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.

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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120 Communities Throughout B.C. Reduce their Risk from Wildfire – Cariboo

CARIBOO REGION, B.C. – many Indigenous communities, municipalities, regional districts, woodlots, and community forests have taken action in the last few years to protect their communities from wildfire. Using funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) these project partners first create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) or a Community Resiliency Protection Plan (CRPP), which identifies the location of buildings, communications infrastructure, water, power, safe places, and emergency escape routes. Then, based on the amount of woody fuel risk, the CWPP or CRPP prioritizes which treatments should be done first.

“The key goals of the Community Wildfire Resiliency Planning process are varied,” said Gord Pratt, RPF, Operations Manager FESBC. “Goals include increasing communities’ capacity and understanding of wildfire risk, fostering greater collaboration across administrative boundaries, and being more responsive to the needs of different types of communities throughout B.C. in terms of their size, capacity, and the threats they face.”

Wildfire risk mitigation planning and treatments can be quite different depending on where in the province a project is located. 

“Wildfire treatments will often space trees far apart and remove low branches in order to keep a fire on the ground and to reduce the amount of wood in the forest, so it doesn’t burn as hot. This makes it easier to fight the fire,” said Steve Kozuki, RPF, Executive Director of FESBC. “But every community is different, and some communities have chosen to encourage the planting of broad-leaved trees in specific areas because they are often more fire-resistant.”

Since inception, FESBC has provided nearly $57 million to fund 124 wildfire risk reduction projects. These projects have not only reduced wildfire risk to 120 communities and rural sub-divisions but have generated an estimated 483 jobs (full time equivalent jobs created) and 43 of these projects have involved, or have been led by, First Nations.

“We wanted to share with residents in the region some of the wildfire mitigation work FESBC has funded in the area,” said Kozuki. “We’ve enclosed descriptions of 41 projects in the Cariboo region to provide a deeper look at the important work that has been done. Although many of the project leaders are currently working on fighting fires and unfortunately not available for interviews at this time, our team at FESBC is ready to share additional project details or answer questions media or citizens may have.”

In addition, when it comes to wildfire mitigation work, the BC government has a wildfire risk reduction funding program called Community Resiliency Investment Program (CRI) which is a partnership with the First Nations Emergency Services Society, the Union of BC Municipalities, the Ministry of Forests, and others, including FESBC. The CRI Program has been spear-heading the FireSmart initiative to educate homeowners about actions they can take to protect themselves, such as cleaning gutters and removing flammable materials outside of homes and businesses. Other funding programs to reduce wildfire risk are administered by the Columbia Basin Trust and the BC Community Forest Association.

For information or an interview regarding these projects, contact:

Steve Kozuki, Executive Director | skozuki@fesbc.ca | 250.819.2888

Helping A Community Forest Rebuild for the Future

BURNS LAKE, B.C.— Over 10,000 hectares of the Chinook Community Forest (CCF) was lost in the 2018 wildfires and the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) has provided $800,000 toward revitalizing approximately 300 hectares of the hardest hit stands.

“As a shareholder in the Chinook Community Forest, we are grateful to FESBC for the funding to salvage burned fibre from the devastating wildfires of 2018,” said Dolores Funk, Mayor, Burns Lake. “This project benefits our local economy through job creation and allowing the utilization of fibre that is no longer economically viable.”

The fire reduced the value of the remaining fibre significantly and it was unlikely it was ever going to be economically viable to salvage the fibre and regenerate the site with a new forest. FESBC funding allows for the rehabilitation of this area resulting in the quicker regeneration of a healthy forest.

“The Chinook Community Forest, a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, is committed to good forest stewardship and seeing this forest thriving for future generations,” said Ken Nielsen, General Manager, CCF. “This is a long-term investment by all parties to get to regeneration.”

A high level of utilization means there is a long-term carbon benefit by avoiding the fibre being burned in slash piles. The removal of fuel also results in wildfire risk mitigation as there is less available to burn if there is ever another fire in the area.

“We are happy to support this project and bring some hope and opportunity back to the community after the wildfires,” said Gord Pratt, RPF, Operations Manager, FESBC. “It is important to assist with the heavy lifting due to the economic challenges and bring this area back to a green, healthy forest.”

Nielsen agrees. “We were hit heavily. Through this project, CCF, FESBC and other partners pulled together to rebuild from that devastating loss.”

Jennifer Gunter, Executive Director of the BC Community Forest Association, is pleased to see the collaborative efforts as well.

“Community forest tenures give communities the opportunity to steward the land,” said Gunter. “Among the multiple benefits of this project is the fact that it is making the community forest land base more resilient and reducing the risk of more catastrophic fire in the future. Community forest tenure holders are proving to be important leaders in this work. The tenure is a significant asset that helps to make this possible.”

Community forests are “an integral way to manage forests for the long-term sustainability of our region and projects such as these ensure communities are stronger, healthier and safer.”

Dolores Funk, Mayor, Burns Lake

CCF has salvaged approximately 100 hectares of the burned fibre last year and plans to salvage anther 200 hectares this year. It was bunch skidded to the roadside where it was then recovered and the sawlog was trucked to various secondary fibre users like a local fence post operation and Pinnacle Pellet, depending on the condition and size of the fibre. This approach meant that all the burned fibre removed from the community forest was utilized.

Tree planting is slated to begin in the spring of 2022 with a company associated with one of the local Indigenous communities.

“It’s really important to fund the reforestation of these areas,” said Clint Lambert, Director of Electoral Area E. “The trees originally growing there were not big enough to produce cones yet, which means the area didn’t naturally reforest itself after the fire. We have lost a lot of fibre and therefore jobs, so it’s nice to support local companies and help a community get back on its feet again.”

Project Partner

For information on/or an interview with Chinook Community Forest regarding this project, contact:

Ken Nielsen, General Manager, Chinook Community Forest, 250.692.0630, Ken.Nielsen@chinookcomfor.ca.

For information on/or an interview with FESBC regarding this project, contact:

Gord Pratt, Operations Manager| gpratt@fesbc.ca | 250.319.1119