The Yukon Wood Products Association is warning that a bottleneck in logging approvals could result in a shortage of locally available firewood this winter.
“We had three years of wood ahead when we started the process. That’s all gone as of March. Our licensees or operators had wood until March of this year. When we started the process, it was inconceivable that we would be sitting here three years later … and still looking at no permits coming out of that thing for five years due to the administrative processes,” said Myles Thorp, executive director of the organization.
“From our perspective, the problem is the administrative processes are just so complicated. The way it’s working was the way it was designed to work. And the way it was designed to work isn’t working for us, as an industry.”
Thorp said opening up new areas for timber harvest has been an uphill battle, with applications taking between 400 and 600 days to be approved. In the meantime, the existing supply has been exhausted, and many businesses are out of options.
Thorp said if the Yukon wants a forestry industry, the time for approvals needs to be sped up.
Mines and Resources Minister John Streicker said in an interview that he is aware of the issues, has met with the foresters and wants to make changes.
“The industry had put in for some large blocks and they’ve been taking long through the YESAA system. That is a concern to us,” he said
“The direction that we gave was to try and work closely with them, to support them to make sure that Yukoners are going to have access to firewood this winter. Over the long term, we want to promote the biomass industry here,” he said.
Streicker said the government can support the wood industry in putting in applications that will be faster and more likely to be successful. He said the recommendations need to be “respectful of the role of YESAA.”
For some businesses, progress comes too late. The owner of Caribou Crossing Wood Supply said he has given up on accessing Yukon supply. Instead, the business will be trucking logs up from British Columbia, a move he said will effectively double the price.
The Quill Creek Timber Harvest Plan, located outside Haines Junction in Champagne and Aishihik First Nation traditional territory, has been before YESAA since March 10, 2019.
The applicant is proposing a 15-year period to harvest 164,000 square metres of wood, particularly in spruce beetle-affected areas. The project would require the construction of new access roads. Because it is larger than 20,000 square metres it must go through the more long-term executive committee screening.
The site is large enough to support the industry for a number of years, but Thorp said they began working with the Forest Management Branch on the site in fall of 2017 and are still only mid-way through the process.
Public comments included concerns from the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations over the detail of the plan and possible impacts to harvesting activities and wildlife, although their comments were in support of reducing fire risk. Local residents also commented referencing the Kathleen River ecosystem and use of recreational trails.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com