The new Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., supported by $85 million in government funding, will focus its efforts on wildfire risk reduction to complement the ministry’s existing forest stewardship programs and world-class wildfire suppression capabilities.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson provided details of the society in his keynote speech at the Association of BC Forest Professionals annual general meeting.
The new society will concentrate its activities on the following:
- Wildfire risk reduction: Fuel management activities such as thinning, pruning and removing woody debris from forests, especially those impacted by the mountain pine beetle infestation, to reduce wildfire risks in key areas. The recently updated Provincial Strategic Threat Analysis will provide guidance for potential treatments.
- Forest rehabilitation: Clearing stands damaged by wildfire, or at high risk from wildfire, and reforesting them.
- Wildlife habitat restoration: Designing fuel management and forest rehabilitation activities to promote desired wildlife habitat characteristics.
- FireSmart program: Raising awareness among local governments and rural property owners about steps they can take to protect their homes from wildfire.
The Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative, administered by the Union of BC Municipalities, focuses on reducing the wildfire risk in the two-kilometre wildland-urban interface surrounding communities. With its latest $10-million commitment, government has provided $78 million to this initiative since 2004. The Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. will complement the efforts of the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative by supporting critical wildfire prevention work outside of interface areas and providing a landscape-level approach to wildfire risk reduction.
Local forest products businesses will have opportunities to purchase the timber, roadside debris and other forest fibre resulting from these activities, at market prices. This will, in turn, support rural employment.
The work of the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. will help meet the goal of a sustainable and reliable timber supply under the Forest Sector Competitiveness Strategy and aligns with the ministry’s other programs designed to enhance B.C.’s forests, most notably Forests for Tomorrow, Land Based Investment Strategy and integrated silviculture strategies.
The inaugural board meeting of the society will take place in March. The society’s immediate goals will be to set short-term priorities and engage with stakeholders.
As part of Budget 2016, the ministry’s Land Based Investment Strategy will see an increase of $12 million for 2016-17. Most of the increase will go toward Forests for Tomorrow, translating into increased fertilization of 8,000 to 20,000 hectares and providing for additional surveys and site preparation to plant 28 million seedlings annually by 2019-20.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson –
“The new society allows us to make new investments in our forests and protect the investments that we have already made. Altogether, we're investing an additional $107 million to ensure healthy and resilient forests for future generations to enjoy."
Association of BC Forest Professionals CEO Christine Gelowitz –
“The investment will benefit the long-term health of our forests and bring new opportunities for forest professionals and other people who work and live in forest-based communities across B.C."
Council of Forest Industries president and CEO Susan Yurkovich –
“The forest industry contributes $12 billion to the provincial GDP and supports 145,000 direct and indirect jobs in B.C. We are happy to see that the provincial government remains committed to ensuring a healthy, vibrant and sustainable natural resource sector."
- In September 2015, the B.C. government and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) launched the $500,000 FireSmart community grant program to encourage more communities to participate in the program.
- Homeowners who live in wildland interface areas can help protect their properties from wildfire threats by using FireSmart principles. FireSmart Canada works closely with communities throughout the country to mitigate wildfire risks in interface areas, where urban development borders on forest or grassland areas.
- Since 2005, government has invested more than $400 million in the complementary Forests for Tomorrow program to survey more than 1.5 million hectares and plant 175 million seedlings over 128,000 hectares in areas impacted by wildfire and the mountain pine beetle infestation.
The Homeowner’s FireSmart Manual was developed to help people reduce the risk of personal property damage due to wildfires. More information about the FireSmart program and copies of the manual are available at: http://bcwildfire.ca/Prevention/firesmart.htm
Responding to catastrophic wildfires and the mountain pine beetle epidemic through Forests For Tomorrow: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/land-based-investment/forests-for-tomorrow
Vivian ThomasCommunications Director
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
The inaugural Forest Enhancement Society of B.C.’s board of directors consists of:
Wayne Clogg – Clogg graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor of science degree in forestry in 1977. He worked with West Fraser from 1980 to 2012 as a field forester, woodlands manager and general manager. Since his retirement as senior vice-president of woodlands in 2012, he has been working as a consultant.
Derek Orr – Orr graduated from the business management program at the College of New Caledonia and is a certified life skills coach trainer. Chief of the McLeod Lake Indian Band, he also serves on the boards of Duz Cho Logging, Duz Cho Construction, Summit Pipeline Services, McLeod Lake Indian Band Exploration Corporation and the Aboriginal Business and Investment Council.
Jim Snetsinger – Snetsinger graduated from the University of Toronto in 1979 with a bachelor of science degree in forestry, moved to British Columbia and started working for the B.C. government in 1986. He worked in a variety of positions before being appointed the province’s chief forester in 2004. Since his retirement from that position in 2012, he has been working as a forestry consultant.
Dave Peterson – Peterson graduated from the University of Victoria with a bachelor of science degree in physical geography – Natural Resource Management in 1980 and became a registered professional forester in 1985. He worked with the Ministry of Forests until 1995, when he moved into the private sector. He returned to the ministry in 2005 and has served in a number of assistant deputy minister positions. He is currently the assistant deputy minister for the Tenures, Competitiveness and Innovation Division.
Robert Turner – Turner graduated from the University of Guelph with a master of arts degree in international development studies. He has over 20 years of international experience in humanitarian and disaster response operations, including large-scale program management in natural disaster, conflict and post-conflict environments. Prior to joining the ministry in 2015, he served as the director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip. He is currently the assistant deputy minister of the Integrated Resource Operations Division.
The 2015 Provincial Strategic Threat Analysis (Wildfire Threat Analysis), and an accompanying series of maps, were produced using geographic analysis and a wide range of data to assess various wildfire threat elements, including vegetation types, historical wildfire data, forest fuel classification, fire behaviour patterns, geography and other factors.
The maps indicate potential wildfire threats throughout the province, using a scale of 10 Fire Threat Classes (with 1 being the lowest risk and 10 being the highest risk). These 10 levels represent estimates of relative fire threats, taking into account fire occurrence history, derived fire intensity under severe fire weather conditions and the impacts of fire “spotting” (where embers are blown ahead of the main fire and start new fires).
In the wildland-urban interface – the two-kilometre buffer areas surrounding communities – about 1,347,000 hectares are considered to be high-risk.
The Wildfire Threat Analysis presents these relative wildfire threats at a provincial scale only. In an area where a high risk is indicated, a qualified professional should confirm the actual rating at the forest stand level.
The 2015 Wildfire Threat Analysis and associated maps are available online at http://bcwildfire.ca/Prevention/PSTA.htm