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.
“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.” stated Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister, Steve Thomson
In addition, “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.” said Association of BC Forest Professionals CEO Christine Gelowitz.
Lastly, “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.” stated Council of Forest Industries president and CEO Susan Yurkovich
- 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.