Community forest: Smoke and mirrors?

To the Editor,

In early November, the Wells Gray Community Forest announced its prescribed burning relating to cut blocks totaling 85 hectares, nearly one square kilometer. The announcement also said “project implementation will be evaluated” and would proceed only if conditions are suitable.

For over a month now, residents of the valley have been breathing smoke, including particulate matter and harmful gasses generated by the incomplete combustion of wood waste.

The atmospheric conditions in and around Clearwater are very rarely, if ever, suitable for open burning, especially low-elevation burning. Even a cursory inspection of the government website reveals this fact. The nature of local geography and atmospheric physics means that inversion layers are formed every single day. These create a ceiling through which smoke never penetrates. One day after the next, the smoke accumulates in the valley and seeps into every corner through the physical processes of diffusion and Brownian Motion. There’s no getting away from it.

Oblivious to the plight of those with compromised lung conditions, like asthma, or the fact that fall is “flu season,” and that it’s also “COVID season,” this prescribed burning happened. It even snowed shortly after the announcement was made. This extended the time for which the house-sized burn piles smoldered. Then, incomplete combustion resulted in even more toxic products. This could have been avoided by looking at weather predictions. Even under good combustion conditions, wood smoke has been identified, in study after study, as being very harmful to human health.

I’m at a loss to even guess at what the Community Forest evaluated before going ahead with its burn plan.

Slash burning is last in a series of harmful and reckless forest practices that have become so normal that they are rarely questioned. Instead of harvesting selected trees, cut blocks are completely denuded through clear-cut logging. This compromises water retention, it increases the absorption of solar energy which heats up and dries out the land. It also creates local convection currents that dry out the surrounding forest. Clear cuts increase the risk of wildfires, they do not reduce it.

Much of the material burned in slash piles is comprised of broadleaf species, like birch and aspen. These trees would be better left standing for their ecological services, in particular, water retention, shading and for proven fire breaks. The remains of these trees do not belong in our lungs.

B.C.’s forests could help store carbon that would slow climate change. However, these mismanaged forests now increase atmospheric carbon instead of helping to absorb it, as they once did. Slash burning contributes about 15 per cent of all of B.C.’s carbon emissions. If community health doesn’t enter WGCF’s planning and operation, I seriously doubt that climate change does, either.

It’s obvious that the Community Forest needs to re-evaluate more than its burning practices. Generating funds, from ecologically and socially reckless activity does not relieve the WGCF of its inherent responsibilities. All it does is to buy social approval for destructive activity on the public land base. It’s time to put community into the Community Forest.

Dave Simms

Clearwater, B.C.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

(Kamloops This Week file photo)
Probe into TNRD spending taken over by federal police unit

Financial Integrity Sensitive Investigations Unit is now reviewing the case

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Stolen truck found broken down on Highway 97C, Williams Lake suspect arrested near Ashcroft

A security guard first noticed the truck, and thought it looked suspicious

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Most Read