Nechako watershed group presses Victoria for action in wake of wildfires

The Nechako Watershed Roundtable is calling on Victoria to conduct a timber supply review in the area ravaged by wildfires this summer.

“The NWR Core Committee has grave concerns for the health of the Nechako watershed following a decade of unprecedented wildfire, and other changes, in our watershed,” the committee stated in a ‘statement of concern’ from co-chair Brian Frenkel and sent to Premier John Horgan, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and Environment Minister George Heyman. “The combination of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, salvage logging, and major wildfires has created a series of threats within the watershed with severe implications for runoff and flood risk, erosion, water quality, and habitat, and related community impacts and concerns,” said Frenkel.

The area was particularly hard hit by wildfire this summer with eight major fires burning close to 450,000 hectares of forest. The Nechako Watershed Roundtable says that comprises about 11.5 per cent of the watershed.

“We have entered into unprecedented time in history where changes to our environment are leading to increasingly catastrophic events that pose threats to the future of our communities, the health of our citizens, and serious concerns over the state of ecosystems and economies upon which we depend,” said Frenkel.

The call for a timber supply review comes out of the Abbott and Chapman report, 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia, commissioned by Victoria following the devastating 2017 wildfire season. The report recommends that such reviews take place “promptly” to “enable industry response and adaptation to a new allowable annual cut and to all B.C. to better understand and respond to impacts on habitat, fibre availability and community stability.”

Such a review, states the roundtable, would facilitate better planning to protect “all values of the land base.”

The Nechako is the second largest watershed in the Fraser River basin, with the combined Stuart-Nechako system draining a landscape of 52,000 square kilometres.

“We strongly urge all levels of government to enter into dialogue that will examine current and past land and water management practices and legislative policies that may be impacting or exacerbating these issues,” wrote Frenkel. “We call for urgent consideration of proactive measures that minimize the long-term adverse impacts of disaster-response activities such as fireguards, and also optimize concerted, coordinated efforts to reduce future fire and flood risks.”

The roundtable will hold its annual meeting in Nautley, home of the Nadleh Whut’en, on Friday.

The Nechako Watershed Roundtable is an advisory, collaborative initiative with a vision of a healthy Nechako watershed for generations to come. Its aims are to protect and improve the health of the Nechako watershed for future generations. The roundtable is a group of representatives from a diversity of organizations including local government, First Nations, provincial and federal government agencies, the private sector, stewardship and other non-profit organizations, academic researchers and concerned citizens.