Local manufacturing, local employment, local markets, value-added products and appropriate size.
What do these words have in common?
When it comes to forestry in the Yukon, all of these words can contribute to the success and longevity or sustainability of a wood-product manufacturing sector.
That is, after a publicly accountable process has used ecosystem-based planning principles to identify where, how and how much logging will occur in a specific area.
The cool, dry climate in the Yukon produces highly valuable spruce and pine timbers. Such wood is, and will continue to become, rare and prized throughout the world for log homes, decorative paneling, furniture, trim and other specialty items.
How can the Yukon produce the most local benefits from its valuable timber resources?
We could follow the success of other jurisdictions in Canada by developing a co-operative way to log, manufacture and market wood products, as well as train people in the various parts of the forestry sector.
What if a Yukon brand were developed for the products that the co-op decided to market outside the Yukon?
The brand could showcase that trees were harvested from high-quality northern forests in a way that respected the many forest values and resources that we have in the Yukon.
The co-op could also identify local markets.
Wendy Fournier, president of the Yukon Trappers Association, speaks to a similar tool that her association uses when selling fur outside the Yukon: all of the best quality furs are marketed under a pan-northern Klondike Soft Gold label.
A forestry co-op would mean that not everyone has to buy every piece of equipment that they need. The co-operative could house a variety of equipment that would be shared among members.
All wood could be sorted to its best use and sold through the co-operative. The co-op could provide incentives for the production of finished products.
Instead of each business spending time to market its individual products, the co-op could be responsible for marketing.
Forestry co-operatives are not a new idea. In British Columbia and elsewhere, they are developing in all niches of the market.
Sol Kinnis from the BC Institute for Co-operative Studies points to Quebec as a place where there are many emerging and established forestry co-operatives.
Of co-operatives, Kinnis says “there is a vested interest from the community to make it successful — to ensure that the benefits stay local.”
There are also challenges to co-operatives that may not make them feasible or desirable in the Yukon. In a place where wood is slow(er) growing, dispersed and a great distance from most markets, perhaps the ‘bureaucracy’ of a co-op tip would tip the sensitive scale of individual earnings into the black?
Or maybe not.
The draft act identifies woodlot licences as a way to promote local employment. We need to make sure that the Yukon forest act includes as many ways as possible to keep the benefits from the timber industry in the Yukon?
There is only a little over a week left to make your suggestions on how the Yukon forest act can support local, value-added forestry operations.
Comments can be given to the Yukon government until Monday, April 28.
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 sixth article in a series that will discuss important issues for you to consider as you assess the draft Yukon forest resources act.