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Boundary wildfire risk reduction a model of collaboration

The project was undertaken in an area 20 minutes north of Greenwood

After receiving a grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the West Boundary Community Forest (WBCF) led a project to create a fuel-treated area near a popular Boundary recreational area adjacent to Jewel Lake, while also adding recreational value to the community.

Undertaken in an area 20 minutes north of Greenwood, the project moved forward on a 32-hectare area thanks to a $254,100 grant from the society.

Work just wrapped up, showing what successful collaborative efforts can look like in British Columbia forests.

“A lot of collaboration from many partners were a hallmark of this project,” said Dan Macmaster, RPF, WBCF forest manager. “The local residents were involved in the initial planning and the cleanup we are finishing up now. We had great support of BC Parks, Vaagen Fibre Canada, and the Osoyoos Indian Band showing what can be achieved when we work together.”

Jewel Lake Environmental Protection Society, led by residents of Jewel Lake, supported the WBCF’s vision for the project, recognizing that the community forest objective is to care for the forest and protect important infrastructure, like homes, recreational trails, and camping sites.

“Dan, together with the forest professionals at Vaagen, involved the local residents of Jewel Lake in the development of their plans right from the start,” says Jewel Lake resident, Randy Trerise. “They listened to our concerns, implemented many of our ideas, and led field trips when requested,” he added.

“The partial cutting treatment has reduced the fuel load in the forest, and we expect the treatment will improve the safety of our homes should a wildfire take place in the future.”

The Osoyoos Indian Band provided post-harvest work, contributing to parts of mechanical and manual treatment to clear the forest floor.

“Vaagen and the West Boundary Community Forest involved our Band in all aspects of planning and mitigation work. Our forestry team assisted with the manual treatments needed to ensure the area was protected in the future from a major wildfire,” noted Vern Louie, forest manager, Osoyoos Indian Band.

The Band was also involved in the initial work and design of the project itself.

“It was a very strong effort by the West Boundary Community Forest, to meet the goal to reduce the wildfire risk to the community while collaborating and addressing recreational and other aesthetic values in the forest,” noted Gord Pratt, RPF, the society’s senior manager. “From the start, it was all about collaboration and they showed openness and great leadership in realizing the important outcomes of the project.”

Fuel mitigation was the key objective of the project.

Over the years, the area had seen major accumulation of blowdown and dead standing trees, increasing the risk of a wildfire spreading rapidly through the area.

“This is in an area that is on the southern tip of our province and it’s an area of hot dry weather,” said Pratt. “The forest type in the area is very susceptible to wildfire and this project has decreased the likelihood of a devastating impact from a wildfire to the community surrounding Jewel Lake.”

Another major challenge was fuel accumulation, such as dead growth, around a single access road for residents and visitors in and out of the area.

“Because of the ‘one road in, one road out’ predicament, our focus was to prioritize the reduction of wildfire risk immediately closest to the houses and the road,” said Macmaster. “By doing this work, we can buy more time for residents to get out and firefighters to come in if there is a fire.”

He said none of this work have been possible without the society’s financial support.

The area was also enhanced and made safer for visitors who frequent the area for camping, fishing, and hiking.

“In that entire area, there are all kinds of recreational trails the public cares strongly about,” Macmaster said. “So, we are not only maintaining, but improving that recreational infrastructure with new trails, new signage, and interpretive signs to teach people about the local plants, trees, and wildlife.”

In total, the community forest was able to remove 40 loads of small-diameter logs and pulp, which would have otherwise been burned, but instead was sold to local mills.

The project also relied heavily on the local workforce with approximately 20 people involved through all stages, a boost to the local economy. While the initial objectives have been met, the WBCF will continue maintaining the area.

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