About five years ago District of Clearwater carried out several forest fuel reduction projects in and around Clearwater and Vavenby. More than $2.3 million obtained from Union of BC Municipalities was spent.
However, nothing has been done since then to maintain the areas treated, much less treat critical areas (including private land) that were missed.
Recently, the provincial government announced $85 million for wildfire risk reduction and another $12 million for forest fertilization, site surveys and site preparation.
“I am pleased that the government continues to invest in our forest land base, which is so important to our valley,” commented Clearwater town councillor Barry Banford.
“I hope that funding aimed at fireproofing communities will now allow private landowners to access funding to address fire risks on their property. This would allow some areas around our community to be treated and reduce the risks from wildfires,” he said.
Before he retired, Banford was operations manager at Clearwater Forest District.
The town councillor noted that Clearwater has been very successful in conducting fuel management activities to fireproof our community in the past.
However, the current funding for fuel management activities does not allow for follow up surveys and maintenance of treated stands.
“Hopefully, the increased funding will allow for this so that initial investments will not be lost over time,” he said.
Banford added that, to date, funding for stand rehabilitation has been targeting stands damaged by mountain pine beetle.
“I hope the new programs will increase the stands that qualify for this funding,” he said. “This would allow the rehabilitation of thousands of hectares for decadent cedar/hemlock stands, which would increase longterm harvest levels and reduce wildfire risks.”
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson provided details of the new Forest Enhancement Society of BC in his keynote speech during the Association of BC Forest Professionals annual general meeting held recently.
The new wildfire money will be distributed by the new Forest Enhancement Society of BC while the enhanced silviculture funds will mostly go through Forests for Tomorrow.
Thomson said that the new society will concentrate on the following:
• Wildfire risk reduction: Fuel management activities such as thinning, pruning and removing woody debris from forests, especially those impacted by the mountain pine beetle infestation, to reduce wildfire risks in key areas. The recently updated Provincial Strategic Threat Analysis will provide guidance for potential treatments.
• Forest rehabilitation: Clearing stands damaged by wildfire, or at high risk from wildfire, and reforesting them.
• Wildlife habitat restoration: Designing fuel management and forest rehabilitation activities to promote desired wildlife habitat characteristics.
• FireSmart program: Raising awareness among local governments and rural property owners about steps they can take to protect their homes from wildfire.
Forest fuel reduction projects carried out in and near Clearwater and Vavenby about five years ago were done under the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative. The program, which is administered by the Union of BC Municipalities, focuses on reducing the wildfire risk in the two-kilometre wildland-urban interface surrounding communities.
With its latest $10-million commitment, government has provided $78 million to this initiative since 2004.
The Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. will complement the efforts of the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative by supporting critical wildfire prevention work outside of interface areas and providing a landscape-level approach to wildfire risk reduction.
Local forest products businesses will have opportunities to purchase the timber, roadside debris and other forest fibre resulting from these activities, at market prices. This will, in turn, support rural employment.
The work of the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. will help meet the goal of a sustainable and reliable timber supply under the Forest Sector Competitiveness Strategy and aligns with the ministry’s other programs designed to enhance B.C.’s forests, most notably Forests for Tomorrow, Land Based Investment Strategy and integrated silviculture strategies.
As part of Budget 2016, the ministry’s Land Based Investment Strategy will see an increase of $12 million for 2016-17. Most of the increase will go toward Forests for Tomorrow, translating into increased fertilization of 8,000 to 20,000 hectares and providing for additional surveys and site preparation to plant 28 million seedlings annually by 2019-20.