8.3 Area of commercial harvest

Last Updated: 
June 8, 2015

This indicator tracks the area harvested commercially for timber each year in the NWT. The information is obtained from all available records of timber cutting permits and licences issued from 1975 to present by Forest Management, Government of the Northwest Territories.

Volume of local fuel wood use is estimated at 20,000 to 30,000 m3 per year and is not included in this indicator. Fuel wood includes live and dead wood harvested from all species.

NWT Focus

Commercial harvesting represents direct use of forest fibrefor local and export purposes. Timber harvesting is one of the few local resource-based opportunities in the NWT and represents a significant opportunity for sustainable local economy.

Current view: status and trend

Commercial timber harvesting has occurred in many places in the NWT, usually in localized areas and in small volumes. Typical commercial harvest operations are small-scale local businesses harvesting volumes of 500 m3 to 10,000 m3 of wood per year. The total area harvested per year is presented in the following table and graph, from 1975 to 2013.

Area harvested per year

Year Area Harvested (ha) Year Area Harvested (ha)
1975 706 1995 650
1976 396 1996 439
1977 688 1997 630
1978 693 1998 581
1979 629 1999 244
1980 742 2000 17
1981 903 2001 17
1982 427 2002 14
1983 870 2003 87
1984 1075 2004 96
1985 990 2005 138
1986 400 2006 104
1987 672 2007 104
1988 399 2008 75
1989 450 2009 61
1990 467 2010 90
1991 405 2011 60
1992 519 2012 80
1993 604 2013 190
1994 502    


Area harvested
Area harvested per year until 2013

Prior to 1993, area harvested was primarily measured based on a planned harvest, and not assessed using post-harvest footprint. After 1993, post-harvest footprints were part of the assessment of area harvested. Between 2000 and 2002 there was almost no commercial harvest, and only one small scale harvester.

Looking forward

As of 2015, two Forest Management Agreements (FMA's) have been signed with communities of Fort Providence and Fort Resolution. These carefully planned FMA's built with involvement of Aboriginal business corporations will allow for the sustainable timber harvest in designated areas around these communities within the next 25 years. This important initiative is in its initial phase with first timber harvest activities expected to occur in winter of 2015/2016.

Small scale commercial timber harvesting for saw logs and fuel wood will continue to occur at a local level. Almost all of the building lumber used in the NWT is shipped from southern brokers bu there is a small amount of lumber produced for local uses in several comunities.

The GNWT has implemented a biomass strategy to encourage the use of wood and wood products as an economical and ‘green’ energy source, and to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The government is actively converting government buildings to pellet boilers, which has driven the demand for wood pellets up. There are also recent developments identifying values associated with home heating from “green” sources, such as fuelwood, wood pellets, or ethanol, which will have an impact on trends in commercial harvesting. Given recent increases in fuel prices, more people may be looking toward using wood as a source of fuel. This may increase commercial harvesting for fuel wood or other forms of biomass energy. Increasing transportation costs may also drive more demand for local wood products.

The GNWT is actively collecting baseline information on the state of the forest resources and developing better tracking mechanisms to track and manage forest harvesting.

Looking around

The total area harvested for commercial timber in Yukon (2007) was 12 ha, in Alberta (2007) 54,981 ha, in British Columbia 197,599 ha1.

Find out more

Other focal points

  • For more information on other forest indictors in the VEGETATION focal point.


Found an error or have a question? Contact the team at NWTSOER@gov.nt.ca.

Ref. 1. Canadian Forest Service. 2008. Canada's Forest - Statistical Data. Government of Canada.
Updated: June 8, 2015