The Personal Fuelwood Harvest Pilot Project will explore the viability of personal fuelwood harvest to reduce the forest fuel available to wildfire in several areas in Whitehorse.
The pilot project will run for the period of one year after beginning, after which it will be reassessed to measure the effectiveness and impacts of this trial. The program launch date is yet to be determined.
Under a special fuelwood permit, individuals can harvest a maximum of 11.3 cords (25 cubic metres) of fuelwood. Permits will be available once the program begins. To obtain a permit, apply in person at the Forest Management Branch on the Alaska Highway in Whitehorse.
Why green wood?
Currently, you can only cut standing dead trees or deadfall in personal use areas within Whitehorse. Under this pilot, permit holders will be able to cut live standing wood – green wood. This will help reduce the fire risk in these areas.
Permit holders are encouraged to season their wood before burning, ideally to a moisture content of 15% or less. Read more about clean burning of wood here.
Where will the pilot project occur?
The pilot project will operate on blocks of land in three areas: near Wolf Creek Subdivision, along the Copper Haul Road off Fish Lake Road, and along the sewage lagoon road in city limits north of Whitehorse.
The areas were selected because they have mature forests, are already designated for personal fuelwood harvest, and do not require new access roads.
When will the pilot project take place and for how long?
The trial will commence in Spring 2020 and will be assessed after one year to determine its effectiveness in removing potential wildfire fuel.
Is this a fuel break?
No. Personal fuelwood harvest will result in thinning of the forest, but trees will still remain. There will be no clear cutting.
Although fuel breaks can be effective, they must be implemented along with other measures, including thinning, stand conversion, and FireSmarting on private property.
How will vehicle use and traffic be managed?
Forest Management Branch and Compliance, Monitoring and Inspections officers will be limiting the permits that are issued in order to control the numbers of people who are harvesting, and will be regularly monitoring all areas in the trial for the duration of the project. Guidance around vehicle use will be provided in the permit terms and conditions, which includes not blocking trails, ensuring ground conditions do not result in rutting, and prohibition of equipment such as tractors, skidders, or skid steers.
How will the slash be handled?
Forest Management Branch will take on the responsibility of dealing with the slash created. They will give instructions to permittees on dealing with slash and will either pile and burn or chip the slash at the close of the project.
How will chainsaw noise be managed?
Permit holders must abide by all existing laws and bylaws, including noise restrictions in the Maintenance Bylaw.
I don’t believe that thinning of trees is effective and that it will increase the risk of wildfire.
Reducing the probability of a continuous crown fire is the key objective in thinning a forest, and when combined with surface fuel reduction and significantly reduce wildfire hazard. Tops and limbs will be gathered and removed from the area to reduce surface fuels.
What about impacts on birds and wildlife?
Permit holders are required to fulfill their responsibilities under the Migratory Birds Convention Act and will be given a pamphlet summarizing their obligations under the Act.
I am concerned this project will interfere with my recreational use of the area.
The three proposed locations will be regularly monitored by Forest Management Branch staff. Complaints on harvesting practices, site damage, or other permit compliance issues can be directed to Compliance, Monitoring and Inspections Branch (CMI).
Local residents are encouraged to remain attentive to activities and contact CMI with concerns. Following the pilot project, residents will be contacted to provide their observations of the project.
Has there been consultation?
First Nations whose traditional territories overlap with the project area have been notified. A letter was sent to households in Wolf Creek and Mount Sima subdivisions explaining the project and soliciting comments. While residents identified potential problems, there are processes in place to mitigate them. Overall, the level of wildfire risk warrants exploring new tools.
Why is the pilot project starting before the City of Whitehorse has completed the Wildfire Risk Reduction Strategy?
The project partners have been using existing plans and data (such as the Whitehorse West Fuel Management Plan) as guidance for fuel management for many years. This project will complement existing programs such as FireSmart and larger fuel abatement work and could result in a low-cost way to reduce fuel hazard that the public can participate in. The recommended strategy will be submitted to the City in early July 2020. Click here to learn more about the strategy.
Who is involved in the personal fuelwood pilot project?
This pilot project is led by Government of Yukon and the City of Whitehorse.
For more information, contact:
- City of Whitehorse Environmental Coordinator: 668-8652
- Development Forester, Government of Yukon: 633-7904