The primary reason for creating the Yukon Forest Resources Act is to regulate the cutting of trees.
This is as it should be.
Other forest-based industries in the Yukon have their own acts that regulate their activities and impacts.
The other reason for creating the Yukon Forest Resources Act is to minimize the impacts of cutting trees on other people who use the forest and on the countless inherent values or ecological services that our forests give us — like wildlife habitat, water, medicinal plants, biological diversity and clean air.
We need trees, but trees don’t need us.
This is why the harvesting rights section of the Yukon forest act needs to be right.
It should include words like: sustainability, local manufacturing, local employment, local markets, value-added wood products, and appropriate size (for the community).
These words are at the base of a viable and long-lasting timber industry in the Yukon.
They will bring the Yukon closer to being carbon neutral and they help look after other values in Yukon forests.
These words should be liberally sprinkled through this section of the draft act.
Ideally, a sustainable cutting level is based on a regional forest management plan that has identified areas where logging can occur, after deciding how to take care of the other forest values in the area. But, there will be occasions when there is a proposal to cut trees in an area without an approved forest management plan. Then what?
On page 19 of the draft act, it is proposed that “the minister will need to set a limit on harvesting until there is one (a forest management plan).”
It seems reasonable that the minister would use specific criteria to set the limit in a way that assures the Yukon public that the amount of timber being cut in an area without a forest management plan is likely not exceeding sustainable levels.
This is not the case.
Perhaps the Yukon government will include criteria in the regulations.
We don’t know this right now and we won’t know until after the regulations have been approved because the Yukon public and stakeholders will not be consulted on the regulations.
So, the legislation itself must contain the criteria that will guide the minister in setting a sustainable harvest level.
The harvesting rights section of the draft act also proposes five circumstances when an authorization or permit is not necessary before cutting trees (page 15 of the draft act).
From our perspective, two of the exceptions could lead to a significant number of trees being cut, with no way of tracking where and how much wood is actually being cut.
Over time, cutting in these specific areas may exceed sustainable levels. But, with no permit, how would we even know where to look?
Sustainability in a forest act is all about recognizing that there are many values in the forest and that care must be taken to protect these values to the best of our understanding, including timber.
We hope that the Yukon forest act will enable Yukon businesses to produce a variety of value-added wood products for the local market and beyond, and that they will do so for a long time.
But, after reading the draft act over and over again, we’re not so sure.
Next week we will discuss the other words that we have suggested are the backbone of a healthy Yukon forest industry: local manufacturing, local employment, local markets, value-added products, and the right size.
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 fifth article in a series that will discuss important issues for you to consider as you assess the draft Yukon Forest Resources Act.