North

There's a shortage of live Christmas trees in Canada — but that's no problem for these Yukoners

There's a Canada-wide Christmas tree shortage, which can be chalked up to high demand, fewer tree farmers and climate change. But for Yukoners who live in "the land of trees," people might not notice the disruption as much.

In the Yukon, people can go outside and cut down their own tree — no need for a permit

Customers have been flocking to the Three Sisters tree farm in Whitehorse, Yukon as a Christmas tree shortage looms across Canada. The situation is less worrisome in the Yukon, though, where people can cut wild trees in designated areas. (Submitted by Matthew King)

There's a nation-wide shortage of live Christmas trees, but luckily for Yukoners, there are plenty of options.

Stores in the territory have experienced shipment delays, and trees at a local farm — Three Sisters — sold out faster than expected.

Matthew King, with the farm, said they booked people in last weekend and next weekend, and if those people all buy one, then they will have sold their quota, which is about 30 trees this year.

"We weren't sure if people would be interested," he told CBC News over Facebook. "Could sell more, and might bump up to 50 if people want taller trees versus the shorter ones."

Shirley Brennan, executive director with the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association, said it's not just in Canada — there's a shortage across North America.

It started with an increased demand for Fraser fir, she said, which takes longer to produce; then it snowballed to other species of trees as well.

A sign for fir Christmas trees in Whitehorse shows they go for nearly $100. Shirley Brennan, executive director with the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association, says there was an increased demand for these kind of trees, which take longer to produce than others. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Another reason? Less Christmas tree farmers. She said there are Christmas tree farmers retiring, resulting in a loss of "acreages" of Christmas tree farms.

And then, there's climate change, which between extreme heat and flooding has caused issues with tree growing.

"We certainly wish we could accommodate everyone," she said, "and we just can't because we can't plant them fast enough." 

The Three Sisters tree farm in Whitehorse, Yukon. (Submitted by Matthew King)

In the Yukon, this problem may be less worrisome. Each Yukon household is allowed to cut down a Christmas tree each year, no permit required — as long as it's in a designated area and people follow certain rules.

For example, Christmas trees can be cut on vacant Yukon public land outside of municipal boundaries, or within designated areas within the Whitehorse city limits. However, tree cutting is not permitted on private land, First Nations settlement land, agricultural land, nor on land with leases and power line right-of-ways.

People cannot drive beyond gated areas, but they can walk beyond gated areas to search for a Christmas tree. As well, snowmobile and ATV access restrictions should be followed. If a tree looks too big to manage, or if it has signs of wildlife on it, leave the tree be.

While not everybody has the means to cut down a tree, people who CBC spoke with outside the Canadian Tire in Whitehorse this week said their traditions don't involve buying a pre-cut tree anyway.

And for some, cutting their own tree is already something of a tradition.

Allison Anderson and her family have been cutting their own Christmas tree since they moved to Whitehorse over six years ago.

"We find it a lot of fun. It's a good family outing," Anderson said. "We get the kids and we all go out in the woods and we find the tree that we think is perfect for the house and then we cut it down and take it home."

Living in the "land of trees," Anderson said it makes for an authentic experience.

"That's what we always do. And we always make sure that we're in a place that we're allowed to be," she said.

Similarly, Lynette Aschbacher, from Tagish, also has been cutting down a tree with her family. They take some sleds up Tower Road, she said.

There's a nation-wide shortage of Christmas trees. But in the Yukon, where trees are aplenty, there are alternatives to buying one. These trees are part of the Three Sisters tree farm in Whitehorse, Yukon. (Submitted by Matthew King)

"It's normally quite the adventure because it's very uphill," she said. "Sometimes it's a struggle to get up. And we always sled down, me and my brother do ... that part is very much an adventure result in a lot of bruises, but it's fun."

Some shoppers said instead of the hassle of a real tree, they've been opting for a reusable one. That's the case for Maxwell McEachern.

Meanwhile, Scott McDougall said when his kids were little, the family used to go out with a skidoo or with snowshoes to find a tree.

Then, they would chop it down, and "haul it down the mountain" so they could set it up in the house. In the last decade or so, he said they've been putting up an artificial tree they bought.

He said they stopped cutting down trees for a few reasons, one being that he thought it better to let the tree continue to grow rather than chopping it down to fulfil a short lived annual holiday.

It's also more convenient to put up the artificial one, he said — no need to saw away at a trunk, nor worry about watering it regularly once it was set up at home.

Then there's the disposal of the live trees.

"You know there's still some tinsel on it," he said. "It kind of felt like you're putting garbage into the environment."

Those who do cut down their own trees are encouraged to recycle them afterwards. In Whitehorse, the city has a schedule for Christmas tree collection dates.

With files from Sissi De Flaviis

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