Executive Director’s Newsletter September 2023

We have developed this monthly newsletter to curate the good news stories we share throughout the province featuring FESBC-funded projects which are generating excellent economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Stories are shared in collaboration with our project partners to highlight the exceptional work happening in our forests to reduce wildfire riskenhance wildlife habitattake action on climate change, and more.

Read this month’s Executive Director’s Newsletter.

Subscribe to receive the latest newsletter in your inbox every month!

Find out more about the FESBC 2022 Accomplishments Report through this video.

Reducing Wildfire Risk to Communities in Northwestern B.C.

Smithers, B.C. – Situated in the heart of the Bulkley Valley and surrounded by the Town of Smithers, the Village of Telkwa, and the Village of Witset, the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation (WCFC) has taken on two key roles: as a steward of the land and as a provider of outdoor recreational opportunities for surrounding communities. This significance is underscored by the recent allocation of funds from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) toward a wildfire risk reduction project. With the funding, the WCFC aims to expand a crucial shaded fuel break (where some trees are removed to reduce fuel and some are left standing to create shade) along the Hudson Bay Mountain Road (which is used to access recreational areas). This treatment is a proactive measure against the ever-present risk of wildfire. The project also showcases the community forest’s commitment to integrating the management of natural spaces with the safety and enjoyment of the local residents in mind.

“B.C. has experienced a devastating wildfire season, and given the effects of climate change, mitigating wildfire risk is vital for keeping people, communities and First Nations in B.C. safe – now more than ever,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “FESBC has undertaken many wildfire risk reduction projects, bringing concrete benefits in areas throughout the province. It is encouraging to see this effort continue in the Bulkley Valley in partnership with the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation.”

For the past several years, WCFC has diligently focused on reducing the wildfire risk within the community forest, and a shaded fuel break supports this goal. Although there are unknowns when it comes to fire behaviour and severity (drought, temperature, wind, etc.), a shaded fuel break is expected to balance forestry and social values by reducing wildfire risk to the community and creating a defensible location for wildfire crews in the event of a major wildfire.

Hudson Bay Mountain Road is an essential transportation corridor for Bulkley Valley residents, connecting them to recreational skiing, snowboarding, hunting, and fishing spots. The road is also a gateway to Hudson Bay Mountain Resort and Bulkley Valley Nordic Centre. The area’s significance extends beyond its role in recreation as this area also supports diverse ecosystems, including grizzly bears and rare whitebark pine, and is an iconic location in the Bulkley Valley and Wetzin’kwa Community Forest. The shaded fuel break is expected to help mitigate risk to these key community resources as well as provide access for fire crews and safe egress (escape) routes for the public.  

Hudson Bay Mountain an iconic feature in the Bulkley Valley and the heart of the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest; Photo credit: Silvicon Services Inc.

Aurora Lavender, general manager of WCFC said, “We are very grateful to FESBC for providing funding for the creation of our 2018 Strategic Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Plan (SWHMP) and this new funding for the implementation of work we are doing to create the shaded fuel break on Hudson Bay Mountain Road.”

The work on the treatment areas is underway and will continue for the next several years. These areas planned for treatments with support from FESBC funding were identified as high-priority regions under the 2018 Strategic Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Plan (SWHMP), to conduct wildfire risk reduction work. These areas were targeted due to the hazardous stand types such as diseased and dead trees, and overcrowded trees in the area, the proximity to the Town of Smithers, and the protection of local assets and recreational spaces and business resources for the communities of Smithers, Telkwa, and Witset.

Village of Telkwa Mayor Leroy Dykens also expressed gratitude and said, “We are extremely grateful to the Forest Enhancement Society of BC for providing funding toward wildfire risk reduction planning and project implementation for the Hudson Bay Mountain Road project. This work is vital in helping better protect the forests, recreational areas, infrastructure, and the public. Given the tremendous increase in wildfires in the Northwest region, it is evident that we need to do whatever we can to help mitigate forest fire concerns.”

Execution of this project involves a combination of manual and mechanical treatments administered by local contractors, including a Wet’suwet’en contractor. The work includes the removal of dead trees and reducing the number of trees through a commercial thinning phase, followed by decreasing the ladder fuels (live and dead vegetation which would otherwise allow a fire to go from the ground to the tops of trees) to more manageable levels per the treatment plans. This isn’t a one-off wildfire risk reduction measure and the WCFC will be continuing to collaborate with the BC Wildfire Service for subsequent maintenance treatments to ensure sustained efficacy.

FESBC Senior Manager, Gord Pratt said, “FESBC is very excited to be able to provide the funding to assist the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation to reduce the wildfire risk to this very important area to the residents of the Bulkley Valley. Previously, as a longtime resident of Smithers and Telkwa, I am pleased that our organization is able to support this project to reduce the wildfire risk to the many forest and recreation values I personally know are so important to everyone who resides and plays here.”

Over the years, WCFC has actively championed social initiatives advocating for the adoption of wildfire risk reduction strategies and has worked closely with the Skeena-Stikine Natural Resource District and the local BC Wildfire Service staff to do so. WCFC’s development of the SWHMP was timely and crucial toward creating strategies for reducing wildfire risk to the surrounding communities.

As recommended in the SWHMP, WCFC purchased the Wetzin’kwa Fire Trailer in 2019. This year, a small fire broke out within the community forest boundary. The Power’s Creek Fire was 34 hectares in size, and several residential evacuations resulted due to the fire’s proximity to private properties. The Wetzin’kwa Fire Trailer was deployed to the fire and assisted the Smithers Volunteer Firefighters in defending private properties and infrastructure.

FESBC’s executive director, Steve Kozuki said, “Community forests in British Columbia are owned by the communities themselves. As such, they manage their forests with the best interests of people in mind. Local forests managed by local people result in prioritization of what’s important to them—wildfire risk reduction, wildlife habitat, green energy from forest biomass, jobs for workers, and so on. When they do make a profit, that money goes back into the community for the benefit of their citizens”.

WCFC’s commitment to reducing wildfire risk extends beyond the immediate project. The community forest will continue exploring avenues to curtail wildfire risk in other sections, particularly within the Wildland-Urban Interface, and is dedicated to supporting community resiliency and fostering public education specific to wildfires.

“WCFC continues to invest in community safety and hopes to foster public education by creating linkages between wildfire risk reduction and FireSmart practices,” said Lavender.

Additional Quotes:

LINDSAY LANGE (VILLAGE OF TELKWA WCFC DIRECTOR):

“The Hudson Bay Mountain Road Fuel Break was identified as an area in our planning requiring treatments outside the scope of our regular operations. Support from FESBC helps make wildfire risk reduction programs economically feasible for community forests, which in turn helps better protect communities from the threat of wildfires.”

“The Wetzin’kwa Community Forest is a well-loved and heavily-used area of the Bulkley Valley. Many different user groups take advantage of its cultural, ecological, recreational, community, and economic values. Everyone benefits from the Community Forest, so protecting these values is something the Village of Telkwa is proud to support.”

GARY HANSON (TOWN OF SMITHERS WCFC DIRECTOR):

“The 2023 wildfire between Telkwa and Smithers, in the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest, demonstrated that fire poses a significant risk to our communities. Mitigating that risk with projects such as the fuel break work on Hudson Bay Mountain Road, will definitely help to better protect our forests and communities from wildfire.”

DAVID DE WIT (Office of Wet’suwet’en representative on the WCFC Board):

“We are proud of the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest general management team at Silvicon, and their collaboration with the Forest Enhancement Society to mitigate wildfire risk for communities. Understanding community values is a part of Yintah (land) stewardship; however, when projects are actioned that protect and promote the eco-cultural, recreation and economic values, meaningful Yintah management is achieved.”

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

Kamloops This Week – 2023 National Forest Week Publication Features FESBC Projects

This year’s National Forest Week, from Sep 17 to 23, is all about celebrating and supporting the biological diversity we can find in Canada’s Forests.

Kamloops This Week featured several stories in their 2023 National Forest Week publication featuring FESBC projects to help celebrate National Forestry Week. These projects contribute to the creation of an environment that supports this year’s National Forest Week theme: Canada’s Forests: Supporting Biological Diversity.

The FESBC stories include:

 Taking Action to Reduce Wildfire Risk (Page 3)

Making a Difference for Communities, Climate (featuring FESBC’s Executive Director, Steve Kozuki on page 4)

Transformational Award-Winning Reading (Page 8)

Cougar Tracking, Part of Conservation Effort (Page 9)

Forest Enhancement Worth Tens of Millions (page 10)

Everyday Chores Make Everyday Heroes (page 11)

Steve Kozuki, Executive Director of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC announces 42 new forest enhancement projects throughout the province of B.C. to utilize uneconomic wood fibre and reduce the risk of wildfires to communities; Photo Credit: Tiffany Christianson Photography.

For more information, please contact:

Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison | 250 574 0221 | communications@fesbc.ca

Executive Director’s Newsletter August 2023

We have developed this monthly newsletter to curate the good news stories we share throughout the province featuring FESBC-funded projects which are generating excellent economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Stories are shared in collaboration with our project partners to highlight the exceptional work happening in our forests to reduce wildfire riskenhance wildlife habitattake action on climate change, and more.

Read this month’s Executive Director’s Newsletter.

Subscribe to receive the latest newsletter in your inbox every month!

Find out more about the FESBC 2022 Accomplishments Report through this video.

Executive Director’s Newsletter July 2023

We have developed this monthly newsletter to curate the good news stories we share throughout the province featuring FESBC-funded projects which are generating excellent economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Stories are shared in collaboration with our project partners to highlight the exceptional work happening in our forests to reduce wildfire riskenhance wildlife habitattake action on climate change, and more.

Read this month’s Executive Director’s Newsletter.

Subscribe to receive the latest newsletter in your inbox every month!

Find out more about the FESBC 2022 Accomplishments Report through this video.

Faces of Forestry: Garrett McLaughlin, RPF, MSc, Technical Advisor, Province of B.C.

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia (BC). This month, we feature Garrett McLaughlin, RPF, MSc, Technical Advisor, with the Province of British Columbia.

Garrett started his career in forestry almost 20 years ago when he took a summer job with the United States Forest Service in northern Pennsylvania. By the end of that summer, Garrett had found his path toward a career in forestry that has led him to working as a timber cruiser in California, a carbon offset project developer in the Great Bear Rain Forest, and as a carbon modeler and technical advisor with the province of BC.

“I have always been drawn to outdoor sports and activities, and I wanted a career where I could go outside and run around in the woods,” said Garrett. “Being a forest carbon advisor and modeler has combined my interests in computer science with my passion for forest ecosystems.”

Garrett has worked in connection with FESBC on research related to the costs and climate benefits of utilizing slash piles instead of burning them. Garrett developed a decision support tool to determine the lifecycle carbon impact associated with producing different types of products from residual fiber.

“It is important to try to get an estimate of the carbon impacts of avoided slash pile burning to better understand the potential climate benefits of improved fiber utilization,” said Garrett. “While there is always more to consider, having an idea of how much carbon is being stored or emitted to the atmosphere is an important piece of the puzzle to understanding how forest practices can impact and mitigate climate change.”

In his role as Technical Advisor with the Office of the Chief Forester, Garrett continues to work on research and policy related to promoting further utilization of harvest residuals in the province. He is also working with other forestry professionals and scientists to develop guidance for incorporating carbon mitigation strategies into forest management, as well as policy to set up and enable the development of carbon offset projects across BC.

Executive Director’s Newsletter June 2023

We have developed this monthly newsletter to curate the good news stories we share throughout the province featuring FESBC-funded projects which are generating excellent economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Stories are shared in collaboration with our project partners to highlight the exceptional work happening in our forests to reduce wildfire riskenhance wildlife habitattake action on climate change, and more.

Read this month’s Executive Director’s Newsletter.

Subscribe to receive the latest newsletter in your inbox every month!

Find out more about the FESBC 2022 Accomplishments Report through this video.

Faces of Forestry: Percy Guichon

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Percy Guichon, Executive Director of Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. (CCR) and elected Councillor of Tŝideldel First Nation.

From a young age, Percy enjoyed being an active member of his community and learning about forestry. After raising a family, Percy attended the College of New Caledonia in Prince George and received a Forest Technician Diploma. He was able to merge both of his passions to build a meaningful career that has brought new opportunities to his community.

“I first became interested in forestry when I participated in a work experience program in grade 12th. Also, I was involved in the creation and operations of Tsideldel Enterprises Ltd. These experiences motivated me to learn more about forestry academically. My education was sponsored by Tsideldel Education Trust Fund, an initiative developed by Tsideldel Enterprises Ltd,” said Percy.

Today, Percy is active on numerous boards, including the Eniyud Community Forests, Tsi Del Del Enterprises Ltd., Dandzen Development Corporation and Tl’etinqox Economic Development Corporation.

As the Executive Director of CCR and a Councillor of Tŝideldel First Nation, Percy has played a pivotal role in the company’s growth and success. Reflecting on the journey, Percy acknowledges the challenges faced and attributes the company’s achievements to perseverance, hard work, and the unwavering support of the community. His commitment to making a positive impact on the land and people is evident in CCR’s recognized leadership in the forestry industry.

CCR is a First Nation-owned company located in Williams Lake, B.C. The company is a joint venture between Tsideldel First Nation and Tl’etinqox Government, both Tsilhqotin Nation communities. CCR is set on coordinating and implementing large-scale forestry programs and forest rehabilitation activities within the traditional territories, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the land through traditional Indigenous practices.

“As an Indigenous business partnership, we are proud to represent the successes of Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs,” noted Percy. “Our success demonstrates that First Nations can take the lead in forest management and make significant contributions to the economy, while also being thoughtful stewards of the land.”

Through the continuation of CCR, over time, the local communities can boost economic growth and sustainability by investing in and training a skilled workforce, which results in the creation of new jobs.

“I’m proud to represent my community,” Percy said, adding, “It’s rewarding to collaborate with my community, other First Nation bands, industry leaders, and government; to create meaningful employment and build capacity in the forestry sector. Together, we can build stronger, healthier, and safer First Nation communities.”

Thank you, Percy, for paving the way and inspiring present and future generations to get involved in forestry.  

Executive Director’s Newsletter May 2023

We have developed this monthly newsletter to curate the good news stories we share throughout the province featuring FESBC-funded projects which are generating excellent economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Stories are shared in collaboration with our project partners to highlight the exceptional work happening in our forests to reduce wildfire riskenhance wildlife habitattake action on climate change, and more.

Read this month’s Executive Director’s Newsletter.

Subscribe to receive the latest newsletter in your inbox every month!

Find out more about the FESBC 2022 Accomplishments Report through this video.

Faces of Forestry: Kelsey Winter

Faces of Forestry is an initiative of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) to highlight people doing great work to enhance our forests throughout British Columbia. This month, we feature Kelsey Winter, Wildfire Operations Manager with FPInnovations and former FireSmart Program Lead for the BC Wildfire Service and the former Chair of the BC FireSmart Committee (BCFSC).

After working as a Sales Account Manager for an international shipping company in Belgium, Kelsey returned to Canada to make it her forever home. Later, she found the inspiration to join the forestry sector; after spending her summers working with the Kamloops Fire Centre.

“I loved being an initial attack crew member and then leader, and rapidly fell in love with the science behind wildfire, everything from grass curing to Kestrel tuning,” said Kelsey.

Kelsey has a Master’s in Fire Ecology, and a Master’s in Natural Resources, and she is currently pursuing her PhD in Public Administration, focusing on wildfire resiliency for Indigenous communities.

“I stayed in the field long enough to start my first Master’s degree and then moved into a strategic communications role in the office while I finished my second degree. I’ve been with wildfire ever since.”

Recently, Kelsey moved to her new role as the Wildfire Operations Manager with FPInnovations.

“It has been a big change, but one that I’m incredibly excited about. FPInnovations is an R&D organization that specializes in the creation of solutions that accelerate the growth of the Canadian forest sector and its affiliated industries to enhance their global competitiveness. I’m about to get even more forest-y!” said Kelsey.

Before moving to this role, Kelsey was the FireSmart Program Lead for the BC Wildfire Service and the Chair of the BCFSC for seven years. In her role, Kelsey led the development and implementation of the FireSmart strategic goals across the Province.

FireSmart BC is the first point of contact for residents and stakeholders in all things wildfire, from risk mitigation to resident education, to working in collaboration with industry leaders and communities to building community wildfire resiliency.

Kelsey and her team collaborated with BCFSC members, and together they ensured the adequate delivery of FireSmart programs; aimed at enhancing wildfire preparedness, prevention, and mitigation in communities.

“Leading the incredibly talented and dedicated group that makes up the FireSmart BC team was one of the most rewarding parts of my career. They are caring and passionate about their jobs, and they believe in the difference that they’re making,” noted Kelsey.

As the Chair of the BCFSC, Kelsey collaborated with other BCFSC members to ensure that the committee worked in alignment as one governing organization, coordinating resources for the betterment of British Columbians.

Throughout her career in forestry, Kelsey is most proud to work alongside dedicated foresters who share similar values. She encourages young people to take an interest in the forestry industry, as she believes it is essential to B.C.

“I’d encourage all the women out there, that maybe feel like forestry is a male-dominated industry, to push that aside and pursue a career here if that is where their heart is at. In the 15 years that I’ve been in the forest industry, I have had the immense honour of working with some of the most talented and bright women around,” remarked Kelsey.

Thank you, Kelsey, for contributing to the forestry sector and helping communities across B.C. build wildfire resiliency, one step at a time.

Wildfire Risk Reduction Project an Example of Collaboration

Nelson, B.C. – the Selous Creek Wildfire Risk Reduction Project near Nelson, B.C. has demonstrated that it is possible to harvest trees to reduce wildfire risk while maintaining cultural, ecological, recreational, and aesthetic values. With funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) and partnerships among regional, municipal and provincial governments, fire services, and a local timber licensee, a wildfire risk reduction project is a prime example of collaboration to better protect a community.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is a proven partner in delivering projects on the ground that benefit communities, workers, and the health of our forests,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “We are building on this foundation with an additional investment of $50 million for the Society to expand funding for projects that increase access to fibre, reduce emissions from slash pile burning and reduce the risk to people from wildfire.”

In the last few years, wildfires have threatened and significantly impacted many communities due to their higher intensity and increased severity. With the community of Nelson being identified as strategically important by the Community Wildfire Protection Plan for the city, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), with several stakeholders, took steps to reduce the risk of wildfire in the area.

“The Kootenays are a unique place. The area incubates and attracts people with ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas and our elected officials and staff are the proxy of the residents of the RDCK,” said Angela French, RFT, Wildfire Mitigation Supervisor with the RDCK. “The inspiration for our wildfire risk reduction project was the residents’ concerns about wildfire and the risks associated with the changing climate. RDCK Regional Fire Chief Nora Hannon was instrumental in making this program what it is today, and my predecessor Joel Hamilton, continued that legacy.”

Since 2017, the project has made significant strides in its goal to reduce the risk of wildfire. Operating area tenure holder Kalesnikoff Lumber Company (Kalesnikoff) completed 80 hectares of mechanical harvesting or removing trees using machines. Ground-based mechanical fuel modification, or piling additional debris left after harvest, was completed on 20 hectares. Adjacent to the harvested areas and along the Vein bike trail, an additional 5.5 hectares of understory, or layer of vegetation that grows beneath the trees, was treated by hand to thin and remove some of the fuel load. An additional 7.5 hectares of understory hand treatment was completed along the Great Northern Rail Trail. To prepare for the prescribed burn, the project took proactive measures to protect the outer perimeter of the harvested area and surrounding reserve patches by creating a debris-free guard by utilizing a machine-tethered system in areas with steep terrain.

Gord Pratt, FESBC Senior Manager said, “FESBC was extremely pleased to provide funding to the RDCK so they could lead the delivery of this project by taking on a role that isn’t common with other Regional Districts across the province. The project was successful due to the collaborative work by all involved and led by the RDCK to ensure meaningful input and involvement in the planning and implementation of the project, which included involving local governments, the Ministry of Forests, the local forest licensee, Kalesnikoff, and local public interest groups. The result was a project that reduced the wildfire risk to people in the Nelson area through diverse forest management activities.”

John Cathro of Cathro Consulting played a major role in the project and applauded the initiative taken by RDCK. “The project would never have happened without the vision and commitment of RDCK staff and elected officials. Everyone involved at the RDCK knew they were doing something innovative, and that success would require taking risks, forming new relationships, and trusting in the process,” said Cathro.

Cathro explained that the project had a few challenges: Building trust and commitment among various stakeholders for a long-term wildfire risk reduction project, limited grant cycles, and shorter attention spans made it difficult to build trust and engage community leaders who could promote the project. Overcoming these obstacles required innovative solutions and a willingness to embrace untested initiatives, and all parties involved showed that in abundance, according to Cathro.

“In the case of climate resilience and community wildfire risk reduction, change is necessary but change does not happen by itself. It takes people to get together and make it happen,” said Cathro, adding, “Given the complexity of the project, FESBC was flexible with changing timelines and modifications to the scope. The project would have stopped after the first year if the funding program was too stringent or unbending.”

Gerald Cordeiro, the Forest Development Manager for Kalesnikoff, also highlighted the collaborative aspects of the project, calling it a success. “One of the main takeaways for me was that the collaboration was a success in terms of advancing our collective knowledge of how to work together on a project in order to achieve the desired results,” said Cordeiro.

According to Cordeiro, the collaboration kicked into high gear when Kalesnikoff, the RDCK, BC Wildfire Service, the City of Nelson, and several notable local experts began investigating and planning for what can now be seen as a mostly-complete fuel treatment on the hillside just south of Nelson. “Throughout the planning process, we kept coming back to the idea that this would be a first-of-its-kind project, and the collaborative aspect was as important as the physical results. We learned to work within a multi-jurisdictional shared decision-making environment that will act as an invaluable model for other future projects. The planning process also included seeking input from other local interest groups, Indigenous communities, and the local community, in addition to engaging with Selkirk College and FP Innovations,” explained Cordeiro.

The project has the prescribed burn left to do this year. Kalesnikoff will also be tree planting and placing pheromone deterrents to keep the bark beetles out of the Douglas Fir trees. “We all want to make sure we take the opportunity to get the message out that collaboration works, and we can now demonstrate significant results to benefit society without an untenable set of compromises,” said Cordeiro.

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

A Community Effort to Reduce Wildfire Risk

Whistler, B.C. – The forests surrounding Whistler, B.C. offer a picturesque backdrop for the town’s world-class recreational opportunities. However, the managers of these forests face the dual challenge of preserving their natural beauty while also addressing the risk of wildfires that these forests present.

The Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF), governed by a non-profit society of representatives from the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and the Líl̓wat and Squamish First Nations, realized the potential impact of a wildfire to the tourists and the critical importance of wildfire risk mitigation. One spark from an ignition source had the potential to start a fire that could spread and put the ski hill recreation area, walking and biking trails, and other important infrastructure like homes and transportation corridors at risk.

Winter operations undertaken by the crew. Credit: David Conly.

To mitigate this risk and to do so in a sustainable way, foresters from the Líl̓wat Forestry Ventures LP, an arm of the Líl̓wat First Nation, with funding from FESBC, set out to create a wildfire risk reduction plan which included consultation with the community and other stakeholders. One of the concerns identified by the community was around smoke from the burning of the debris from the treatments. The wildfire risk reduction treatments were completed by the Lil’wat Nation forestry crews resulting in a reduction of the forest fuels, minimizing smoke emissions and maintaining the forest recreation values. Moreover, the treated stands now have lower levels of fuel. Today, the successes of their efforts serve as a demonstration of the benefits that a tourist town can reap from implementing wildfire risk reduction measures.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is a proven partner in delivering projects on the ground that benefit communities, workers, and the health of our forests,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “We are building on this foundation with an additional investment of $50 million for the Society to expand funding for projects that increase access to fibre, reduce emissions from slash pile burning and reduce the risk to people from wildfire.”

Dean Nelson, the Chief of the Líl̓wat First Nation, spoke about the forests where the work was conducted. He explained that the initiative was in response to the province-wide call for municipal preparedness and was prompted by the threat of wildfires and the impacts of climate change on communities and forests throughout B.C.

“For the residents of Whistler, this work was crucial to help prevent and raise awareness of the potential dangers of forest fires,” Nelson said. “For the people living in Whistler, this work is very important for the prevention and cautionary awareness of potential forest fire danger. The number of trees remaining after the treatment varied from site to site, from a density of 250 stems per hectare, up to 400 stems per hectare. Fibre utilization from the treatments was undertaken, sawlogs were marketed for timber, the lower-valued residue was used for firewood and compost, and burning was minimized.”

The wildfire risk reduction work carried out by Líl̓wat Forestry Ventures LP was focused on larger landscape-level fuel breaks that aimed to prevent fires from spreading from the south of Whistler, according to Klay Tindall, the General Manager of Forest Operations for the Líl̓wat Forestry Ventures LP.

“The plan was to remove approximately 45 per cent of the original stand of second-growth Douglas fir, totalling around 18,000 cubic metres. Where possible the residual fibre was utilized with lowered carbon emissions in mind. For instance, some fibre was chipped and mixed off-site with solid human waste to produce compost material. By avoiding burning the residual material, a reduction in the release of PM2.5 smoke particulate was achieved. ” said Tindall. “This would not have been possible without the funding and support from FESBC as these are rather smaller areas, and the cost of working on these is rather high. The treated area is now being used for new mountain bike trails by the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association and is giving them a great spot to build some more beginner and intermediate trails.

The project also had a significant impact on the Lilwat community members employed by Líl̓wat Forestry Ventures LP, according to Reno Joe, the contract manager. The work provided a unique opportunity for the Nation to empower its youth and enhance their training. Reno stated, “Everything was locally sourced, and we aimed to bring in experienced professionals from neighbouring Nations. The project helped us build our First Nations’ capacity and gain valuable work experience. We are proud to say that we have engaged more young people in the community, and had six Lil’wat and four additional youths who participated in the project. Of these, one Lil’wat youth is already studying Fire Management at the Vancouver Island University, and one other Lil’wat youth is getting his bachelor’s degree in Forest Ecology and Management from UNBC.”

The project also faced several challenges. Chief Nelson acknowledged that the first obstacle was gaining recognition as competent forestry professionals. Despite this difficulty, the First Nations company was able to demonstrate its expertise and completed the project.

Jordon Gabriel, the Cultural and Community Forestry Manager, who works for Lil’wat Forestry Ventures, spoke about additional challenges such as residents’ concerns about declining property values, complaints about smoke from prescribed burns, and difficulties with the public entering active work sites. “Managing public access during the work and gaining support from local residents were challenges at the time, but now, even they can see the positive outcomes of this work,” Gabriel said.

Heather Beresford, CCF’s Executive Director noted that one of the project’s main challenges was helping local residents understand the importance of this forest thinning work in the long term.

“Some Whistler residents think that the thinning work makes the forests look ‘ugly’ and may even increase the risk of wildfire since they believe the forests dry out earlier in the spring. In response, the RMOW and CCF are implementing a monitoring program to measure certain characteristics pre- and post-treatment to see what is actually happening in the forests. This will give us valuable insight and ensure that our actions are having a positive impact,” said Beresford.

Brian Watson, RPF, Operations Manager with FESBC said, “The work that Lil’wat Forestry Ventures LP completed on behalf of the Cheakamus Community Forest is important in that it occurred in a part of the province that has a high profile and where wildfire risk reduction work is just starting to be implemented. It’s important that people see this work so that they can be part of the conversation around wildfires and the risks they pose to our communities. What people will not see is that the project phased out most of the burning of low-value fibre that is usually associated with this work. When you consider the proximity of this work to homes and businesses, the benefits to human health are meaningful, not to mention the positive impact on the atmosphere.”

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