A Community Forest Reduces Wildfire Risk, Increases Employment

-A local project to protect communities led by locals-

Creston, B.C. – When the heat of summer hits, the focus of many people turns to the forests and the potential threat of wildfire to communities, important infrastructure, and transportation corridors.  Taking proactive steps to mitigate the risk of wildfire can help better protect communities and bring a higher level of comfort to many, which is exactly what the Creston Community Forest (CCF) has done.

With a grant of $670,000 from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), the CCF was able to target an area on Arrow Mountain, three kilometres north of Creston B.C., to reduce the risk of wildfire to the neighbouring communities of Creston and Wynndel. The project site at Arrow Mountain, also known to locals as Goat Mountain, is popular for hiking, off roading, and hunting, and accessed by a Forest Service Road.

“We were very thoughtful in our planning and in the treatment of the area,” noted Daniel Gratton, Forest Manager of the CCF. “We opened the forested area up by taking out some of the unhealthy trees and we left a good number of trees behind. Then we had a crew come in and do the cleanup work of gathering up some of the small bushes and shrubs – called the understory – to be piled and burned.”

The project treated over 120 hectares on Arrow Mountain. Approximately 10,400 cubic metres was harvested from all seven blocks and mistletoe, infected larch, and unhealthy Douglas-fir were removed. The resulting state of the forest is now more like what would have existed when wildfires frequented the area prior to the introduction of the fire suppression programs in the early 1900s. 

Forest Manager, Daniel Gratton in completed treatment area. Photo Credit: Creston Community Forest

“A lot of people don’t know it, but wildfires used to go through the Creston Valley and through the forests every 30 to 40 years,” said Gratton. “Many of the forests we see in our area today are not what they would have been 200 years ago because we’ve removed the occurrence of wildfires. What we are trying to do now is mimic what a wildfire would do; clean up the understory, take out some of the ladder fuels, and restore the ecology of the area.”

Since completion of this project, the community forest has now identified several other blocks that need this mitigation work.

“The Creston Community Forest has taken on a leadership role in their community, taking action, reducing the risk of wildfire to the community, and doing good forest management at the same time,” said Gord Pratt, RPF, FESBC Senior Manager. “They are finding the balance between forest management and wildfire risk reduction activities to meet the many needs of the public in the area.”

The project also saw outstanding economic benefits to the community extending beyond wildfire protection and created a steady source of income for many locals.

“The funding from FESBC helped provide employment to at least 15 locals who were involved in the development and planning phase, and the implementation to facilitate the piling, chipping, slashing, and burning,” said Gratton.

Jim Macaulay of Macaulay Forestry Ltd. has worked in the Creston area for 27 years and was thrilled with the opportunity the project brought to his company.

“It is very good working with local licensees to be able to complete this type of work. It’s beneficial to the surrounding community as we are trying to minimize the impact if we were to have a wildfire, so it won’t be so severe,” said Macaulay, adding, “We have nine employees on the payroll right now and the project supplied us with nine to 10 months of full-time employment.”

Macaulay’s crew was involved in completing the slashing, piling, and burning on the majority of the project site and they even assisted the BC Wildfire Service, the Creston Fire Department, and the community forest on two broadcast burns, which are controlled burns that take place under specific conditions.

“We all worked very well together,” said Macaulay. “The project got different parties working together and it was fantastic!”

Another contractor working on the project was Lance Huscroft of Northspar Holdings Ltd, who also echoed the sentiments shared by Macaulay.

“It has been very enjoyable working so close to home on these projects with the community forest,” said Huscroft, who has been logging in the area for 28 years. “We’ve all appreciated being able to work so close to our homes to be close to our families, to get to town quickly for parts, and then back to the job site should something break-down. In the process, we supported local businesses for our service/parts needs and hired a local mechanic and trucking contractor. The majority of the timber was also shipped to the J.H. Huscroft sawmill in Creston.”

Summer Student, Erich Endersby standing on fully treated area.
Photo Credit: D. Gratton

For Gratton, the success of this project is defined by the areas treated and the employment of locals.

“It was extremely important to have received funding from FESBC,” concluded Gratton. “We wouldn’t have done this amount of work and in such a short period of time without it. Quite honestly, it is something that was very important to us, but economically, I don’t think we would have been able to carry out this work in these areas, so we are grateful.”

For an interview with FESBC contact: 

Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison | communications@fesbc.ca | 250.574.0221 

FESBC would like to gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests.

Boundary’s Wildfire Risk Reduction Project a Model of Collaboration

Greenwood, B.C. – After receiving a grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), West Boundary Community Forest (WBCF) led a project to create a fuel-treated area near a popular Boundary recreational area adjacent to Jewel Lake, while also adding recreational value to the community. The project, which was undertaken in an area 20 minutes north of Greenwood, moved forward thanks to a $254,100 grant from FESBC on a 32-hectare area. The project has just wrapped up and has brought to the forefront what successful collaborative efforts can look like in B.C.’s forests. 

Example of completed wildfire risk reduction treatment in the Jewel Lake area.
Pictured are members of the community touring the prescription with RPFs from WBCF. 

“A lot of collaboration from many partners were a hallmark of this project,” said Dan Macmaster, RPF, Forest Manager of the WBCF. “The local residents were involved in the initial planning and the cleanup we are finishing up now. We had great support of BC Parks, Vaagen Fibre Canada (Vaagen), and the Osoyoos Indian Band showing what can be achieved when we work together.” 

Jewel Lake Environmental Protection Society, a local society led by residents of Jewel Lake, supported the WBCF’s vision for the project, recognizing that the Community Forest’s objective was to care for the forest and protect important infrastructure, like homes, recreational trails, and camping sites. 

“Dan, together with the forest professionals at Vaagen, involved the local residents of Jewel Lake in the development of their plans right from the start. They listened to our concerns, implemented many of our ideas, and led field trips when requested,” noted Jewel Lake resident, Randy Trerise. “The partial cutting treatment has reduced the fuel load in the forest, and we expect the treatment will improve the safety of our homes should a wildfire take place in the future.”

The Osoyoos Indian Band provided post-harvest treatment work, which included contributing to parts of the mechanical and manual treatment activities.

“Vaagen and the West Boundary Community Forest involved our Band in all aspects of planning and mitigation work. Our forestry team assisted with the manual treatments needed to ensure the area was protected in the future from a major wildfire,” noted Vern Louie, Forest Manager, Osoyoos Indian Band.

The Band was also involved in the initial work and design of the project itself. 

“It was a very strong effort by the West Boundary Community Forest, to meet the goal to reduce the wildfire risk to the community while collaborating and addressing recreational and other aesthetic values in the forest,” noted Gord Pratt, RPF, FESBC Senior Manager. “From the start, it was all about collaboration and they showed openness and great leadership in realizing the important outcomes of the project.”

For the project itself, fuel mitigation was the key objective. Over the years, the area had seen major accumulation of blowdown and dead standing trees, increasing the risk of a wildfire spreading rapidly through the area. 

“This is in an area that is on the Southern tip of our province and it’s an area of hot dry weather,” said Pratt. “The forest type in the area is very susceptible to wildfire and this project has decreased the likelihood of a devastating impact from a wildfire to the community surrounding Jewel Lake. 

Another major challenge for the area was the fuel accumulation around a single access road for residents and visitors in and out of the area. 

“Because of the ‘one road in, one road out’ predicament, our focus was to prioritize the reduction of wildfire risk immediately closest to the houses and the road,” said Macmaster. “By doing this work, we can buy more time for residents to get out and firefighters to come in if there is a fire. None of this would have been possible without the funding from FESBC.”

The area was also enhanced and made safer for visitors who frequent the area for camping, fishing, hiking, etc. 

“In that entire area, there are all kinds of recreational trails the public cares strongly about. So, we are not only maintaining, but improving that recreational infrastructure with new trails, new signage, and interpretive signs to teach people about the local plants, trees, and wildlife,” added Macmaster. 

In total, the community forest was able to remove 40 loads of small-diameter logs and pulp, which would have otherwise been burned, but instead was sold to local mills. The project also relied heavily on the local workforce with approximately 20 people involved through all stages, a boost to the local economy. And while the initially funded project’s objectives have been met, the WBCF will now continue maintaining the area.

“Just the sheer volume of fuel that had accumulated in the area, was why we needed FESBC to be involved, as we needed the financial support to help us clean up the area,” noted Macmaster. “We are proud that, moving forward, we will continue adding on to the work we were able to do with the FESBC funding.”

For an interview with FESBC contact: Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison | communications@fesbc.ca | 250.574.0221 

For an interview West Boundary Community Forest contact: Dan Macmaster, Forest Manager | dmacmaster@vaagen.ca | 250.528.0344

About FESBC: the purposes of FESBC are to advance environmental and resource stewardship of B.C.’s forests by: preventing and mitigating the impact of wildfires; improving damaged or low-value forests; improving habitat for wildlife; supporting the use of fibre from damaged and low-value forests; and treating forests to improve the management of greenhouse gases. As of March 2021, FESBC has supported 269 projects valued at $238 million, in partnership with the governments of B.C. and Canada.

FESBC would like to gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests.

Province provides update on wildfire season, latest seasonal outlook

Minister Katrine Conroy hosts the BC wildfire outlook and preparedness update

British Columbians can expect a transition to warmer and dryer conditions in July, signalling an increase in overall wildfire risk and fire danger ratings as the season progresses.

As shown in the BC Wildfire Service’s latest seasonal outlook, current wildfire activity is minimal and concentrated in the northern half of the province, where recent rainfall has been minimal. Cool and wet conditions through June in the southern half of the province have tempered overall fire activity.

Watch the BC wildfire outlook and preparedness update with Minister Katrine Conroy

To help protect British Columbians from wildfires, applications are open for $25 million for community projects that reduce the risk of wildfires. The Province is providing the funding to the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC).

“Last year, we saw just how devastating fire season can be to communities and how critical it is to invest in wildfire prevention,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “Cultural and prescribed burning and forest thinning are proven approaches to reduce wildfire risks. I recently visited Williams Lake and saw firsthand how the Forest Enhancement Society of BC is working with its partners to deliver projects like these and help build more resilient communities.”

The Province’s investment in FESBC supports community projects that reduce wildfire risk and enhance wildlife habitat, greenhouse gas reduction, forest recreation and ecological resiliency.

Projects include:

  • harvesting and removing beetle- or fire-damaged trees to reduce wildfire risk and rehabilitate the land base;
  • thinning trees, removing underbrush, pruning trees and other fuel management techniques; and
  • the creation of emergency wildfire escape routes for communities.

FESBC has supported 263 projects throughout B.C., and 43 of these projects have been in partnership with First Nations. These projects have reduced wildfire risk in 120 communities and have created approximately 2,200 jobs.

“Working with local communities to reduce their wildfire risks makes a lot of sense, because they know how to manage their forests to achieve numerous co-benefits to create win-win projects,” said Steve Kozuki, executive director, FESBC. “They are not only protecting their communities, but at the same time with the same funding, they also enhance wildlife habitat, create recreation opportunities, increase ecological resiliency of forests, use the biomass to make green energy, and more.”

The $25 million provided to FESBC is a component of $359 million announced in Budget 2022 to protect British Columbians from wildfires, including $145 million to strengthen the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC.

This is the largest investment in the history of the wildfire service and is helping to transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service, shifting from its reactive mode to a more proactive approach. It will enable the BC Wildfire Service to focus on all four pillars of wildfire management: prevention and mitigation; preparedness; response; and recovery.

Quick Facts:

  • FESBC is a Crown agency established in 2016 to advance the environmental and resource stewardship of the province’s forests by:
    • preventing wildfires and mitigating wildfire impacts;
    • improving damaged or low-value forests;
    • improving wildlife habitat;
    • supporting the use of fibre from damaged or low-value forests; and
    • treating forests to improve the management of greenhouse gases.

Learn More:

Read more about the July Wildfire Seasonal Outlook: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/wildfire-situation/fire-weather  

BC Wildfire Service mobile app:

Apple (iOS), download directly from the App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/bc-wildfire-service/id1477675008?ls=1

Android, download directly from the Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.bc.gov.WildfireInformation&hl=en

Read more about the FireSmart program and the seven FireSmart disciplines at: https://firesmartbc.ca/

Forest Enhancement Society of BC: https://www.fesbc.ca/

Lower Nicola Indian Band Creating Community Safety through Partnerships

MERRITT, B.C.— With the support of close to $250,000 in funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), the Lower Nicola Indian Band (LNIB) removed dangerous trees and reduced wildfire risk in two areas close to the city of Merritt, BC.

The two locations border the edge of both Merritt and the Lower Nicola Indian Band Reserve Lands. Lindley Creek is located south of the Nicola River, south of Lower Nicola; and Fox Farm is located on the north side of the Coquihalla highway just east of Merritt on Fox Farm Road.

Crews from Shulus Forest Enterprises Inc., a company owned 100 per cent by the LNIB, did all the manual treatments of these sites including tree pruning, spacing, falling, bucking, piling, and burning, covering about 20 hectares at Lindley Creek and 11 hectares at Fox Farm.

Bruce Morrow, RPF, Bruce Morrow Forest Consulting Ltd., who submitted the application for funding to FESBC on behalf of LNIB, noted that the project was important because forest fuel treatments will make the area safer for wildfire suppression crews accessing the area in the event of a wildfire.

“Spacing of trees to reduce crown closure, pruning to remove ladder fuels to reduce the risk of crown fires, and reducing the amount and continuity of ground fuels will all contribute to reducing wildfire risk, and allow wildfire crews to respond faster,” said Morrow.

The Fox Farm community is located halfway up a steep hillside. The forested area below has been subject to wildfire suppression for over 60 years, resulting in a significant accumulation of dead and downed fuels.

“About 40 per cent of the trees were dead standing or lying on the ground ready to burn, creating a high fire hazard for a one-way in, one-way out community,” said Morrow. “We created a situation where hopefully a fire in the area will now move along the ground instead of through the crown. This will make it easier to fight and reduce the risk of structure loss from ember spotting onto the nearby houses from a crown fire.” 

Don Gossoo, General Manager, Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation (LNIBDC) said the crews employed an average of six people from the community who are trained in the use of hand tools for this type of forestry work.

“The work at the Fox Farm area was done downslope of several large properties adjacent to the Coquihalla Hwy. where someone could toss out a lit cigarette etc. The residents there were happy to see the work done,” said Gossoo.

“Lindley Creek is a corridor from the forest down to the valley where there are more houses,” noted Morrow. “The local winds and topography create a funnel in the Lindley Creek drainage, which can push wildfires downslope toward the homes at the bottom of the treatment area.”

Similar work being done in the area on reserve land and adjacent Crown land is being funded through the Community Resiliency Investment Program and the Cascades Resource District. Morrow noted the project is a great example of collaboration and cooperation in recognizing an issue and working together to protect the community.

“We are leaving behind a much happier forest ecosystem. Dry belt trees compete for moisture and nutrients and the trees there were competing for these and weakening each other. The trees left behind are healthier and more resilient to drought, pests, and weather because there’s less competition.”

Gossoo described it as taking a stagnant coniferous jungle and turning it into parkland, adding nutrients, sunlight, and moisture to the stand.

“This type of project provides socioeconomic benefits to the community through employment opportunities, and an environmental benefit in improving overall forest health.”

Stu Jackson, Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band said projects like this one have multiple benefits to the community.

“They provide employment opportunities, improve safety, and help support healthy forests. We look forward to more partnership opportunities like this which enhance communities overall.”

Gord Pratt, FESBC Operations Manager, highlighted the importance of completing this work in support of addressing high-risk areas identified by Merritt’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan and the BC Wildfire Service.

“This is a multi-benefit proposal to the community, the forest, and the area as a whole,” said Pratt. “This project aligns with FESBC purposes, provides employment, and is exactly what we want to support in terms of rural communities working to implement wildfire risk reduction projects.”

The project also had the full support of the local Resource District and BC Wildfire Service. FESBC would like to gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests.

For an interview with FESBC contact: 

Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison | communications@fesbc.ca| 250.574.0221

For an interview with the Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation contact:  Don Gossoo, General Manager | don.gossoo@lnibdc.com | 250.315.9277

FESBC Awarded $25 Million in Funding to Help Protect Communities from Wildfire Risk

British Columbia: With $25 million in new funding from the provincial government, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) is launching its FESBC 2022-2023 Funding Program today. FESBC will be accepting applications to fund projects that will assist the Province of British Columbia in reducing wildfire risk and increasing community resiliency to wildfire across B.C.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is a proven partner in delivering projects on the ground that protect people from wildfire risks and reduce emissions from slash pile burning,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “Along with the historic investments in Budget 2022 to transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service and double funding for proactive wildfire prevention, this new funding for FESBC will help build communities that are safer and more resilient to climate change.”

Steve Kozuki, RPF, FESBC Executive Director, explained what this funding would mean for the work undertaken by FESBC to reduce wildfire risk throughout the province, and said that it was encouraging to see more people realizing the benefits of protecting communities from wildfire risk.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is thrilled with the funding announcement, and we are looking forward to seeing applications for projects focused on reducing wildfire risk throughout the province,” said Kozuki. 

FESBC has previously helped to reduce wildfire risk in 120 communities across the province. 

Many of these projects have also gone above and beyond the primary objective of reducing wildfire risk and have identified additional outcomes that have proven beneficial to communities.

“Our favourite wildfire risk reduction projects not only reduce the risk of wildfire but also improve wildlife habitat, create recreation trails, increase the health of the forest so they are more resilient to climate change, and use the left-over biomass or wood waste to make green energy,” noted Kozuki. “Achieving multiple objectives is good forest management and good value for money.”

When it comes to wildfire risk reduction work, typically, communities will start by creating a wildfire risk reduction plan. The plan identifies infrastructure and priorities that need to be protected such as homes, buildings, water, power, communications towers, safe gathering places, escape routes, etc. Next, areas of risk are identified; oftentimes, these can be thicker or more dense forests near communities that might throw embers into the air if the forest catches on fire during a drought. 

Then, after consulting with the citizens and considering other values such as wildlife habitat, recreational amenities, visual aesthetics, climate change, and so on, treatment prescriptions are written by forest professionals. FESBC funds all of these project activities from start to finish.

“In our five-year history, we have helped Indigenous communities, municipalities, regional districts, woodlots, and community forests take action to protect their communities from wildfire,” said Kozuki. 

This year, successful applicants will receive funding to undertake activities that fall under at least one of the three criteria: 

  • Wildfire Risk Reduction planning and treatment prescription development
  • Wildfire Risk Reduction treatments
  • Recovery and utilization of low-value residual fibre resulting from wildfire risk reduction treatments funded by FESBC

Gord Pratt, RPF, FESBC Senior Manager said, “The primary purpose of our work is to assist the Province in reducing the wildfire risks to the people of B.C.”

A document with details on the application process, eligibility criteria and a step-by-step guide on next steps is available on the FESBC website, titled FESBC 2022-23 Funding Program Guide.

FESBC will host a virtual information session that will guide proponents on the criteria FESBC wants to see in the applications, as well as on the steps that need to be taken to put together an application through the online portal. 

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC wants all good projects to succeed, and the information session will help people get the information they need to enable them to submit excellent proposals for our consideration,” said Pratt. “The information session is there to help them be successful.”

For those who cannot attend the information session, a recording will be available to view on FESBC’s website the following day or by contacting FESBC Communications Liaison, Aleece Laird, at communications@fesbc.ca 

FESBC 2022 – 2023 Funding Program Information Session

When: June 28, 2022 at 2 p.m. (Pacific Time) 

Where: Online, via Zoom

To register for the information session, please visit: bit.ly/FESBCFunding 

Applications will be accepted through the Forest Enhancement Society Information Management System (FESIMS) starting on June 20, 2022. The on-line FESIMS portal will remain open for applications until all the funds have been allocated. Proposal evaluations will begin July 11, 2022. Funding applications will be required to clearly demonstrate that all activities under the proposal will be fully completed and invoiced by March 15, 2024. Interested proponents are encouraged to visit www.fesbc.ca and to click the Applying for Funding tab for details on how to apply through the FESIMS system.

FESBC would like to gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests.

For an interview with FESBC contact: Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison | communications@fesbc.ca | 250.574.0221 

About FESBC: the purposes of FESBC are to advance environmental and resource stewardship of B.C.’s forests by: preventing and mitigating the impact of wildfires; improving damaged or low-value forests; improving habitat for wildlife; supporting the use of fibre from damaged and low-value forests; and treating forests to improve the management of greenhouse gases. As of March 2021, FESBC has supported 269 projects valued at $238 million, in partnership with governments of B.C. and Canada.

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Province provides funding to reduce community wildfire risks, enhance forest health

To reduce wildfires in higher-risk communities, the B.C. government is providing $25 million in new funding to the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC).

This investment will support community projects that reduce wildfire risk and enhance wildlife habitat, greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, forest recreation and ecological resiliency. Applications for this funding will open on Monday, June 20, 2022.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is a proven partner in delivering projects on the ground that protect people from wildfire risks and reduce emissions from slash pile burning,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “Along with the historic investments in Budget 2022 to transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service and double funding for proactive wildfire prevention, this new funding for FESBC will help build communities that are safer and more resilient to climate change.”

FESBC has supported 263 projects throughout B.C., and 43 of these projects have been in partnership with First Nations. These projects have reduced wildfire risk in 120 communities and have created about 2,200 full-time-equivalent jobs, among other outcomes.

“Our government is working together with First Nations and local communities to reduce the risk of wildfires so we’re better prepared for climate change,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “This investment is an important part of our upcoming Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy to support more resilient communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide job opportunities for people. By increasing actions, such as cultural and prescribed burning, we’re using powerful tools that can help reduce wildfire risk and improve ecosystem health.”

Since 2017, FESBC has funded the use of 4.8 million cubic metres of wood fibre that otherwise would have been burned in slash piles or abandoned. The combined GHG benefits of FESBC fibre use, tree planting and fertilization projects is 5.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent sequestered or avoided, which has the same GHG benefit as taking 1.1 million cars off the road for a year.

“Many Indigenous communities, municipalities, regional districts, woodlots and community forests have taken action in the last few years to protect their communities from wildfire,” said Steve Kozuki, executive director, FESBC. “They reduced the risk of extreme wildfire near buildings, communications infrastructure, water supply, power, safe place, and emergency escape routes. This funding will enable more communities to do this important work.”

As part of the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030, the Province will work toward near elimination of slash-pile burning by 2030 and will increasingly divert materials away from slash piles and into bioproduct development. This will reduce air pollution and GHG emissions, while creating new economic opportunities.

The $25 million provided to FESBC is a component of $359 million announced in Budget 2022 to protect British Columbians from wildfires, including $145 million to strengthen the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC. This is the largest investment in the history of the wildfire service and is helping to transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service, shifting from its reactive mode to a more proactive approach. This will enable the BC Wildfire Service to focus on all four pillars of wildfire management: prevention and mitigation; preparedness; response; and recovery.

Learn More: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022FOR0038-000957