a purposeful or purposeless yukon forest act

The purpose of the proposed Yukon forest act is to promote “sustainable forest ecosystems that (will) continue to provide for all living things…

The purpose of the proposed Yukon forest act is to promote “sustainable forest ecosystems that (will) continue to provide for all living things while providing for the environmental, economic, social and cultural needs of present and future generations of Yukon people.”

Nice words, but a bit ambiguous.

Since a legislated purpose guides the interpretation of the other sections of an act, it needs to be crystal clear.

Statements of purpose are at their most visionary when they: 1) clearly identify the values of the resource in question and 2) prioritize the values so as to give clear guidance on how, when and how much of the resource in question should be used.

The draft forest act before us does not prioritize the four statements in the proposed-purpose section. It leaves it to the discretion of the minister.

When values are not prioritized upfront, history has shown that there will be continual haggling over the most appropriate land use in a given area.

Think about Clayoquot Sound in the mid-‘90s.  Peace did not come to the woods until the Clayoquot Sound scientific panel produced world-class standards for sustainable-forest management in the area.

Think of those standards as our forest act.

We know it is only possible to sustain the kinds of forest values that Yukoners care about when our forests are healthy and intact.

So, the purpose section of the act needs to say something like: “The first priority of the minister is to ensure the conservation of all plants and wildlife that directly or indirectly depend on forests.”

When it comes to doing forest management plans, it is important that First Nation traditional territories are considered to be no less important than settlement lands.

So, the purpose section of the act needs to say: “All forest planning will be a joint effort between the Yukon government and the First Nation(s) whose traditional territory is being planned.”

It is important that a long-lasting value-added manufacturing sector is established in the Yukon and that it is the right size for the volume of timber that is available.  This is why we are developing a forest act.

So, the purpose section of the act needs to say: “After setting an amount of timber that can be sustainably cut each year, the minister shall help local manufacturers to develop viable and sustainable businesses.”

The Umbrella Final Agreement reminds us not to lose sight of the need to integrate the planning, protection and use of all land, water and resources.

So, the purpose section of the act needs to say: “The minister shall ensure that all forest-resource management plans are consistent with other plans for the area.

“If a forest-resource management plan is approved before the higher level regional land-use plan is completed, the forest plan must come into compliance with the land-use plan.”

Our forests not only grace our landscapes, but they also create a living mantle that shelters the natural world where we prosper physically, spiritually and economically.

So, the purpose section of the act needs to say: “The minister shall invite Yukoners to help decide how our forests will be planned, protected and used so as to allow continued prospering.”

Statements like the ones above guide the interpretation and subsequent implementation of the Yukon forest resources act.

Are there other things that you think would provide additional guidance? You have until April 28 to share your thoughts of what you would like the Yukon forest act to do for you and your family.

The forest-values focus group formed to contribute our experience and knowledge to the new Yukon forest act. We represent diverse forest values, rather than organizational mandates.

We would like to share the knowledge and information we have collected over the past two-and-a-half years as we have reviewed discussion documents related to the development of the forest act.

If you or an organization you are affiliated with would like to meet with representatives of the forest-values focus group, please contact Sue at 668-5678.

For more information about the forest values focus group please visit our website at http://yukonforestvalues.yk.net/.

This is the third article in a series that will discuss important issues for you to consider as you assess the draft Yukon forest act.

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