In case you missed it, there was an interesting interview with Robert Gray, co-author of the 2004 Filmon Report, about the increasing danger of destructive wildfires in this province.
The interview was on CBC Radio’s Daybreak morning show from Kelowna last Thursday.
In the interview, Gray predicted we will have more wildfires and that they will be more destructive and more difficult to put out.
Funding for forest fuel management programs, such as the one carried out around Clearwater and Vavenby over the past two years is to end this year.
The programs are expensive, but Gray pointed out that last year the province spent $350 million on fighting wildfires. It is far cheaper to spend money preventing extreme wildfire events by reducing forest fuels than trying to control those events once they occur, he felt.
Gray said that the best long-term solution would be one that is self-sustaining, or at least close to that state. He seemed to think this would require some form of forest tenure reform.
Most forests near B.C. communities have been logged several times, he pointed out. That means there often isn’t a lot of timber value and the large forest licensees therefore do not put a high priority on logging there.
The forest ecologist said ways should be found to encourage or require the licensees to make more use of wood from the interface area around communities.
Alternatively, the tenure should be changed to forms that would make better use of the wood supply (community forests and woodlots come to mind).
Gray gave as an example a small town in Montana that uses biomass from the nearby forest to heat its schools, saving over $100,000 per year in fuel bills.
Those of us who lived through the wildfires of 2003 and saw the effects they had on the North Thompson Valley will never again take the safety of our forests for granted.
The community of Louis Creek was gone within a few hours and Barriere very nearly went with it. The people of Little Fort were evacuated and then allowed to return home several times. The whole valley was isolated for several days and without power for weeks.
District of Clearwater is starting work on a new wildfire protection plan. We should try to ensure that it is far-reaching enough to meet the most extreme events of today, and flexible enough to deal with new situations and opportunities as they arise. The district also should work with other municipalities in B.C. to bring about the sort of tenure reforms Gray suggested come about.