As the work continues on the wildfire plan, the citizens have the chance to see what is involved with meeting the objectives of the document. Based on some comments I have been getting, there is a wide variety of opinions as to how and why such things as the various logging activities are being done. While most people should have been aware there was going to be some major changes in the adjacent Crown land, especially those favourite recreational areas, it isn’t until the logging is done that one can appreciate just how much disturbance may take place. My first suggestion is to take some time to at least review the Williams Lake and Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). You should be prepared to spend a few hours to see what has been done and is planned in the hundred-page report.
As described in the first section of the plan, “The purpose of this CWPP is to identify the wildfire risks within the Area of Interest (AOI), to describe the potential threat to human life, property and critical infrastructure, and recommend treatment options to reduce the wildfire risk. This plan will need to be renewed as the land, resources and communities’ needs within the AOI change, after approximately five years. This plan provides an accurate assessment of the risk areas within the AOI that need fuel treatments, as well as an overview of different forest fuel modifications that can be utilized. The CWPP planning process has provided a detailed framework to inform the implementation of specific actions that will ultimately result in: • reduced likelihood of a wildfire entering the community • reduced impacts and losses to property and critical infrastructure • reduced negative economic and social impacts to the community • reduced impacts on the local forest values.”
If you want to better understand the level of activities going on, I suggest you review the treatment section of the report.
“In general, the sequence of treatments under this plan will follow these steps: 1. Thin the overstory and understory to reduce Canopy Bulk Density and increase Canopy Base Height 2. Prune residual trees to increase Canopy Base Height 3. Gather and remove surface fuels, either by piling and burning or by removal to roadside for grinding. 4. Retain deciduous trees and shrubs 5. Retain up to 50 m3/ha of new coarse woody debris (> 7.5 cm diameter on the small end) scattered across the area, 6. Retain large soft snags (with appropriate danger tree measures) and coarse woody debris.”
There are also lots of tables, charts and maps for those who want to take a closer look at what activities may be proposed adjacent to their specific areas of interest.
I have visited some of the treated areas next to the B.C. Hydro power line in the Esler area and in general was encouraged that the much more open forest would no doubt be better able to withstand a wildfire, in addition to being a very pleasant open woodland to enjoy from a recreation point of view.
I think Ken Day and the many people and organizations involved with the writing and research going into the plan deserve a lot of credit for producing a very comprehensive and useful document, which should put the whole community in a much better position if and when there is another threat of a wildfire.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo-Chilcotin for 40 years. Now retired, he volunteers with community forests organizations.