Kevin Welch of the SIFCo field crew carries out a fuel treatment at the Bannock Point recreation site in the Slocan Valley. Photo: Rachael Bone

Kevin Welch of the SIFCo field crew carries out a fuel treatment at the Bannock Point recreation site in the Slocan Valley. Photo: Rachael Bone

Nelson conference will explore climate change and wildfire

Three day gathering in Nelson runs June 26-28

This spring on a south facing 60 hectare slope covered with ponderosa pine forest, Stephan Martineau and his colleagues at the Slocan Integral Forestry Collective (SIFCo) in collaboration with the BC Wildfire Services, started a forest fire.

It was intentional. Their research had told them that slope was a very likely path for a wildfire to take, so they wanted to get there first, but in a controlled way.

“There has not been fire there since we began suppressing them,” Martineau says, “so there is ingrowth of a lot of smaller trees. Imagine large ponderosa pines with extreme ingrowing — it creates ladder fuels, so the fire intensity and spread would be extreme.”

So the crew went in and cut out much of the smaller growth by hand, the year before the burn, to the point where they felt they could safely create a controlled burn. It was labour intensive.

“We raked every ponderosa pine at the base to make sure accumulations of needles from the past fifty years were not there, so the fire would go around the tree instead of going up it.”

The burn, conducted by the BC Wildfire Service, was successful and now, if a wildfire burns through that area, Martineau says, “the intensity would be dramatically reduced and give us the opportunity to defend ourselves. The potential of a landscape-sized fire is now reduced to a ground fire that is defendable if it was to happen.”

Martineau uses the word “landscape” a lot, and he’ll be doing that in his presentation at the Wildfire and Climate Change in the Kootenays conference in Nelson on June 26 to 28.

Landscapes and ecosystems are the focus

The conference is subtitled Ecosystem Resiliency, Community Protection and Landscape Level Management. It features a large array of local and international speakers from government, business, and academia.

That variety of perspectives is the point of the conference, Martineau says.

To deal with fire danger across an entire landscape, he says, you have to get everyone involved. That includes timber companies, private landowners, other residents, regional and municipal governments, the BC Wildfire Service, the Ministry of Forests and other provincial agencies, along with academics who study climate change, wildfire, and emergency preparedness.

“We often work in silos and we need to break out of our silos and talk about how we can synergize and be more effective,” says Martineau.

Changes coming much too fast

Martineau considers SIFCo to be a leader in landscape level fire prevention and ecosystem based forest management, having treated close to 600 ha of land in the Slocan Valley in the last ten years and with plans for another 1,000 ha over the next five years.

The group has a strategic wildfire plan for the valley and is in the process of creating 12 landscape sized fuel breaks using a number of site-specific methods ranging from thinning to logging to prescribed burns.

“The idea is to create large scale fuel breaks – we are not talking about a bare landscape, that is often the image people have. We are talking about leaving a forest behind that is more resilient to climate change and to fire.”

But he says it’s not enough.

“We need to look at ways that we can scale the things we are doing, because the pace we are moving is way too slow for the challenges that are coming our way much too fast. The good things we have been doing regionally and provincially need to be multiplied by 100.”

SIFCo has been working on its own community forest tenure and with local municipalities, but that’s a small percentage of the forest land in the Slocan Valley. Much of it is crown land licensed by the province to other forest companies, and Martineau says they need to be more involved and government incentives will be needed to encourage that.

Private land is the elephant in the room

About 40 per cent of the land located within the 12 landscape level fuel breaks that SIFCo is creating in the Slocan Valley is privately owned, according to Martineau. It’s expensive and complicated for an owner of forest land to do the kinds of fuel treatment SIFCo specializes in. He thinks the provincial government should create incentives for private landowners.

“If someone with a 40 acre piece of property (carried out fuel treatment), that could save an entire village. (Private forest land) is often the elephant in the room, historically. We say we don’t want to fund things on private land, but wildfire does not stop at the property line.”

He says the conference is offering a lower registration fee for local residents “because we want them to be there and want them to be part of the solution.”

Martineau says landscape level management may be expensive but we have to keep that in perspective. He says SIFCo has spent about $4 million on fuel treatment over the years so far.

“But the Springer Creek fire (near Slocan) in 2007 cost $11 million to fight. So if all the work we have done avoids one of those fires, it is a good investment for the province.”

Wildfire and Climate Change in the Kootenays is a project of SIFCo and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Related stories in the Nelson Star:

• Action by Nelson area landowners key to wildfire safety, expert says (June 2016)

Fire experts: Nelson could burn (Dec, 2016)

• RDCK plans wildfire fuel action (Aug. 2017)

• West Arm Park fire prevention plans move forward (Oct. 2017)

• Column: Will West Kootenay forests survive? (Nov. 2017)

• Fighting fire with fire (Nov. 2017)

• Wildfire fuel treatment expands in Nelson area (June 2018)



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

 

Stephan Martineau is the manager and a founding member of the Slocan Integrated Forestry Collective. Photo submitted

Stephan Martineau is the manager and a founding member of the Slocan Integrated Forestry Collective. Photo submitted

Just Posted

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Nelson city council conducted an online resident survey about patios and food trucks and got over a thousand responses. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson council hears results of survey on patios and food trucks

A city’s online survey got 1,130 responses

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read