Burns Lake, B.C., is implementing a fire mitigation projectWorking to keep the risks of CLIMATE WARMING at bay

Warming climates up the risk of forest fires, and one community forest, in Burns Lake, B.C., is implementing a fire mitigation project that will help protect the town’s forest industry—and social assets.

By Jim Stirling

Forest fires in a warming climate have assumed new and potentially disastrous dimensions. Add swathes of dead pine trees into the landscape as is the case in many parts of the British Columbia Interior and the fire risk can dramatically increase.

Management of the Burns Lake Community Forest (BLCF), ever mindful of such wildfire danger, designed and implemented this summer a fire mitigation project to protect a range of forest industry and social assets. The project includes creating a fire break that incorporates a forest and landscape reassessment and rehabilitation process. When completed later this year, the project will help protect from wildfire a sawmill, a re-man facility, a wood pellet manufacturing plant, a power line and a nearby highway. And the project should re-invigorate the remaining forest.

The BLCF sought additional funding for the fire mitigation project from the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. The provincial government agency was formed in 2016 and is based in Kamloops, B.C. It was endowed with an initial $85 million budget and charged with advancing the environmental and resource stewardship of B.C.’s forests by preventing and mitigating the impact of wildfires, improving damaged forests and helping create jobs in rural areas. The Burns Lake area project proved a good fit with those objectives.

“The Forest Enhancement Society has several criteria for project funding suitability with three key ones surrounding wildfire risk, wildlife habitat enhancement and fibre recovery,” outlined Frank Varga, general manager for the Burns Lake Community Forest. The project area south and east of Burns Lake village lies within the community forest boundaries. It is an area untouched by previous forest industry activity and is more than 200 metres wide and averaging six to eight kilometres long. Physically, the subject area is shaped a little like an upside down dog’s leg, described Varga. The forest cover is comprised primarily of aspen, dead pine and spruce.

The area’s forest fire risk rating is elevated by the proximity of the recently rebuilt Babine Forest Products sawmill, the adjacent Sheraton Custom Milling operation and a nearby wood pellet manufacturing plant owned by Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. A power transmission line also passes through part of the fire mitigation project area and Highway 16, the main east-west trans-provincial highway through central B.C. to the north coast is located just a handful of kilometres to the north. Varga said patches within the subject area have been identified for treatment; some to create a wildlife enhancement mosaic and others dedicated to wood fibre recovery.

The BLCF has been contributing to the economy of the B.C. central interior village since 1998. It was one of the first four community forests in B.C. to be offered a pilot project licence by the provincial government. It was a five year agreement encompassing about 20,000 hectares of Crown land around Burns Lake.

Burns Lake, B.C., is implementing a fire mitigation projectThe BLCF became the first in B.C. to be offered a 25 year renewable forest tenure in 2004, to replace the pilot project agreement. Today partnership organizations within the BLCF remain the Burns Lake Band; the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The community forest maintains a close working relationship with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The BLCF’s activities are directed by a six member board comprised of local people.

The BLCF will have an AAC of around 220,000 cubic metres/year for the next four years. The enhanced cut is designed to help salvage remaining dead lodgepole pine trees for commodity lumber production while that use remains feasible. Other viable uses will be sought for the remaining material, added Varga.

The BLCF has recently embarked on a quest to earn Forest Stewardship Council accreditation for its forestry activities and products. Varga reckons an FSC certification will fit well as the BLCF strives to expand its flexibility and diversify its markets. “The FSC places a high emphasis on what’s happening on the land base,” amplified Varga. Being a world renowned certifier can help open new market development doors.

“As the mountain pine beetle epidemic era winds down in the B.C. Interior, there’s a transition period where everyone will be looking for volume,” said Varga. To help create a timely and accurate view of the present resources within the 92,000 hectares of the BLCF, work continued this summer on a comprehensive timber supply review, he explained. This process involves a LIDAR aided examination of the BLCF’s operable land base. LIDAR is a remote, airborne sensing system that can collect fast, accurate terrain data. “We are collecting that data and moving it into a forest management model,” he explained.

As an area based tenure holder, this information will form the foundation for and a road map to a sustainable community forest, he believes. “We can help influence the future with detailed five, 10 and 15 year harvesting plans that can manage the land base for all the community’s values.”

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
August/September 2017

On the Cover:
The Princeton, B.C. sawmill of Weyerhaeuser Canada has seen some major equipment upgrades in the last few years—but there is more to come, as the sawmill continues its efforts to make operations more efficient, and reduce costs. The two-line sawmill in the B.C. Interior turns out upwards of 300 million board feet of SPF lumber annually, and is undergoing a multi-year upgrade (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).

Working to keep the risks of Climate Warming at bay
Warming climates up the risk of forest fires, and one community forest, in Burns Lake, B.C., is implementing a fire mitigation project that will help protect the town’s forest industry—and social assets.

Combo mill upgrade project
The Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in Barriere, B.C. recently completed a lumber grading/sorting project that combines the lumber flow from the mill and planer through the same system, which required a good amount of ingenuity and resourcefulness since it involved combining new and used equipment.

Alberta forest industry update
Just in time for the Alberta Forest Products Association AGM in Jasper, Logging and Sawmilling Journal takes a look at what’s going on in the Alberta forest industry, and how the industry is dealing with the duties on lumber going to the industry’s #1 customer: the U.S.

Great equipment fit in the Gaspé
A new Ponsse ScorpionKing harvester is proving to be a great fit for brothers Jean François and Steve Lemieux, and their harvesting operation in Quebec’s Gaspé Region.

Mill Maintenance
Automatic lubrication is the best defense against mill downtime, say Roland Lorenz and David McDougall, of the Beka Group.

Major upgrade for Weyerhaeuser Princeton
Weyerhaeuser’s Princeton, B.C. sawmill is in the midst of a major upgrade that includes the front end of the mill and primary breakdown equipment.

Three important words in B.C. roadbuilding: diversify, diversify, diversify
B.C. roadbuilding outfit Black River Contracting does a fair amount of work for the forest industry, but company owner Kelly Sunderman finds it’s best to diversify their workload—and they may find themselves doing some work associated with the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, if it gets the go-ahead.

A Finnish focus in the forest
Ontario’s Shuniah Forest Products carries out logging the Finnish-Canadian family way, with a strong focus on their employees, teamwork—and their award-winning safety program.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and Alberta Agriculture.

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