’t finished and followed.
I urge both governments to finish the good process they started.
If they do, there could be a publicly supported timber offering in the southwest Yukon by fall, and a secure basis for industry to get going.
Yukon Conservation Society