Funding Bolsters Chinook Community Forest’s Vital Wildfire Risk Reduction Work

Burns Lake, B.C. – In a continuous effort to mitigate risk to communities and essential infrastructure from the threat of wildfires, the Chinook Community Forest (CCF) has embarked on a vital wildfire risk reduction project with funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC). Due to the large amounts of dead trees in the community forest caused by the mountain pine beetle pandemic, the initiative will have a far-reaching and positive impact on communities. These include areas on the south side of Francois Lake, including Eakin Settlement Road, Keefe’s Landing Road, and Tatalrose Road, as well as outlying communities such as Burns Lake, Danskin, Southbank, Tayksie, Southshore of Ootsa Lake, Sheraton, and Rose Lake.

Ken Nielsen, general manager of the CCF, explained that 80 per cent of the Lakes Timber Supply Area (LTSA) has pine-leading stands, which means that 80 per cent of the LTSA forest is comprised mainly of lodgepole pine, with the remaining 20 per cent comprised of spruce, balsam, and a little bit of fir.  This pine-leading stand has been impacted by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, with nearly all the lodgepole pine trees falling over the last two decades which have built up a layer of four to five feet on the forest floor of dead wood—creating a very high risk for extreme fires.

“With all this dead wood on the ground, there is the potential to have a very high degree of fire behaviour, which could transfer to crown fires, where the fire is able to move to the tops of the trees, jumping from one tree to another at a much faster speed, which firefighters from BC Wildfire Services can’t handle. This situation, if pushed by wind, drives fires into communities. There is a need to clean the forest floor of this dead wood, along with pruning and thinning of the forest stand structure, so in the event there is a fire, it remains on the forest floor at a low intensity, and BC Wildfire Services has a better chance to control it,” said Nielsen.

As part of the project, the community forest will be working on three different wildfire risk reduction areas that are prescribed for treatment which will cover roughly 200 hectares next to private property in the community. CCF is also developing prescriptions for Wildfire Risk Reduction treatments on roughly 900 hectares.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC plays a huge role as the third-party administrator of funds to help carry out critical wildfire risk reduction work that needs to be done in and around communities. A lot of the work that needs to be done is either hand pruning or thinning, selective logging, and the raking of fine fuels. Because this type of work does not create a source of income to pay for these treatment areas, it is very costly and would not have been possible without FESBC’s support,” said Nielsen.

This project is unique in that the proposed area was identified in the Crown Land Wildfire Risk Reduction Tactical Plan for Burns Lake, Rose Lake, Sheraton, and Highway 16 and developed by the Nadina Natural Resource District. The area gained prominence following the 2018 wildfires, prompting the local Ministry staff to pioneer one of the first landscape tactical plan in British Columbia. A landscape tactical plan is a strategic document that assesses and addresses specific hazards and risks within a defined geographic area, such as wildfire threats, insect infestations, or flooding and outlines subsequent actions to manage and mitigate risks.

“Sustainable community forest management is critical to reducing wildfire risk in our province,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “The collaborative efforts of Chinook Community Forest and FESBC will not only help build forest health and resiliency but also better protect people in surrounding communities from wildfire risks.”

This past summer, during a period of active wildfires throughout the province of British Columbia, the importance of the Ministry of Forests’ landscape tactical plan became clear when a lightning strike occurred close to the project area. This incident highlighted the unpredictability of lightning strikes, and wildfires emphasizing that they can occur anywhere and at any time.

“This demonstrated that lightning is not biased to where and when it will strike,” said Nielsen. “It further demonstrated the need for more wildfire risk reduction work around communities and backed up the tactical plan developed by the Province in identifying areas of highest threat. While the tactical plan cannot prevent wildfires, it can significantly enhance the preparedness and response capabilities of Chinook First Responders Society, working in tandem with BC Wildfire Service, to effectively combat wildfires.”

Work on the FESBC-funded project, which started back in the spring of 2023 in Southbank around the Indian Bay area, has been progressing well despite occasional interruptions by Mother Nature, according to Nielsen. Through this project, important resources within the community, including the community of Danskin, a local pharmacy, several residences and businesses, the Cheslatta Carrier Nation’s new office, and a Mennonite church, will all benefit from the wildfire risk reduction work.

Gord Pratt, FESBC’s senior manager said, “FESBC is proud and feels lucky to support such a proactive initiative by the Chinook Community Forest to reduce the wildfire risk to many of the communities at a high risk of being impacted by future wildfires on the south side of Francois Lake and the Burns Lake area.”

Moreover, the treatment units not only address high-risk areas but also provide job opportunities for local contractors and First Nations. It also supports maintaining trail systems in and around the area so people can better access areas to recreate and connect with the land. The work will also help with cattle grazing where these areas overlap by providing better access for the cattle and promoting the growth of grass.

Village of Burns Lake Mayor Henry Wiebe appreciated the work being done by CCF and highlighted its significance. “The wildfire risk reduction treatments being carried out by Chinook Community Forest are an important part of forest management. The treated areas increase security against wildfires, create wildlife corridors, and enhance wildlife habitat,” he said.

As a community forest, CCF is diligently balancing various objectives, including addressing local needs, providing compensation, generating employment, enhancing the forest’s natural beauty, and mitigating the ever-present wildfire risk.

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

$9.3 Million for Wildlife, Fish and Habitat Including Projects in the Kootenays

Cranbrook, BC: For 40 years, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) has helped fund conservation groups, government, Indigenous Nations, and local communities to implement projects that protect B.C.’s wildlife, freshwater fish, and the habitats they need to survive and thrive. This year, HCTF awarded $9.3 million in funding for 175 individual conservation projects across British Columbia.

HCTF’s CEO Dan Buffett is pleased to report that the 2021/22 grant season represents the Foundation’s highest record annual investment and reflects the financial contributions and hard work of many British Columbians that fund and implement these projects. To date, HCTF has funded 3,230 conservation projects and granted over $195 million in funds across the length and breadth of this ecologically diverse province.

One such project is the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Developments’ Boundary Restoration and Enhancement Program. The program, which received $67,380 in funding, aims to improve habitat quality, ecosystem resiliency and forage availability for ungulates and other native species by restoring or enhancing habitats and ecosystems. Often the final phase of treatment is the implementation of closely monitored prescribed burns. Not only does the application of controlled burns revitalize habitat conditions for wildlife species such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, Williamson’s sapsucker and Lewis’s woodpecker, but it also decreases the risk and intensity of future wildfire events in the area by reducing the continuity and availability of forest fuels. Additionally, the program continues to grow the collaborations with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Penticton Indian Band and Osoyoos Indian Band on project planning and implementation; and is partnering with all of the areas major forest licensees. The program is working with local communities in generating employment with highly skilled local contractors and improving the knowledge of controlled prescribed fire.

Prescribed Burn – Lisa Tedesco Photo

“The ongoing funding from HCTF has been critical in the programs longevity and success” says Lisa Tedesco, Project Lead with FLNRORD. “We have restored over 600 ha (1483 acres) of low elevation open forest ecosystems with selective harvest, understory slashing, prescribed burn and invasive plant treatments and have an additional 450 ha (1112 acres), including high elevation and mixed forest stands, under prescription and ready for implementation.”

Bubar Ignitions – HCTF

Other HCTF funded projects taking place in the Kootenay region include:
• $130,500 to support the Kootenay Region River Guardian Program which provides a compliance presence, collects angler survey data, and educates the public about sportfish populations.
• $93,500 to evaluate 15 years of conservation activities applied toward recovering a threatened grizzly bear population in the South Selkirks, co-funded by FESBC.
• $50,000 to improve wildlife connectivity and human safety along Highway 3 in the southern Canadian Rockies.
• $45,000 for invasive plant management on critical bighorn sheep winter ranges in Wigwam Flats, Bull River and Columbia Lake East, co-funded by FESBC.
• $52,150 to assists with recovery of Kootenay Lake kokanee by encouraging increased angler participation in the public fishery.

Funding and support for these projects and others across the province come from a wide variety of sources including public groups such as the British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF), partner organizations like the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), provincial government contributions, court fines, and endowments. A significant source of funding comes from the conservation surcharge paid by B.C.’s anglers, hunters, trappers, and guide outfitters.

“Over 40 years ago, the B.C. Wildlife Federation lobbied for a surcharge on hunting and fishing licenses to fund wildlife and fish habitat improvement projects throughout the province,” said BCWF president Chuck Zuckerman. “The result of this impassioned call from B.C.’s hunters, anglers, trappers and sport shooters formed a new fund in 1981 that subsequently evolved into the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.”

Steve Kozuki, executive director of FESBC, has been pleased to be a partner with HCTF.

“FESBC is proud to partner with HCTF and local experts on the ground throughout British Columbia to improve wildlife habitat,” said Kozuki. “HCTF combines wildlife biology expertise with their excellent management of funds to deliver outstanding benefits for wildlife. With all the pressures on the land base, the good work HCTF does is more important than ever.”

Each project funded by HCTF goes through a multi-level, objective and technical review process prior to final Board review and decision. HCTF’s Board of Directors ensure that species important to B.C. anglers and hunters are supported but also place a great deal of importance on conserving whole ecosystems, species-at-risk, and investing in environmental education across the province.

To see the complete list of HCTF funded projects or explore the conservation work being done near you, view the 2021-22 Approved Project List.

For Interviews:

Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation

Craig Doucette, Communications Officer | Direct: 250 940 3012 | Toll-free: 1 800 387 9853 ext. 212 |

Forest Enhancement Society of BC

Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison | Direct: 250 574 0221 |

HCTF Quick Facts:
It is the mission of HCTF to improve the conservation outcomes of B.C.’s fish and wildlife, and the habitats in which they live. We make a difference by funding conservation projects and by educating and engaging the public about B.C.’s natural assets. 2021 marks HCTF’s 40th anniversary of helping conservation groups and individuals secure funding for conservation projects and providing education to the general public about B.C.’s important natural assets. Since 1981, HCTF has provided over $195 million in grants for 3,230 conservation projects across B.C. HCTF began as an initiative by B.C. anglers, hunters, trappers, and guide outfitters.