West Boundary Community Forest Takes on Five Wildfire Risk Reduction Projects

Midway, B.C. – With the infusion of new grant funding of $1,137,375 from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC’s (FESBC) 2022-2023 Funding Program, the West Boundary Community Forest (WBCF) has already started working toward proactively making the communities of Midway, Greenwood, Grand Forks, Rock Creek, and Westbridge safer from the threat of wildfires.

LP Martin and Nick Kleiner at Jewel Lake. Photo credit: FESBC

“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, the critical work of FESBC is helping build communities that are safer and more resilient to climate change.”

Dan Macmaster, RPF, Forest Manager with WBCF expressed what funding from FESBC means to the community forest.

“We are humbled and honoured that FESBC accepted our proposals; in the past, we received funding for fuel mitigation projects on the southern slopes of Midway, in May Creek outside of Grand Forks, and on the western shores of Jewel Lake. This funding allowed us to complete thorough and well-organized consultations with First Nations as well as local residents. We conducted fuel measurements and data collection to develop a prescription that focused on wildfire risk reduction in our treatments,” said Macmaster, adding, “The incremental costs of removing dead fuels in the adjacent forests can be costly, and FESBC has given us the ability to get the job done properly.”

The five new projects that have received funding are Myers Creek Road, Fiva Creek, Greenwood East, Lone Star Border, and Rock Creek South.

The Myers Creek Road project is on a road that runs parallel to the US border behind Midway, B.C. WBCF will be developing a shaded fuel break on each side of the road to protect the community from wildfires that could spread from the south.

The Fiva Creek project will involve fuel mitigation on a dense hillside north of Westbridge and adjacent to many homes. After WBCF’s selective cut, they plan to utilize local contractors to mechanically and manually rake and pile the remaining debris to ensure the fuels left in the forest are reduced.

The Greenwood East project is slated for the east slopes of Greenwood that have a buildup of fuel and requires understory thinning, slashing, hand piling and pruning to reduce the potential impact of future wildfires.

The Lone Star Border project will be located along the US Border, just west of Grand Forks, B.C., and this project will create a fuel break to help reduce the spread of fire and improve access for suppression crews.

The Rock Creek South project involves a small area in southern Rock Creek that contains dense fuels and dead beetle-killed trees. By removing the fuels and treating the green trees retained in the area, WBCF is hoping to protect the southern boundary of Rock Creek from future wildfires.

“Certain forested areas around many of our rural communities have been neglected over the years. This has allowed fuels in the forest, such as very high-density stands, ladder fuels, and woody debris to build up and for Douglas-fir beetles to run rampant. Once our Community Forest tenure was established, we realized these areas need to be better managed in order to protect our communities from wildfires as well as protect our tenure from forest health concerns. Local employment in the phases of layout, fuels treatments, and harvesting will benefit from this funding and allow us to keep local contractors working,” explained Macmaster.

FESBC Operations Manager Brian Watson, RPF, noted how great it is to see the community forest incorporating innovation into their harvesting activities.

“In these cases, they will be fully utilizing low-value fibre that would have been otherwise burned. These projects will achieve two of our funding priorities, to lower the wildfire risk while reducing greenhouse gases through better utilization,” said Watson.

Peter Flett, RPF with the WBCF, who has been actively involved in developing long-term relationships with First Nations noted that while the work for the projects is straightforward, it will involve the Osoyoos Indian Band through all stages to ensure they are comfortable with all the prescriptions recommended by the WBCF.

“Full participation and direction from the Osoyoos Indian Band will help to ensure our treatment efforts are in line with the values of our local First Nations on their traditional territory,” said Flett.

WBCF’s partnership with First Nations and its efforts to ensure their involvement in forest management is appreciated by FESBC.

“Putting people first, partnering with the Osoyoos Indian Band, and investing back in forestry-dependant communities in the Boundary Region are key reasons why working with the West Boundary Community Forest is so rewarding for FESBC,” added Watson. “We look forward to working with the team to complete these five new projects.”

Work has already begun and all of this work is being done not just to protect communities from impending wildfires, but also for several additional reasons according to Macmaster.

“We anticipate that this work will bring greater protection to our communities, while at the same time improving forest health, helping us employ local contractors, and working in collaboration with the Osoyoos Indian Band. These projects are a win economically, environmentally, and socially, and we’re so grateful for the funding.”

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.

B.C. Community Forests Take Action to Reduce Wildfire Risk

British Columbia – In the past few years, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) has funded various project partners throughout the province with the primary objective to reduce wildfire risk. Many of these project partners, 25 in fact, have been community forests. This partnership has accounted for 53 projects valued at over $18 million of which $12.3 million was for wildfire risk reduction and $5.9 million for projects to reduce greenhouse gases, which have included enhanced fibre utilization and rehabilitating damaged forest stands.

“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, the critical work of FESBC is helping build communities that are safer and more resilient to climate change.”

(R-L) Minister Conroy, MLA for Nelson-Creston Brittny Anderson, and FESBC Chair Jim Snetsinger inspect a FESBC-funded wildfire risk reduction treatment in the Harrop-Proctor Community Forest, where some of the biomass was used to make green energy. Photo Credit: FESBC

A community forest is a forestry operation owned and managed by a local government, community group, or First Nation for the benefit of the entire community. FESBC Executive Director, Steve Kozuki, pointed out why FESBC and community forests work well together. “We both want to create as many values as we can in our projects. We not only achieve the main objective of reducing wildfire risk, but we often create numerous additional co-benefits such as enhancing recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat, reducing greenhouse gases, and generating employment for local people.”

The BC Community Forest Association (BCCFA), which represents many of these community forests, has seen the good work from FESBC’s collaboration with community forests. Jennifer Gunter, Executive Director of the BCCFA, highlights the importance of the partnership between FESBC and community forests.

“Support from FESBC has been instrumental in the success of wildfire risk reduction projects. With funding from FESBC, many community forests have been able to take meaningful action to make their communities safer, and their forests more resilient,” said Gunter.

Last month, during the BCCFA’s 2022 Conference & AGM, the Association celebrated its 20th anniversary and the work being done by community forests. “We were able to celebrate community forestry and the outstanding work of our members throughout the province. Community forests are effective tools for ecosystem resilience and community economic development, and our members constantly raise the bar. Community forestry, however, is not without its challenges. We are grateful for the support of organizations like FESBC that join us in working on solutions together,” Gunter remarked.

During the conference, Kozuki joined Jennifer Gunter, UBC’s Dr. Lori Daniels, Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, and Kea Rutherford in discussing the important work of wildfire risk reduction and its efficacy in a session moderated by Logan Lake Community Forest Manager, Randy Spyksma.

Lori and her team spoke about the large amount of backlog of wildfire risk reduction treatments that remains to be done in B.C. Despite the significant efforts in the last number of years, only about 20 per cent of the work has been done so far. Lori noted that while $18 billion has been spent on seismic building upgrades in B.C., only a small fraction of that amount has been spent on wildfire risk reduction. Kozuki thanked the many community forests that have stepped up to reduce wildfire risk and for doing it in a way that achieves not only a multitude of additional benefits but also earns social license from local citizens.

Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR), is an example of a community forest that has undertaken wildfire risk reduction work that has provided an added layer of protection to the community while also generating numerous co-benefits. With funding from FESBC, NACFOR took on a project with the goals of improving public safety and reducing the risk of catastrophic loss of infrastructure from future wildfires in areas with high-to-moderate wildfire risk. The project created a series of strategically placed fuel breaks surrounding the community of Nakusp to act as the last line of defence against an approaching wildfire. The FESBC-funded project provided increased opportunities for local contractors with local dollars staying within the community, giving a boost to the local economy.

“The benefits of such wildfire risk reduction work in community forests are widespread,” noted Gunter. “Community forests are often situated in the wildland-urban interface and are increasingly becoming leaders in protecting rural communities from the risk of high-severity fires. Not only has this work contributed to keeping communities safe but, in many cases, it strengthens relationships between Indigenous and rural communities and has resulted in local employment, ecosystem restoration, and wildlife habitat enhancement.”

A community forest in Creston undertook wildfire risk reduction work which also gave a boost to the local economy through increased employment opportunities, providing work to at least 15 Creston locals who were involved in the development, planning, and implementation phases of the project. The project itself treated over 120 hectares on Arrow Mountain and approximately 10,400 cubic metres (approximately 230 truckloads) were harvested from seven areas, removing mistletoe, infected larch, and unhealthy Douglas-fir. The resulting state of the forest, according to Daniel Gratton, Forest Manager of the Creston Community Forest, is now similar to what would have existed when wildfires frequented the area prior to the introduction of the fire suppression programs in the early 1900s.

Fire suppression efforts of the last 100 years have resulted in some forests near communities across B.C. becoming overmature and/or very dense, making them more susceptible to wildfire. Many times, these types of stands have less value to wildlife and are less desirable for recreation activities. FESBC-funded projects in community forests have not only reduced the wildfire risk to communities, but they have also improved wildlife habitat, created local employment opportunities, and increased recreation values like camping, hiking, and biking.

One such project to reduce wildfire risk to the community which was undertaken by the Kaslo & District Community Forest Society (KDCFS), led to additional wildlife benefits that some people didn’t expect. An area resident, Doug Drain, whose house was adjacent to the forest area that was being treated, almost lost his house to a wildfire in 2012. This wildfire risk reduction treatment not only gave him peace of mind, but he said that opening up the forest had made a huge difference to the wildlife that live there. He has seen seven bears and two cubs as well as deer and elk that are back grazing in the area for the first time in many years.

This work was informed by a Landscape Level Wildfire Protection (LLWP) plan which KDCFS received a $50,000 grant from FESBC while Sabrina Mutterer and Jeff Reyden were co-managers of the community forest. According to Reyden, even though they both are from Kaslo, they hadn’t thought about the multi-level impacts of wildfires on the community or stakeholders involved until they started work on the LLWP.

The team started to plan for priorities focused on achieving immediate benefits in forest fire suppression and crew safety while outlining future fuel treatment projects and collaborating with the Regional District and BC Wildfire Service (BCWS). Engagement sessions involved discussions with BCWS and the local fire department to understand their needs in the event of a fire close to Kaslo, outlining what resources they had, what could be shared, what KDCFS could purchase, communications protocols, jurisdictional areas of who would respond where, etc. Not only did the plan inform the work done near Drain’s property but KDCFS ended up purchasing three fire pumps, hoses, and an inflatable bladder to fight a fire if need be.

“Community forest agreements are unique forest tenures that give communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, the ability to manage local forests for local benefit. They are in it for the long term with a mandate to manage environmental, economic, social, and cultural values. Partnering with FESBC on projects that reduce the risk of wildfire while supporting community values and advancing climate action is a win-win for communities and the province. We have been building a network of practitioners across the province who understand how to integrate these concepts and the experts with FESBC are integral to this process,” noted Gunter, pointing to the expertise FESBC operations managers bring to projects.

According to Gunter, as forest policy in B.C. shifts to support an increase in Indigenous and community-led forestry with a focus on value rather than volume, the active role of community forests in the movement toward reconciliation and innovating to integrate multiple values on the landscape, becomes clearer.

“Throughout the province, community forests demonstrate their leadership in implementing an inspiring vision for forestry that allows local communities to manage local forests in ways that generate many benefits,” said Gunter. “Our hope is that the partnership between the BCCFA and FESBC will continue to provide ongoing support and opportunities for community forests in our province. Together we are making our forests and communities more resilient ecologically, economically, and socially.”

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.

One Year Later: Logan Lake Community Forest Continues to Reduce Wildfire Risk to the Communities

LOGAN LAKE, B.C. – When Logan Lake became the first FireSmart community in B.C. in 2013 –a result of efforts starting back in the early 2000s– the community was preparing for any future wildfires through their wildfire risk reduction projects. Furthermore, the Tremont Creek Wildfire in August 2021 actually proved that the 18-year-long undertaking by the District of Logan Lake, the Logan Lake Community Forest (LLCF), and the residents of the town, to prepare for the wildfire event in advance, was effective.

This outcome has spurred the LLCF, in collaboration with the communities of Logan Lake and the Face and Paska Lakes area, into further action to step up the wildfire mitigation efforts through Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) funding.

Gord Pratt, RPF, FESBC Senior Manager said, “Logan Lake Community Forest started working on wildfire risk reduction treatments before anyone else in B.C. It has been a pleasure to support the Community Forest to complete such important work and see the FESBC funding reduce the wildfire risk not only to Logan Lake but to the nearby communities.”

One such project is the fuel management treatment project around the community at Face and Paska Lakes, located 15 km northeast of Logan Lake and within the LLCF. The area has unique wildfire-related risks with an isolated community of permanent year-round residents and seasonal tourists, many of whom come during the summer, the peak of a traditional wildfire season. Limited evacuation routes and the proximity of homes to forest fuels have increased the overall risk of a wildfire in this area.

“The area was identified in the Logan Lake Community Forest Wildfire Risk Management Plan (WRMP) as requiring attention and action, for which LLCF received $512,000 in follow-up funding from FESBC. The treatments will help reduce wildfire hazards through fuel reduction in areas directly adjacent to residential developments,” said Randy Spyksma, a Planner with Forsite, Manager of the Logan Lake Community Forest and Board Member with the BC Community Forest Association.

“This fuel work, being completed by Skeetchestn Natural Resources Corp., has the crews removing dead and downed woody debris in the area which can pose a significant wildfire threat to the community.  Recently, FESBC has also funded the development of a fuel management prescription in order to improve the resiliency of the main evacuation route, further investing in risk reduction efforts to help make these areas safer for people!” added Spyksma.

The priority fuel treatment work around the Face/Paska community is nearing completion and the fibre that couldn’t be utilized is being made available for firewood for the local community members. The planning work is now starting in order to reduce the wildfire risk along the evacuation route from the communities.

“FESBC’s support for fuel management treatments in the resort areas of Face and Paska Lakes will be key to reducing wildfire risks in this area,” said Garnet Mierau, RPF, planner with Forsite, part of the LLCF management team and the 75th council president for the Association of BC Forest Professionals.

Beyond timber and wildfire risk reduction, the projects undertaken by LLCF have been a good example of community engagement and collaborative work.  From the completion of the original WRMP and development of fuel management prescriptions to the implementation of the work, LLCF has engaged Indigenous communities, local groups, and the general public to ensure interests are balanced and there is a collaborative approach overall.

“Mile High Resort was invited to be a part of the original wildfire planning work and is appreciative of the Community Forest, funding from FESBC, and the support of BC Wildfire Service in the Face/Paska area. We now look forward to ongoing collaboration and actions to support wildfire resilience for the community,” said Bob van Tongeren, Owner Operator of Mile High Resort and Logan Lake Community Forest Corporation board member.

The work with van Tongeren is just one example of the collaborative efforts that have taken place as a part of work undertaken by the Community Forest.

“The scale of our engagement of the efforts was unique to British Columbia when we started work on the original strategic landscape-level WRMP followed by a fuel management program,” noted Mierau, “The engagement helped to proactively support a range of wildfire risk reduction activities.”

The Community Forest has also been instrumental in engaging with the education sector to support awareness and collaboration regarding the activities of the Community Forest in general, and specific to wildfire risk reduction. Over the years, LLCF has collaborated with Thompson Rivers University, the BC Institute of Technology, the University of British Columbia (UBC) Tree Ring Lab, and the local high school in Logan Lake. This approach supports collaboration to better understand wildfire risk and how to design and maintain risk mitigation. 

“We are collaborating with academic organizations and investing in students, who are the future of forest management in community forests and across the province,” said Mierau.

LLCF is one of the 10 community forests with whom UBC has been collaborating to measure the efficacy of treatments that aim to mitigate hazardous fuels and reduce wildfire risk, confirmed professor, Dr. Lori D. Daniels.

“LLCF has demonstrated great initiative to connect with the local public and education through collaboration with other community forests and with us at UBC. Involving youth through paid summer positions is a great way to provide local job opportunities while mitigating fuels and generating a grassroots connection for public education. Leadership with the LLCF has engaged with multiple research projects at UBC, allowing us to document the barriers communities face when attempting to address wildfire risk and solutions for overcoming those barriers, which have now been shared with other Community Forests, municipalities, and First Nations communities throughout B.C.,” said Dr. Daniels. “We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with them!”

The LLCF recently applied to the FESBC 2022-23 Funding Program and has received funding for three new projects.

“There is definitely follow-up involved in these wildfire risk reduction activities; it is not a one-and-done deal and so, we will continue our work in reducing the risk of wildfires to our communities,” Mierau said. “It is great to have re-occurring funding, as we have thankfully experienced with FESBC, to support our work.”

“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, the critical work of FESBC is helping build communities that are safer and more resilient to climate change.”

The three projects which LLCF will be undertaking through the FESBC funding are: 1) a project to develop prescriptions and treat areas near Logan Lake, creating a large landscape-level fuel break, 2) a project to complete the planning and preparation required to complete treatments along a corridor along the Coquihalla Highway to reduce the risk of human-caused ignitions from the highway, and 3) a project to finish the planning work required to complete a fuel-reduction treatment to support safer evacuation for the community at Face and Paska Lakes.

“FESBC has supported the Logan Lake Community Forest and the communities at Face, Paska, and Logan Lake since the beginning of our work, from supporting innovative and collaborative wildfire risk management planning work to the implementation of priority prescriptions and treatments. This new round of funding demonstrates that continued support,” said Spyksma.

For an interview with FESBC contact:

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

For an interview with Logan Lake Community Forest contact:

Randy Spyksma, RPF, Manager, Logan Lake Community Forest | rspyksma@forsite.ca| 250.804.6305

FESBC would like to gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the

Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests.

Wildfire Risk Reduction Work Amplifies Local Contractors and Opportunities

NAKUSP, B.C. – It is becoming more and more evident with every passing project that not only can a wildfire risk reduction project bring peace of mind to a community, but also has the potential for many additional benefits ranging from improving wildlife habitat to the generation of local employment. The Nakusp and Area Community Forest’s (NACFOR) wildfire risk reduction work, funded through a grant of $417,585 from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), is an example of this.

Wildfire Risk Reduction field review. Credit – Frances Swan

The goal of the project was to improve public safety and reduce the risk of catastrophic loss of infrastructure due to any future wildfires in areas with high to moderate wildfire risk, as identified in the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s (RDCK) Area ‘K’ and Nakusp 2018 Community Wildfire Protection Plans. The intention of the plan was to create a series of strategically placed fuel breaks surrounding the community of Nakusp to act as the last line of defence against an approaching wildfire.

The project, although not within the community forest tenure area but on Crown land just outside the village boundary, saw NACFOR take the lead to take on the work, with community safety at the forefront.

Gord Pratt, RPF, FESBC Senior Manager, said, “Nakusp and Area Community Forest has done an excellent job with the provided funding. NACFOR has taken their forest management role in this community to another level by delivering this project to reduce the wildfire risk for the residents of Nakusp.”

The FESBC-funded part of the project included two treatment areas – 30 hectares were completed in June 2022 and the remaining 2.2-hectare treatment unit will be completed next month, explained Frances Swan, RPF, Project Manager with NACFOR.

“There has been a very positive response to the completed treatment work and this area serves as a great example of wildfire risk reduction for Nakusp and area,” said Swan. “The project would not have happened without the FESBC funding.”

The treatments have reduced the ground and surface fuels that if ignited could lead to a crown fire, where the flames reach the top of the trees and fire can then spread rapidly. This work will reduce the fire intensity and rate of spread by reducing surface fuel loading which means decreasing stand density or thinning out the trees, plus also removing dead and dying ones. Access roads will allow for continued maintenance of the forest and improve suppression opportunities for firefighters needing to access the area along the highway.

“It complements the ongoing FireSmart initiatives as the areas are adjacent to the community and will be part of a series of strategically located treatment sites designed to defend the Village from wildfires,” explained Swan. “Our goal is to continue collaborating with the Village of Nakusp, RDCK, forest licensees and the Ministry of Forests to reduce the risk of wildfire in the Nakusp interface and surrounding communities.”

Another important outcome of the FESBC-funded project was to increase opportunities for local contractors.

“NACFOR is grateful that FESBC gave us room for flexibility on contractor selection and empowered us to do what was best for the environment and our communities. This meant we could amplify local contractors, create new opportunities and jobs, and contribute to the local economics of the community of Nakusp,” remarked Swan.

Given the flexibility in contractor selection, NACFOR expanded its pool of local contractors, allowing them to gain valuable experience in fuel management implementation, and provided several jobs locally.

“Being able to work on this project meant that local contractors were able to invest in specialized equipment and they are now prepared for any future wildfire risk reduction work,” Swan noted.

Gord Matchett, owner of Arrow Valley Excavating was one such contractor whose company saw tremendous growth because of the project. Matchett’s company was brought on to look after the work to thin the forest and help with wood fibre recovery, along with another contractor from Greenpeaks Resource Management.

“Getting the opportunity to be a part of this project was a good thing as it grew my business. I employed four people during this project; before, it was just me and now, I have a crew. I have been able to invest in specialized equipment which will come in handy in the future,” said Matchett.

For Matchett, it was important to be a part of the project as he believes in utilizing as much of waste wood and fibre as possible, instead of burning it in slash piles.

“People are starting to realize the need for wildfire risk reduction projects, and they see the value in thinning forests and cleaning the forest floor,” Matchett added.

In terms of numbers, Swan estimates a total of 480 person days worked for all projects under the FESBC funding (prescriptions and treatments) between June 2019 and June 2022. Nearly 90 per cent of the work was done with local contractors and consultants and prescriptions were developed for three treatment areas covering 200 hectares –approximately 374 football fields.

“It has been a great project, and feels good to be at the finish line,” remarked Swan.

Minister of Forests, Katrine Conroy, noted the importance of wildfire risk reduction work in supporting communities like Nakusp.

“We all play a role in building communities that are more resilient and adaptable to a changing climate,” said Minister Conroy. “The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is a proven partner in delivering projects on the ground that protect people from wildfire risks. Their proactive work supports our vision of building a safer, more resilient future for generations to come.”

For an interview with FESBC contact: 

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

For an interview about Nakusp & Area Community Forest:

Frances Swan, RPF, Project Manager | fswan@truenorthforestry.com | 250.265.3656

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

More burning needed to protect forests

Proper fuel mitigation will require a substantial investment from all levels of government

Kelly Sinoski, 100 Mile Free Press – November 12, 2021

The public will have to change their mindset around burning and logging in their “backyard” forests to prevent wildfires in the future, according to the 100 Mile District land manager.

Pat Byrne, 100 Mile district manager for B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, said wildfire suppression and outdated forestry management practices over the past 150 years have made local forests “unnatural,” increasing the risk of interface fires with excessive fuel on the ground and thickly wooded canopies resulting in hot, intense and prolonged fires.

Pat Byrne, 100 Mile district manager for BC Ministry of FLNRORD

In the past, Indigenous or regular burning of the landscape every 15 -20 years meant forests were more open and there was less flammable fuel, including live or dead plants on the ground, making it harder for fires to get into the tree tops.

“We’ve got to get these ecosystems back to their natural functioning conditions, we’ve taken them away from that,” Byrne told attendees on a field trip to the 100 Mile District Community Forest last Thursday, Nov. 4. “We’ve changed conditions to make it unconducive to human habitation and wildlife.”

Byrne noted the fuel mitigation treatments at the Community Forest – a 20,000-hectare swath behind Imperial Ranchettes off Horse Lake Road – is a start to “kind of bring the (forests) back.”

Over the past three years, about $1.3 million, funded by the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. (FES), has been spent at the community forest and the 100 Mile District woodlot near the 99 Mile ski trail and railroad to remove fuels and thin trees to open up the landscape. FES was created by the province five years ago with a mandate that includes reducing wildfire risk to communities.

Byrne said the 2017 wildfires, which led to countless evacuations in the South Cariboo and cost the BC Wildfire $649 million to fight, demonstrated the need for fuel treatments in B.C. forests. “In the three or four days after the fires got ripping, we had a conversation about ‘holy crap we’ve gotta do something now,’” he said.

100 Mile District Mayor Mitch Campsall agreed “2017 woke us up and 2021 gave us another big wake-up call.”

This past summer, 263 fires burned in the Cariboo Fire Centre, covering 129,591 hectares in the region. The fires, following a prolonged heatwave, resulted in evacuation alerts and across the region. The Build-Up Index (BUI) in 2017 showed the total amount of fuel available for combustion in the Cariboo was above 90, reaching up to 200 in the Chilcotin, indicating the fuels were “dry enough to sustain a persistent, deep-burning wildfire,” according to BC Wildfire Service. The BUI was 90 and up to 160 in 2021.

Forester Dan Bedford, of DWB Consulting which is contracted to do the work in the community forest, noted the local forest around 100 Mile was not like this 50 years ago, with so much flammable fuel on the ground and tiny “ladder trees” that carry intense flames to the top of the crowns. When that happens, crews can’t fight the fires, he said. “It’s absolutely scary the amount of energy coming off it.

Keith Bleeker lights a pile of fuel at the 100 Mile District Community Forest

“These are not sticks, these are fine fuel. These are the fuels that dry out in a long hot summer and are available to burst,” Bedford said, referring to varying pieces of wood. “We get this stuff off the ground as much as possible. We put them in piles and get rid of it.”

Bedford credited the late Steve Capling, a professional forester, for setting up the treatments in the community forest and helping to pioneer a treatment where a buncher weed-eats the tiny ladder trees and bunches them, while an excavator piles the fuel in the treatment area. The idea is to space out the trees, while also making it safer for crews to get in and fight the fires.

Much of the pulp and fibre, as well as a significant portion of the residual waste fibre from the forest was taken to the Williams Lake Cogeneration Plant to be used as biomass for electricity, while other fuels are either logged or stacked to be burned.

Joanne Doddridge, Mayor Mitch Campsall, Bill Hadden, Pat Byrne and Dave Bedford

Bedford noted there are about 2,000 piles in the area, The community forest will also require maintenance in the next 10 to 15 years, as more tiny trees grow up. He agreed there has to be a return to the old ways when “we’d have fires and fires and fires and still have forests when they were done.” If worse came to worst, he said, a backburn could now be lit in the community forest to protect local homes.

FES executive directive Steve Kozuki noted the recent situation in Logan Lake, where the Tremont Creek wildfire raged toward town, showed the importance of fuel mitigation. The town created a fuel break – spacing out crowns and removing ladder and ground fuel – to reduce the fire’s intensity. They also lit a backburn to allow the fire to creep along the ground and burn out.

Byrne said he has received “messaging” that “we can’t put all the investments in suppression efforts. We’ve got to put efforts into the prevention work. That’s why this was successful. The collaboration from all of the people here is the only thing that made it successful.”

However, Bill Hadden, Community Forest manager for the 100 Mile Development Corp., noted it will take money and political will to treat the local landscape. Although close to 400 hectares of the Community Forest was treated in the past three years, this is only 10 per cent of what should be done, and doesn’t include the local Timber Supply Area (TSA) in 100 Mile House.

Bill Hadden, Community Forest Manager, 100 Mile Development Corp.

“Across the 100 Mile TSA, the numbers are staggering and it’s going to take a huge commitment from senior levels of government to make it work.”

Bill Hadden, Community Forest Manager, 100 Mile Development Corp.

Byrne agreed there are “thousands and thousands of hectares” that require treatment and maintains the forest must be managed for the ecosystem – ensuring it’s resilient to pests and drought to provide habitat for wildfire – and extract the fibre from that, rather than the other way around.

“This kind of wildfire-resistant barrier has to be expanded and we have to carry that on for the rest of our forest management across the land base,” he said. “It has to be targeted at protecting those ecosystems so they can have natural function and not our version of what a pristine forest looks like.

“I hope we really run down that path hard now.”

Cariboo Regional District Chair Margo Wagner said the community forest has tremendous benefits.

“When you manage to fire smart in areas after the fires we’ve had go through in 2017, 2018 and now this past summer, it makes it more important,” she said. “The fires are scary as we all know. Any work that can be done in conjunction with the community or the municipality makes it a real bonus exercise.”

Read Kelly Sinoski’s full article in the 100 Mile Free Press, here:

https://www.100milefreepress.net/news/more-burning-needed-to-protect-forests/

For more stories on FESBC funding partners near 100 Mile House contact:
Aleece Laird, FESBC Communications Liaison | communications@fesbc.ca | 250.574.0221

Collaboration in the Okanagan is Reducing Wildfire Risk to Water Supply

Okanagan, B.C.:

In the summer of 2019, four water utility providers in the Okanagan were awarded close to $680,000 in grants from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC). The grants supported a collaborative approach to wildfire risk reduction in four major Okanagan watersheds that border one another and are managed by the District of Lake Country, Black Mountain Irrigation District, Glenmore Ellison Improvement District, and the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Work is now underway on the ground to protect several high-priority interface areas of the individual watersheds. Wildfire risk reduction will help better protect the Okanagan basin’s water quality, important wildlife habitat and infrastructure, and create opportunities to enhance the utilization of woody debris left behind after fuel management treatments.

“The funding provided by FESBC was fundamental in bringing together all four water purveyors on the Aberdeen plateau, in collaboration with the Okanagan Shuswap Natural Resource District and Gorman Brothers, to guide the watersheds towards a more fire resilient condition through wildfire risk mitigation planning,” said John Davies, RPF, Frontline Operations Group Ltd.

This analysis started over the summer of 2019, including the completion of mapping of potential fuel breaks – an area where flammable woody material is removed to slow or stop a wildfire – in all watersheds and identifying the highest priority interface fuel breaks.

Pre-treatment shows a high stand density with heavy surface fuel loading

FESBC funding approval enabled the partners to collaborate on overview planning, leading to efficiencies in key components such as GIS (Geographic Information System) analysis. This overview planning then identified critical priority areas for detailed planning. This planning included developing a wildfire risk reduction prescription, obtaining support from BC Wildfire Services and local Forest Lands & Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development representatives, and groundwork including identifying and confirming the treatment boundaries and unique values to be protected.

Professional fuel management prescriptions were completed for a high-risk interface area in each watershed. Once the planning was complete, the contracts were put out to bid and were awarded to Sage Forestry Ltd. and Loki Tree Service. 

“These projects are an opportunity for good-paying jobs allowing companies like mine to keep people working and to reinvest in the industry, while providing much-needed wildfire risk reduction to communities in B.C. at the same time.”

Burke Nesjan, RPF, Sage Forestry

Each area has unique features requiring different approaches. Here is a status update on each project:

District of Lake Country: completed treatment operations adjacent to Beaver Lake Lodge and district water intake of Beaver Lake involving the removal of surface woody debris from approximately 2.5 hectares.

Black Mountain Irrigation District: provided operational treatment recommendations for Gorman Brothers’ operations on Schram Creek slope and completed field survey of proposed fuel break locations above Schram Creek slope.

Glenmore Ellison Improvement District: completed treatment operations within the interface above Postill Lake Road.

Regional District of North Okanagan: completed interface treatment operations adjacent to Blue Nose trail and are currently implementing prescriptions adjacent to private property on Blue Nose Road.

“FESBC is pleased to see the high level of collaboration between Frontline Operations Group and each of the local water purveyors,” said Dave Conly, RPF, Operations Manager, FESBC. “These four significant watersheds provide both drinking water and irrigation water for local communities. We deployed funding to do our best to protect the watersheds from extensive damage which could potentially result from wildfires. We’re pleased to see the overview plans, which set the stage for longer-term work, while addressing some of the highest priority areas with the funding available.”

Work is expected to be completed by the end of summer of 2021 and further updates to media and the community will follow.

“The FESBC funding program has been instrumental in addressing wildfire risk mitigation on Crown land in B.C. at a meaningful scale,” said Davies. “We have gained in leaps and bounds with this important endeavour in the Okanagan Valley through FESBC support.”

Post-treatment illustrates a lower density and significantly less surface fuel loading resulting in a lower potential fire behaviour than the pre-treatment stand

For an interview with Frontline Operations Group Ltd.

John Davies, RPF, Wildfire Management Specialist | john@frontlineops.ca | 250.540.3473

For information on/or an interview with FESBC

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