John Cathro. Photo submitted

Forester’s video animation helps explain Nelson’s wildfire risks

John Cathro’s video shows who owns land in and around Nelson

A local forest consultant has created a video to help the public understand the complexities of wildfire mitigation around Nelson.

A daunting list of entities each has some authority over the land visible from the city: city hall, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), one large private forest landowner, multiple smaller private landowners, several timber companies, BC Parks, and the province of B.C.

They all have to co-operate in the complex project of reducing wildfire risk.

John Cathro’s video, made in partnership with visual artist Andrew Fry, shows the breakdown in an easy-to-understand 120 second visual:

“Charts and graphs tend to make people’s eyes glaze over,” Cathro says. “Many people don’t understand maps, and long- winded descriptions can be too time consuming. So I thought we need to bring in different media to tell the story.”

Cathro is a professional forester who works as a consultant for local governments in community wildfire risk reduction.

Privately owned land

The first layer that shows up on the video is privately owned land, a very large proportion of the total. No government has the authority to do anything to reduce fire risk on that land. It’s up to the landowner.

While there is money to do wildfire fuel treatment on public land, there is none for private land, Cathro says. So property owners are on their own, with work that can cost up to $10,000 per hectare.

(Fuel treatment means modifying forest vegetation by retaining large dominant trees but thinning from below by removing small trees, then pruning the retained trees from the ground up to increase the height to the crown before removing all wood debris on the ground. The result: a forest of large trees with no underbrush, small trees, or debris.)

But local governments can help private landowners with FireSmart activities that will reduce the fire risk to their homes and outbuildings.

“But that is to do risk assessments,” Cathro says. “There is currently not a program to help you replace your roof or put on sprinklers or to [actually carry out] the FireSmart [recommendations].

“So the private land piece is a real conundrum for local governments and fire departments to try and reduce the risk.”

Related: Action by Nelson area landowners key to wildfire safety, expert says

City of Nelson land

The next section of the video shows city owned land.

Nelson has already done fuel treatment work in Art Gibbons Park in Rosemont and around the cemetery. But the percentage of land in Nelson that is actually owned by the city is small, as shown in Cathro’s video.

Although the city owns the water intake site at the Mountain Station reservoir, it is surrounded by high hazard forest owned by others.

Anderson Creek Timber

Land owned by Anderson Creek Timber shows up as a very large block south of the city.

This property is categorized as privately managed forest land — a different category from the controversial unregulated property near Cottonwood Lake owned by Nelson Land Corporation.

Private managed forest land has its own regulations and some modest requirements for riparian protection and reforestation in return for a provincial tax break.

West Arm Park

West Arm Provincial Park covers 26,000 hectares southeast of city. BC parks, the city, and the RDCK are working collaboratively to plan fuel mitigation including two priority locations: the Svoboda Road area and Five Mile Creek, which is the source of Nelson’s drinking water.

The video also shows land (orange) that has already been treated — some in the city and some in West Arm Park – as well as a larger area (purple, described as “forests under prescription”) that will be treated in the next few years.

Related: West Arm Park wildfire prevention plans move forward

Selous Creek

Cathro says the RDCK and Kalesnikoff Lumber Company are working on a joint plan to do fuel mitigation work in the Selous Creek area where the company has a timber license. This is part of the blue section on the map between Anderson and Selous Creeks.

Reaction to the sound of chainsaws

When this work starts — some of it this year — Cathro expects some people will complain.

“As we know in Nelson you can have a range of reactions to the idea of a chain saw being started up and cutting down trees. You have to be able to communicate that to people, that it is wildfire risk reduction, and earn the social license. This comes back to how do we communicate, how do we tell the story.”

Open House

There will be an open house for the public to participate in a conversation about the wildfire threat to local communities on May 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Adventure Hotel, sponsored by the RDCK and the city.

On the agenda will be the work that is already being done, and what residents can do to reduce the risk.

Related:

• How is Nelson being protected from wildfire?

•‘Surrounding a community with a fire break won’t help’

• FireSmart assessment an eye-opener for Nelson homeowner

• Firesmart program has homeowners ‘thinking like an ember’



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

CHECK THIS OUT: Library offers Summer Reading Club with a twist

There won’t be in-library drop-ins, but there will still be many opportunities to connect with books

New dugouts, netting among renos underway at Queen Elizabeth Park

The Nelson Baseball Association is in the middle of a three-year park revitalization

LETTER: Lockdowns are effective

From reader Brenda D. Cooper

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Ex-Okanagan Mountie forfeits 20 days’ pay after sexual misconduct review

A former Vernon RCMP constable made sexual comments, grabbed genitals of male officer in two incidents 10 years ago

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

Most Read