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Province provides funding to reduce community wildfire risks, enhance forest health

Press Release

June 16, 2022

WILLIAMS LAKE – To reduce wildfires in higher-risk communities, the B.C. government is providing $25 million in new funding to the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC).

This investment will support community projects that reduce wildfire risk and enhance wildlife habitat, greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, forest recreation and ecological resiliency. Applications for this funding will open on Monday, June 20, 2022.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is a proven partner in delivering projects on the ground that protect people from wildfire risks and reduce emissions from slash pile burning,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “Along with the historic investments in Budget 2022 to transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service and double funding for proactive wildfire prevention, this new funding for FESBC will help build communities that are safer and more resilient to climate change.”

FESBC has supported 263 projects throughout B.C., and 43 of these projects have been in partnership with First Nations. These projects have reduced wildfire risk in 120 communities and have created about 2,200 full-time-equivalent jobs, among other outcomes.

“Our government is working together with First Nations and local communities to reduce the risk of wildfires so we’re better prepared for climate change,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “This investment is an important part of our upcoming Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy to support more resilient communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide job opportunities for people. By increasing actions, such as cultural and prescribed burning, we’re using powerful tools that can help reduce wildfire risk and improve ecosystem health.”

Since 2017, FESBC has funded the use of 4.8 million cubic metres of wood fibre that otherwise would have been burned in slash piles or abandoned. The combined GHG benefits of FESBC fibre use, tree planting and fertilization projects is 5.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent sequestered or avoided, which has the same GHG benefit as taking 1.1 million cars off the road for a year.

“Many Indigenous communities, municipalities, regional districts, woodlots and community forests have taken action in the last few years to protect their communities from wildfire,” said Steve Kozuki, executive director, FESBC. “They reduced the risk of extreme wildfire near buildings, communications infrastructure, water supply, power, safe place, and emergency escape routes. This funding will enable more communities to do this important work.”

As part of the CleanBC Roadmap to 2030, the Province will work toward near elimination of slash-pile burning by 2030 and will increasingly divert materials away from slash piles and into bioproduct development. This will reduce air pollution and GHG emissions, while creating new economic opportunities.

The $25 million provided to FESBC is a component of $359 million announced in Budget 2022 to protect British Columbians from wildfires, including $145 million to strengthen the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC. This is the largest investment in the history of the wildfire service and is helping to transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service, shifting from its reactive mode to a more proactive approach. This will enable the BC Wildfire Service to focus on all four pillars of wildfire management: prevention and mitigation; preparedness; response; and recovery.

Quotes:

Willie Sellars, Chief, Williams Lake First Nation –

“We are proud that we have been able to work with partners to return our core territories to a healthy condition, and we are excited to see a return to cultural burning on the horizon. These lands have been our home since time immemorial, and it is important to us to see the land return to a healthy condition.”

Philippe Theriault, general manager, Tsi Del Del Enterprises –

“Since the beginning of the haul differential program, we delivered over 450,000 cubic metres of pulpwood and biomass that would have been burned before. No question, the help from FESBC has drastically reduced the waste in the bush and is keeping over 80 of us directly employed through very tough times. Great work, FESBC team!”

Percy Guichon, director, Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd. –

“The FESBC funding allows us to maximize our ability to deliver a byproduct typically left on site, increase the overall recovery of fibre, and create long-term carbon benefits by harnessing new values from traditional logging sites outside the saw-log fibre supply. A $10 investment generates another $12 of private money, and $1 million results in about $10 million in private investment dollars. This gives us a good segue to break into the local biomass and pulp industry.”

Quick Facts:

  • FESBC is a Crown agency.
  • It was established in 2016 to advance the environmental and resource stewardship of the province’s forests by:
    • preventing wildfires and mitigating wildfire impacts;
    • improving damaged or low-value forests;
    • improving wildlife habitat;
    • supporting the use of fibre from damaged or low-value forests; and
    • treating forests to improve the management of greenhouse gases.

Learn More:

Forest Enhancement Society of BC: https://www.fesbc.ca/

A backgrounder follows.Contact:Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320

BACKGROUNDER

Forest Enhancement Society of BC projects

Examples of completed or soon-to-be-completed projects include:

Douglas Fir Fire Rehabilitation

Organization: Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd.
2018-20 funding: $7,500,000
Jobs created: 64
Project:
This project includes planning, harvesting and planting in high burn intensity interior Douglas fir stands hit during the 2017 wildfires.
Planning includes small areas of bark beetle management using anti-aggregation pheromones and a feasibility study for biomass transport to bioenergy facilities. The project also involves overstory removal of dangerous trees, site preparation, sowing of seedlings and planting. The local First Nation communities will plant several million seedlings during the next few years. One of the innovative projects being implemented under this proposal is the use of drones and seed “pucks” to reforest a wildfire-devastated area. This is a pilot/operational trial with initial results expected over the course of the summer and coming years.

Fibre Utilization in the Cariboo Region

Organization: Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd.
2018-21 funding: $2,905,572
Jobs created: 30
Project:
This project involved transporting uneconomic residual wood to pulp mills, a pellet plant, and an electric power generation plant to avoid waste pile burning emissions and improve fibre utilization. The residual fibre is typically required by regulations to abate the fire hazard and therefore is burned. Due to the fibre being of poor quality, small piece size and a long distance from markets, it is uneconomic. The volume of residual fibre is generated through a combination of commercial harvesting operations for sawlogs and from landscape-level wildfire risk-reduction treatments. Some areas of very old mountain pine beetle-killed forests are historically rehabilitated using commercial harvesting, but given that the trees have been damaged, large volumes of residual uneconomic fibre are created. The recovery of this fibre creates economic opportunity, ecological restoration and employment stability for First Nations and local logging contractors.

Williams Lake Power Plant 2019-20

Organization: Atlantic Power (Williams Lake) Ltd.
2019-20 Funding: $1,007,331
Jobs created: nine
Project:
This project enhanced recovery and utilization of fibre by supporting the transportation of uneconomic fibre to Atlantic Power for use to generate electricity. Recovery also contributed to greenhouse gas emission reduction by avoiding pile burning and reducing the need for other means of electricity generation. The power plant was originally built to assist the forest industry in replacing beehive burners. Over the years, the vast majority of the power plant fibre needs were met by local sawmills.

More recently, the fibre demand has to be met by utilization of fibre from the forests directly, resulting in a demand for “bush run” wood fibre. This project assisted Atlantic Power in running their facility and providing power to more than 50,000 homes in British Columbia during a 12-month operating period. The fibre utilized by Atlantic Power is uneconomic and generally otherwise is burned in residual waste-wood pile burning. This project maintained local employment, power generation and many other ancillary benefits for the City of Williams Lake and its residents along the San Jose valley.

Douglas Fir Forest Resiliency Treatments
Organization: Williams Lake First Nation
2020 Funding: $1,399,305
Jobs created: 20
Project:
Williams Lake First Nation has embarked on a program of ecosystem restoration in its core territory and is simultaneously achieving community wildfire protection objectives. This program has been undertaken with support from Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) and B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, as well as a number of crews and contract employees. The primary purpose for the Nation is to restore the health of the forest by initially mechanically thinning and, in time, returning to the traditional practice of applying cultural fire to the land. The Ministry of Forests and FESBC have each supported parts of this work that have included thinning, selling logs and biomass into the local market, and surface fuel reduction close to homes. From April 2021 to March 2022, the Nation treated a gross area of more than 300 hectares and is working to develop more area for treatment.

Contact:Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320

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